This is an update to two previous dispatches on this list: (1) Guardian staff journalist exposed as member of extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir (July 18, 2005), and (2) Dilpazier Aslam, extremist member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, sacked by The Guardian (July 26, 2005).
1. How Militant Islamists are infiltrating Reuters & IBM
2. Attempted arrest of Israeli officer at Heathrow Airport
3. Daniel Machover and Israeli self-hate
4. Ken Livingstone v. MEMRI
5. Prince Harry finally apologizes for wearing Nazi uniform
6. “How militant Islamists are infiltrating Britain’s top companies” (‘IoS’, Sept. 11, 2005)
7. “Investigation urged after Israeli officer avoids arrest” (Guardian, Sept. 13, 2005)
8. “Justice should begin at home” (Daily Telegraph, Sept. 15, 2005)
HOW MILITANT ISLAMISTS ARE INFILTRATING REUTERS & IBM
Members of the militant Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir are employed by some of Britain’s most important institutions, including Reuters, IBM and the National Health Service, according to a report in the Independent on Sunday.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) was founded in 1953 by a Palestinian court clerk, Taqiuddin al-Nabhani. Its aim is to establish a world state based on Islamic law. In March 2002, Hizb ut-Tahrir published a leaflet threatening Jews. It said “kill them wherever you find them,” and “the Jews are a people of slander”.
The previous two dispatches concerning Hizb ut-Tahrir concentrated on a member of the Islamic group, Dilpazier Aslam, who worked as a staff journalist at London’s Guardian newspaper. Aslam, decided to leave the Guardian rather than resign his membership of the militant Islamic group, after the newspaper’s editor asked him to once his membership was exposed.
ATTEMPTED ARREST OF ISRAELI OFFICER AT HEATHROW AIRPORT
Israeli army officer Doron Almog arrived on Sunday at London’s Heathrow airport. He was in Britain to give a talk about a charitable project he is involved in, in the Negev, that helps Israeli Jews and Arabs with severe mental and physical disabilities. (Almog’s own child is severely disabled.)
But the previous day a British court had issued a warrant for his arrest for “war crimes” because of his service in the Israeli army.
Almog was advised by Israel’s military attache in Britain, who had rushed to the airport to advise him not to get off the plane, to return immediately to Tel Aviv. (Israel’s military attache was likely tipped off by British intelligence, who wished to avoid a diplomatic incident.)
Almog was head of Israel’s southern command between 2000 and 2003. He told the Guardian that the actions of the Israeli army in Gaza during this time were to prevent terrorist attacks against Israel.
The warrant for the arrest of Doron Almog was brought by Daniel Machover, a Jewish Israeli campaigner against Israelis, and the founder of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights.
Machover has a long record of stirring up anti-Israel activity; in May 2005 he signed a letter in support of an academic boycott against Israeli universities (see previous dispatches on this list).
In October 2000, Machover signed a letter that compared the Oslo peace process to “apartheid”.
“THIS MOVE GIVES LEGITIMACY TO TERROR”
In response to this lawsuit, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Justice Minister said, “England is turning into an address for lawsuits that do not deal with its own citizens, and this may undermine its war on terrorism, because it (the use of lawsuits) is being used for negative purposes.”
“This move gives legitimacy to terror, moreover, the Brits, who are fighting international terrorism, cannot legitimize this when their soldiers are in Iraq. At the end it will be like a boomerang that would come back to haunt them.”
As the final article on this dispatch notes, American soldiers may also soon be unable to visit the UK due to similar lawsuits.
The fact that Scotland Yard may also be investigating the Israeli embassy over this scandal, as outlined in the penultimate article of this dispatch should be of concern.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called the attempt to detain Doran Almog “an outrage” and said the incident would be raised with the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. “We take a grave view of this. Don’t forget that Britain has troops in Iraq.” he said.
KEN LIVINGSTONE v. MEMRI
A long-running feud between the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has this week moved to the letters page of the Guardian.
Sandwiched between two letters defending MEMRI, Livingstone claims MEMRI is “selective” in its translation. The last translation MEMRI publicized on its website concerns the Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar, which labels the CIA “the biggest terror organization of all”. Is the Mayor of London suggesting that MEMRI translate crosswords or the weather from the Egyptian press instead?
The third Guardian letter below, defending MEMRI, is by the British writer William Shawcross, who is a subscriber to this email list, as are senior staff at MEMRI.
LIVINGSTONE COMPARES QARADAWI TO POPE JOHN XXIII
Also this week, Livingstone said Sheikh Qaradawi was a champion of progressive reform comparable within Islam to Pope John XXIII (who led reform within Catholicism in the late 1950’s). As mentioned previously on this list, Qaradawi advocates the death of homosexuals and Jews, so it is difficult to know what Livingstone, the socialist mayor of London, finds so attractive about him.
In addition this week, Livingstone blamed President George W. Bush for creating a “clash of civilizations”. Livingstone told a meeting of the British Trade Union Congress that Bush and his “right-wing neo-con establishment” have triggered a “clash of civilizations” between Muslims and the West.
Silvio Berlusconi apologized publicly this week after a Member of Parliament from his party employed anti-Semitic stereotypes. Guido Crosetto suggested that Jewish financial interests and “great Jewish and American Freemasonry” were behind a scandal involving the chief of the Bank of Italy. An editorial in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading newspaper, compared Crosetto’s comments to “anti-Semitic propaganda in Germany and Italy between the two World Wars.”
Silvio Berlusconi said his Forza Italia Party “apologizes publicly to whoever can be offended by these allusions, underlining at the same time that no one can put in doubt its fundamental nature that is liberal and an enemy of any intolerance.” In contrast, Tony Blair has never apologized publicly following several anti-Semitic statements from Ken Livingstone, a member of his party.
I attach three letters from the Guardian on the Ken Livingstone – MEMRI dispute, an article on the UK infiltration by members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and two articles on Israeli officer Doron Almog.
-- Tom Gross
PRINCE HARRY APOLOGIZES FOR WEARING NAZI UNIFORM
As an update to the dispatch Forgetting to mention the Jews: The BBC, Prince Harry, and the Holocaust (January 16, 2005), Prince Harry today finally apologized for wearing a Nazi uniform to a friend’s fancy dress party. The apology came in a wide-ranging interview with many news organizations on the occasion of the Prince’s 21st birthday.
He said, “Looking back on it now, and at the time as well, it was a very stupid thing to do and I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m very sorry if I offended anybody. I’d like to put it in the past now.”
GUARDIAN LETTERS ON KEN LIVINGSTONE AND MEMRI
September 7, 2005
The mayor of London (Letters, September 3) denigrates the Middle East Media Research Institute. This institute provides accurate translation of what is being published and said in Arabic. Almost any scholar of Arabic in a western university will confirm that the translations of Memri are reliable and sound. Yet Mr Livingstone chooses to ignore this. If he has any evidence that the translations are not correct, he should produce it. If his only worry is that it “tends to portray Muslims in a bad light”, then where is a concern for truth?
September 10, 2005
Leon Collins (Letters, September 7) suggests the Middle East Media Research Institute provides an impartial selection of what is being said and published in Arabic. Many reliable sources would dispute this. A recent Foreign Office memo, leaked to the Observer, stated: “The founding president of Memri is retired Colonel Yigal Carmon, who served for 22 years in Israel’s military intelligence service. Memri is regularly criticised for selective translation.” Using Memri as the source for information on Islamic leaders is like using the Conservative press office as the only source for information on Labour. At the very least, the nature of the source should be made clear. Better, journalists should have their material translated independently.
Mayor of London
September 14, 2005
Ken Livingstone protests too much about the Middle East Media Research Institute (Letters, September 10). It publishes invaluable material - some favourable to Arab and Islamist individuals and institutions, some opening them to criticism. Everything it publishes is revealing and no one has shown that it mistranslates from the Arabic for political reasons. It is just prejudice for Livingstone to dismiss it because it is Israeli. Rather, he should lament that there is no Arab source of information on the Middle East half as trustworthy.
St Mawes, Cornwall
How militant Islamists are infiltrating Britain’s top companies
By Shiv Malik
The Independent on Sunday
September 11, 2005
‘IoS’ investigation: Extremist organisation that Tony Blair wants to ban is active in unexpected places. Shiv Malik reports
A militant Islamist group that Tony Blair has said should be banned has members in some of Britain’s most important institutions, including the NHS and blue-chip companies such as IBM and Reuters, an Independent on Sunday investigation has revealed.
The Government is due to publish legislation this week to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is already proscribed in European countries such as Germany and in most of the Middle East. The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, has undertaken to give the wording of the ban to the Opposition to secure cross-party agreement.
In contrast to other groups that the Government intends to ban, the membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir is mainly middle-class and well-qualified. A significant proportion are university-educated and work in areas such as finance, information technology, health and education.
Recently, the IoS disclosed that The Guardian had employed Dilpazier Aslam, a Hizb member, as a trainee journalist, and articles he wrote after the London bombings did not mention his connection with the group. He lost his job at the paper after refusing to give up his membership.
The IoS has now learned that at least two members of Hizb, which seeks to form a global Islamic state regulated by sharia law, work for the computer giant IBM, and that Reuters, the international news and financial information agency, has at least one member among its employees.
After being informed of this, a Reuters spokesperson said: “We require our journalists to be very sensitive to any activities which might lead to their impartiality being questioned. We of course recognise the right of people to hold their own views.
“We are not aware of any of our employees being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. If it becomes illegal, then certainly we would review the matter on the ‘Do their private actions impact our public reputation?’ principle.”
An IBM spokesperson said the company was assessing the impact of any new legislation. It would not disclose personnel information “for reasons of data protection”.
Sajjad Khan, a prominent member of Hizb who runs classes on the group’s ideology and has delivered speeches at the group’s congresses, said: “Most of our members are graduates who work and pay taxes. Very few of them are unemployed or rely on state benefits.” A finance and IT specialist, he said he had worked for a number of large companies, including Tesco.
Several members of Hizb are medical practitioners, including its spokesman, Dr Imran Waheed, a psychiatrist practising in London. Its women’s representative, Nazreen Nawaz, is a qualified doctor who worked in cancer research. Another member is a manager at University College Hospital, London.
The group is also strong in the education sector, where a former member of the executive board lectures in IT in an east London college. The former headmistress of a prominent Islamic primary school in the same area is also a member of Hizb, as is the landlord of the building.
Although Hizb ut-Tahrir insists that it has never supported violence in Britain or the Middle East, security sources accuse it of being among groups which radicalise Muslims to the point where they attract the attention of terrorist recruiters.
A former Hizb ut-Tahrir activist told the IoS that behind closed doors he was encouraged to take up boxing and self-defence classes in order to “prepare for jihad”. Although he never accepted full membership, he was associated with the group for nearly a decade, and said two members had told him how they had joined the Territorial Army in order to get “real” military training. After TA rules were changed and it was no longer possible to opt out of military action if asked to take part, this stopped.
The organisation’s well-designed www.hizb.org.uk website replaced earlier sites such as www.1924.org, which until the London bombings used to contain material from the 100,000 leaflets and flyers handed out at mosques across Britain every Friday.
Though Hizb denies being anti-Semitic, a leaflet first published in 1999 said: “The Jews ... are a poisoned dagger thrust into the heart of the Islamic Ummah and [sic] evil cancerous gland which spreads deep within the Islamic countries.” Until last year the same statement was carried on Hizb’s websites.
When Britain’s first successful suicide bomber, Asif Hanif, blew himself up in a Tel Aviv bar in April 2003, he killed three others and injured 55. His partner, Omar Sharif, also from Derby, was found dead floating in the sea two weeks later, after his bomb failed to detonate.
The June edition of Khilafah magazine that year said: “This case more than anything has shown that though the Kaffir [unbelievers] wish to seduce the Ummah away from the problems Muslims face with corrupt Western ideas such as nation statehood and the British Muslim identity, it has certainly not deterred these two young men who grew up in Britain.”
A discussion on a Hizb website about Western citizenship spoke of killing kaffirs - infidels or non-Muslims. “Their bonds, equality and freedoms are lies and false ... We saw an Immigrant [muhajir] from Quraysh drawing closer to Allah by killing his kaffir relative,” it said. This was removed days after the 7 July attacks in London.
Approached for comment, Dr Waheed said the group always espoused non-violence. He denied that the Khilafah article could be interpreted “in any way” as praising violence. He refused to discuss the organisation’s membership beyond saying that they were professionals “serving their local communities”.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) was founded in 1953 by a Palestinian court clerk, Taqiuddin al-Nabhani. Its aim is to establish the Caliphate, a state based upon and governed by Islamic law. In Britain, the party is headed by Jalaluddin Patel, 28, an Indian IT engineer, and has up to 10,000 members. In 2002 it was outlawed in Germany after allegations of anti-Semitism and last year three British members were sentenced to five years in jail in Egypt.
ATTEMPTED ARREST OF ISRAELI OFFICER AT HEATHROW AIRPORT
Investigation urged after Israeli officer avoids arrest
By Vikram Dodd and Conal Urquhart
September 13, 2005
Scotland Yard was urged yesterday to launch a criminal investigation into officials at the Israeli embassy in London who helped a retired Israeli general wanted in Britain for war crimes to escape arrest. Doron Almog arrived on Sunday at Heathrow for a private visit to the UK. Unknown to him, a British court had issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes on Saturday and detectives were waiting at the airport.
Mr Almog told the Guardian yesterday that, as he prepared to leave the plane, he was advised to wait by the cabin crew. Israel’s military attache in London then arrived on the plane to inform him that he faced arrest. Mr Almog stayed on the El Al plane until it flew back to Israel.
The 53-year-old former general told the Guardian: “I don’t know how he [the military attache] found out but I am glad he did. It was also fortunate that I was flying with El Al as they are loyal. I don’t know what would have happened if I had been on a British Airways flight.”
The war crimes arrest warrant was issued over allegations that Mr Almog ordered the destruction of 59 civilian homes in Gaza, in breach of the Geneva convention. Yesterday a lawyer representing the alleged Palestinian victims demanded that police investigate the actions of Israeli diplomats in aiding Mr Almog’s hasty departure. Daniel Machover said Israeli officials had been involved in “calculated interference” in thwarting British justice. “There needs to be a criminal investigation of the actions taken by Israeli embassy staff. They are not located here to assist Israelis to evade British justice,” he said.
Mr Machover also called for a police inquiry into how the information was leaked to the Israeli embassy and how the Israeli diplomat got through various layers of security at Heathrow to board the plane and warn Mr Almog.
Amnesty International criticised British police yesterday for failing to execute the warrant. “He could have been arrested; under UK law there is no reason for not arresting him once he’s on UK soil,” the human rights group said. Mr Almog was due to visit Jewish communities in Birmingham, Leicester and London to raise money for a centre for disabled children. His son Eran, 20, is severely disabled.
He said that neither he nor his country had any case to answer for the deaths of innocent Palestinians in their battle against militants. “As a soldier and a general I have never committed a crime. Many times I have saved Palestinian lives by risking my life and the lives of my soldiers,” he said. The actions of the army in Gaza were to prevent terrorist attacks against Israel, he said. Mr Almog was head of Israel’s southern command during the second intifada between 2000 and 2003.
He said he had no intention of returning to Britain to defend himself in court. “This is not about me versus the British legal system, it is against the state of Israel,” he said. Scotland Yard refused to answer any questions, including why detectives failed to board the plane to arrest Mr Almog, whether there was any investigation into the role of Israeli diplomats in helping him evade capture at the airport.
“We are not prepared to discuss at this stage anything to do with this episode,” said a spokesman for Scotland Yard.
JUSTICE SHOULD BEGIN AT HOME
Justice should begin at home
By Joshua Rozenberg
The Daily Telegraph
September 15, 2005
A major diplomatic incident was narrowly avoided last weekend, putting pressure on Britain to change a little-known but far-reaching law.
In the meantime, we can expect rather fewer US military officers to stop over in London on their way home from Iraq for a spot of shopping.
The story begins with a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, 54, who took the El Al flight from Tel Aviv to London last Sunday afternoon. About 60 people were looking forward to hear him speak at Solihull Synagogue about a project in the Negev that helps Israeli Jews and Arabs who have severe mental and physical disabilities. His son, Eran, 20, is severely disabled.
“We were about to get off the plane, and then one of the stewards came up to me and said the pilot had asked me to disembark last,” Mr Almog told Israel Army Radio.
After waiting, he was told that the Israeli military attache was on his way. “I phoned him and he told me not to get off the plane.” Mr Almog and his wife flew straight back to Israel.
What officials at the Israel Embassy in London had discovered was that a warrant had been issued for Mr Almog’s arrest a day earlier at Bow Street court. The Israelis will not say how they learned this, but it seems highly likely they were tipped off by the Foreign Office.
Daniel Machover, the solicitor who obtained the arrest warrant at a private hearing, is furious. He believes that anyone who frustrated Mr Almog’s arrest by revealing the existence of the warrant must be guilty of perverting the course of justice - a serious criminal offence. He also wants to know why the police, who were apparently watching all flights arriving from Israel, did not execute the warrant once Mr Almog’s plane had landed - “airside” areas of an airport are not exempt from the general law.
Mr Machover, who has joint British and Israeli citizenship and founded Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights in 1988, had been granted a warrant under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 - the first time, he believes, that such a warrant has been issued. An attempt last year to arrest Shaul Mofaz, a former head of the Israeli army on a visit to London, was unsuccessful because, as Defence Minister, he has diplomatic immunity.
The 1957 Act was passed, somewhat belatedly, to allow Britain to ratify the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 for the protection of victims of war. Section 1 of the Act makes it an offence under English law for anyone to commit a “grave breach” of one of the conventions.
Article 147 of the fourth Geneva Convention defines grave breaches as including “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”.
The legislation applies to “any person, whatever his nationality. whether in or outside the United Kingdom”.
As head of the Israeli Defence Force’s Southern Command from 2000 to 2003, Maj Gen Almog is alleged to have “wantonly” destroyed 59 houses - one of them previously occupied by Abdul Matar, Mr Machover’s client. The incident was said to have happened in January 2002 at the town of Rafah, on what was - until the Israelis pulled out this week - the heavily guarded border between Gaza and Egypt.
Separate attempts to have Mr Almog arrested over three fatal incidents in Gaza were dismissed at Bow Street, apparently because more evidence was needed.
The warrant for Mr Almog’s arrest allowed for his release on bail, although he would not have been allowed to leave Britain while a decision was taken over whether to charge him. No proceedings may be brought under the 1957 Act without the consent of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, though his permission was neither sought nor required for the arrest of Mr Almog.
Back in Israel, Mr Almog said that, as a soldier and as a general, he had never committed a crime. “Many times, I have saved Palestinian lives by risking my life and the lives of my soldiers,” he told The Guardian.
Reaction in Israel has, inevitably, been mixed. Gerald Steinberg said in the Jerusalem Post that EU-funded non-governmental organisations - such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which backed the case - were exploiting “the language of human rights to pursue the goal of political genocide”. Writing in Haaretz, however, Michael Sfard accused the Israeli justice system of shirking its responsibility to investigate war crimes.
The Israeli Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, said she would seek to persuade countries such as Britain to amend their laws, suggesting that they could otherwise be used against British military commanders over incidents in Iraq.
This move is unlikely to succeed. Lord Goldsmith is rightly proud of the fact that he successfully prosecuted Faryadi Zardad, the former Afghan warlord found living in London who was sentenced to 20 years in prison at the Old Bailey in July for torture and hostage-taking. Although it comes under different legislation, torture - like grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions - is a crime of universal jurisdiction and can be tried in one country even if it is said to have taken place in another.
But Zardad, and Anthony Sawoniuk, who was convicted in 1999 of war crimes committed 57 years earlier in Nazi-occupied Belarus, had chosen to live in Britain. No other country could have brought them to justice.
My view? London is not the right place to decide whether the destruction of homes in Gaza was justified by the “military necessity” of defending Israel against terrorist attacks. Our courts, after all, are not known for their willingness to investigate the legality of recent wars.
The best place for such charges to be tried is Israel, a country whose supreme court investigated alleged human rights abuses in Rafah in “real time” last year. Six of the seven specific complaints were upheld. The court stressed that “even in a time of combat, the laws of war must be followed”.
It is fortunate that the Israelis were tipped off last week. Otherwise, American commanders would be next. Universal jurisdiction may be a fine thing, but it comes a poor second to local justice.