Second letter to Barry Gardiner re Palestine flags

Second letter to Barry Gardiner re Palestine flags

Barry Gardiner, MP House of Commons London SW1A 0AA

25 April 2023

Dear Barry,
Your visit to IHRC Bookshop & Gallery

I write further to my letter of 18 April 2023 and your email reply dated 19 April 2023.
You should know that in addition to the incident after your visit referred to in our letter, there have been numerous similar incidents daily including, incredibly, in front of a local police officer who attended to advise us, inter alia, that we may become the victim of a hate attack because of the display of the Palestinian flags and a whispering campaign against us referred to in (2) below.
In your response you make a number of claims and defend your action in coming into the shop and demanding that the Palestinian flags are taken down, as well as your failure to engage on any number of issues regarding hate speech, hate crime and racist harassment both at the street level and structural against Muslim and pro-Palestinian businesses on Preston Road, of which we are one. I would like to briefly address these for the sake of clarity.
1. You claim that we have left out certain context regarding your request i.e. that our neighbouring premises are a Kosher bakery. We are not sure what your point is unless you are claiming that our neighbouring shop is pro-apartheid and or racist towards Palestinians, and therefore will find the flag offensive. Is that the case? You are doubtless aware that these flags and similar placards and slogans are routinely carried in the UK, Israel and around the world by Jewish activists?
For the avoidance of any further confusion over the context of your comments, we could upload the full video taken of the conversation you had with a volunteer once you had left the premises.
2. On this note, it has come to our attention that there is a whispering campaign about your visit to the shop, specifically that we ‘threw Barry Gardiner out’ of the premises. We think it important that you should issue a public clarification that this is not the case, and in fact you were treated courteously.
The circulation of these rumours was confirmed to us both by the police officer referred to above, and the woman who attended while he was there to say she wanted the flags removed because they
reminded her of war and scared her,* before making a veiled threat that someone might put a brick through our shop window.
It appears that you have given feedback on your visit, we assume to the person who raised the complaint. Either you misrepresented what happened or they did. It does unfortunately appear that your visit to the shop has set off a chain reaction of harassment and hate speech against us. I am sure you did not intend this and would not wish to associate yourself with that. In any event, it is incumbent upon you to correct the record.
3. You state in your letter that had we brought some of the issues of hate crime and hate speech to your attention you would have gotten involved. As we stated in our letter, we did bring the issue of dog excrement being left outside our and certain other Muslim premises (for over two years) on an almost daily basis, to your attention. It is to this that you responded to a former colleague, that you would not get involved with the police unless you had evidence. In fact, you were quite adamant about this. On the one hand, it is clear that you were uninterested in helping businesses in your constituency who came to you for assistance over a protracted campaign of hatred. You were simply dismissive. Yet you have no qualms in attending to a single complaint about the legitimate display of Palestinian flags and anti-racist slogans.
You have quoted some of our aims and objectives in your letter, specifically our promotion of good race relations world-wide. For us and many others including but not solely Muslims, Jews and Christians, this means an end to apartheid in Palestine-Israel. It also means the equal treatment of citizens and denizens in the UK by their elected representatives.
There is clear inequality in your attention and actions in this regard, and we restate that we believe an apology to us is due.
* The same lady conceded that she had not complained about the Ukrainian flag flown further down the road, even though that also reminded her of war.
1 The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines “the crime of apartheid” as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them” (Art. 2 of Apartheid Convention). This Convention was adopted on 30 November 1973 by the General Assembly of the UN, entered into force in 1976, and today binds 109 States Parties. Individuals, members of organizations, and representatives of the State, regardless of their motives and their country of residence, are held criminally responsible under international law, if they: “commit, participate in, directly incite, or conspire in the commission of acts of apartheid; directly abet, cooperate with, or encourage the commission of the crime of apartheid”.
2 Israel has been declared an apartheid state by all the main human rights organisations including IHRC, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as by UN Special Rapporteurs and some Israeli ministers (Amnesty says Israel is an apartheid state. Many Israeli politicians agree | Chris McGreal | The Guardian). Human rights organisations, including ourselves, have recognised one of the most effective and peaceful civil society tools is to protest by way of the boycott.
By way of further redress, we suggest you attend to the outstanding matters raised in our letter, which included the receipt of malicious communications by ourselves and other businesses on the street. It also includes the ongoing harassment and hate speech referred to above.
4. With regard to our comments regarding the planning application. We did not and do not expect you to get involved in this or any planning matter. However, we do expect you to take a stand against hate speech. You concede that the comment submitted to Brent Council that claims as an Islamic bookshop we could be raising funds for terrorist causes is hate speech and defamatory. These comments are still available in the public realm via Brent Council’s website. We ask you then, as our MP, and in a show of good faith, to contact the council and (a) verify which of the three complainants listed made this claim; (b) which councillor(s) supported these claims (we are advised that at least one did); and (c) ask them to remove the statements, issue an apology and begin negotiations with our legal representatives as to appropriate compensation.
The document can be found here, and was last accessed by us on 25 April 2023.
We do not believe that a tit for tat correspondence is wise use of our or your time. It is clear that much is happening in your constituency of which you claim no knowledge or of which you have been previously dismissive.
You cannot claim lack of knowledge about these anymore. Whether you will begin to address these is in your hands only.

Massoud Shadjareh
Chair, Islamic Human Rights Commission

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