For immediate release
BRENT COUNCIL’S CONTEMPT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Petition of one thousand ignored, as Brent hires out Town Hall to Zionist Federation
A petition of one thousand names, half of whom are residents of Brent was sent yesterday and today to Brent Council’s Chief Executive Gareth Daniel and the leader of the Council Paul Daisley.
The petition (text reprinted below) asks Brent Council to implement its policy on hiring out premises. Whilst the Council, through its Chief Executive, has stated that Brent does not allow organisations which are racist or fascist to hire the premises, they have allowed the Zionist Federation, the United Jewish Israel Appeal, the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency to hire the Town Hall to celebrate Israel’s 52nd Birthday. All four organisations have been described as promoting racism and discrimination as instruments of the Israeli state, by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Despite the UN’s findings and those of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem (an Israeli human rights organisation), and many other organisations, Brent Council has moved the goalposts and now claims that as the event organisers “have agreed to all the terms and conditions of the booking…” the sanctions of international governmental and non-governmental organisations are of no importance.
This is the latest stage of a campaign by Brent Council against constituents and protestors over this issue. A letter sent at the end of March 2000 to Brent councillors from IHRC has led to a malicious, racist, discriminatory and Islamophobic backlash from certain elected representatives. Ironically the campaign against the hiring of the Town Hall has been supported across the communities, with Jewish, Christian and Hindu protestors also writing to complain or signing the petition.
The letter was based on the reports of Amnesty International etc. and asked councillors to reconsider the letting of premises for the ‘Happy Birthday Israel’ event on May 7,2000. Rather than responding to the IHRC, councillors went to the local and Jewish press, claiming they would ignore the letter, and that it was an incitement to ‘race hatred against the Jewish state.’
Subsequently Cllr. Daisley and his Conservative counterpart Cllr. Robert Blackman claimed to the press and other organisations that protested, that they had responded to IHRC by way of letter, although as yet no letter has been received. Comments from the alleged letter quoted in the press have the councillors stating the council’s position on IHRC’s letter to be ‘intemperate and insulting’ and likely to cause ‘hostility between the Jewish and Muslim communities.’
Either Brent council feels that the reports of organisations like Human Rights Watch etc., read by millions world-wide, are also insulting and likely to incite hostility OR that as a Muslim organisation IHRC has no right to say the same thing. The Councillors have as yet to respond, but the Council’s Chief Executive has tried to wash his hands of the Councillors’ public statements, claiming they are made in a personal and not representative capacity.
So who then speaks on behalf of Brent Council, and who is responsible for implementing its policies? As the situation stands, the Labour leader of the Council, the Conservative Group leader (who had to pay an out of court settlement last year for falsely accusing another councillor of anti-Semitism), the Mayor (who has previously accepted hospitality from the Zionist Federation), and the Conservative Group spokesman have all seen fit to abuse their powers in this matter by failing to respond to legitimate protests, and making false, malicious and defamatory statements to the press and public. The highest Council official meanwhile, states a policy then refuses to implement it.
The whole incident has highlighted the lack of accountability of both councillors and council officials to those they are supposed to represent and serve. Councillors in this case have clearly pursued a personal agenda, and tried to demonise a whole community for nothing more than expressing their right to protest. Chairman of IHRC, Massoud Shadjareh said, “It makes you wonder if the council’s and councillors responsibilities lie as they should in the first instance with their constituents or to a foreign country.”
For more information, please contact the Press Office on (+44) 20 8902 0888 or (+44) 958 522 196, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT OF THE PETITION:
PROTEST AGAINST ZIONIST FEDERATION “ISRAEL BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION” AT BRENT TOWN HALL ON MAY 7TH 2000
To Brent Council
We the undersigned object to the racism, terrorism and torture, practised by the “Israeli” state. In particular :-
Hostage taking [Amnesty Int. report 15-7-98]
Large number of cases of ill treatment in custody [UN Committee against Torture]
Palestinian refugees denied citizenship, and property stolen [“Israel an Apartheid state” by Uri Davis]
Restriction of Palestinian movement, house demolition [Amnesty International report 1999]
Discrimination against Palestinians in education, health care, access to housing, land and employment. [Human rights Watch Report 1999]
We have no objection to the use of the Town Hall for any religious and cultural events. However we request you to uphold Brent’s’ policy and refuse the use of Brent’s facilities by an organisation promoting a State with the above track record, and contempt for international law and order.