Asghar Bukhari & David Irving - just another smear
Asghar Bukhari, ex-CEO of MPACUK, like many pro-Palestinian campaigners, is facing a Zionist smear campaign. As Finkelstein said, "the main purpose behind these periodic, meticulously orchestrated media extravaganzas is not to fight anti-Semitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of the Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism."
MPACUK exists to fight religious and racial prejudice and discrimination. That is the very reason we oppose Zionism - a racist political ideology that believes in a state for a particular racial and religious group, not for all its citizens equally. An ideology that endorses ethnic cleansing and an 'ethnically pure' state, as advocated by the new extreme-right deputy prime minister of Israel, Avigdor Leiberman.
Like every pro-Palestinian advocate, from Ken Livingstone to Christian Aid, we've endured the false smear of anti-Semitism. Recently we were accused of anti-Semitism on the basis of an article that was actually written by a Jewish Israeli blogger!
These false accusations are a classic tactic by the Zionist lobby: "The main purpose behind these periodic, meticulously orchestrated media extravaganzas is not to fight anti-Semitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of the Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism.". (Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, 2005, p.21)
We were therefore shocked but not surprised to hear that one of our members was facing fresh accusations - so we made sure we got the facts of the case straight. And here they are - not neccessarily as juicy as it reads in the newspaper, but reality isn't always quite sensational enough.
The truth is that an individual who is now a member of MPACUK made a mistake 6 years ago - before this organisation even existed. At that time, acting as a private individual with no associations to any group, Asghar Bukhari supported and sent money and letters to anyone who he saw as people who stood up to Israel, and their powerful lobbies within Britain and the world. At that time, David Irving championed himself as exactly that, fashioning himself as a respectable historian, and writing articles opposing the Israeli lobby and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians - and appealing for funds for the libel case in which he denied accusations of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Now, 6 years and 2 Irving court cases later, a journalist Jamie Doward at the Observer has somehow come across a letter and small cheque to David Irving.
Mr Bukhari must have known David Irving would be convicted 6 years later of holocaust denial? If Asghar Bukhari had known of David Irving's holocaust denial and racism he would have condemned him, not given him any support!
The Observer has previously had to issue a correction after this same journalist Jamie Doward smeared SOAS University's Islam Awareness Week as being anti-Semitic. So we weren't suprised to find his article to be biased, but the plain fact is that MPACUK have been very clear in our condemnation of holocaust denial - we laid out our views when controversy hit the media over the government's new Holocaust Memorial Day. If anyone denies the Holocaust they are very wrong - Holocaust denial is an evil that must be opposed. If they hate Jewish people, if they see them as one block then this is an utterly abhorrent opinion that must be condemned. None of our members hold such abhorrent views. The Qur'an teaches us that Jews are repected as 'People of the Book' and that among them are both good and bad individuals. You cannot be a Muslim if you believe otherwise. It is Zionists who often stereotype all Jews as supporters of the evil acts of Zionism, when in fact there are many Jews who actively campaign for the human rights of the Palestinians.
Asghar Bukhari's mistake 6 years ago was to judge on the basis of the limited number of David Irving's articles he had seen, and assume that accusations of anti-Semitism against him were simply another smear campaign. In 2000 when this incident occurred Irving was fighting a libel case and the key principle in our legal system is 'innocent until proven guilty'. Now that it has become clear that Irving does in fact hold such dispicable views Asghar Bukhari has no hesitation in opposing him.
When so many mainstream critics of Israel are falsely accused of anti-Semitism, you can't condemn an individual for being sceptical about such accusations. And you can't just run as soon as the cry of anti-Semitism is started, because you then fall right into the trap that is exploited by smear campaigns - "the charge of anti-Semitism is a very effective tactic: anti-semitism is something no one wants to be accused of" (Mearsheimer and Walt 2006 - two Harvard professors who were also smeared after their academic study on the Israeli lobby).
Twisting an innocent gesture of support (even if gravely mistaken) into more than it is, is just another Islamaphobic attack aimed at undermining and harming the brave individuals who support the Palestinian cause and the cause of British Muslims. As Robert Fisk wrote: "If we want a quiet life, we will just have to toe the line, stop criticizing Israel" (Independent 16/5/02).
We hope those who support the Palestinian cause will not buckle or be afraid to carry on fighting for what they believe in, no matter how ferociously the powerful Israeli lobby and its friends attack them. Because the real scandal is the Palestinian children killed in their sleep last week in Beit Hanoun, the Lebanese children who continue to be killed by Israeli cluster bombs every week, and the pro-Israel lobby that justifies this.