This weekend Chester saw an Interfaith event – at least on paper it did. In reality what took place in the North-West is part of a particularly insidious antisemitic attack. Those responsible are a group called ‘Interfaith for Palestine’. The people behind Interfaith for Palestine created a Facebook page and a website in spring of 2019. This week they held a two-day conference. The programme over the two-days contained the names of highly toxic speakers such as Gilad Atzmon, Stephen Sizer and Mick Napier. The event had originally been scheduled to take place inside St Columba’s, a local Catholic Church, but after successful protests led by North West Friends of Israel, the Church soon cancelled their booking. The event still went ahead at a different venue.
A few questions about interfaith
This type of event shows just how lost the anti-Israel movement has become. With almost no visible Palestinian activists actually calling for peace, anti-Israel activism has been on the slide to oblivion for decades. They’ve aligned with every toxic ideology possible. So much so that there is now no resemblance whatsoever between how they define themselves and what they actually represent. Consider this – was the Roman Catholic Church really going to host an interfaith event about Israel on a Saturday – a day that automatically excludes the religious members of the Jewish community? And just as absurdly, what on earth have Napier, Sizer and Atzmon got to do with Interfaith?
Moving the interfaith event
When the Church cancelled, they were allegedly told by the angry event organiser that they had caved in to the ‘Jewish lobby’. Obviously interfaith to these people doesn’t include the Jews. The event then moved to a local community centre in Hoole. North West Friends of Israel turned to the charity behind the centre to explain why the event was so offensive. This time NWFOI walked into a brick wall. In fact, the response was hostile. This from the first email response:
“Your intervention (and the various other coordinated extreme ones we received today) did nothing to help foster good community relations here in Chester or to improve the understanding of and sympathy for the Jewish cause nationally in the UK.”
The email was signed by Roderick Heather MBE, Chairman of the Hoole Community Trust. A few antisemites dressing up as an interfaith group and hosting an event with toxic speakers isn’t a problem to dear Roderick. He is clearly more concerned about the reaction. The ‘ill-informed and bigoted telephone and social media campaign’ that the victims in this case – the Jewish community – launched in response. The exchange deteriorated even further, with Roderick Heather himself referring to a ‘Jewish lobby’ and additionally becoming an expert on what is and is not antisemitism:
Interfaith at Chester Friends of Palestine
It is time Roderick Heather of the ‘Jewish Lobby’ comment was introduced to the people he is so valiantly defending. The only photo on the Interfaith website is this one from a September meeting with Ahron Cohen from the ultra-orthodox crank sect the Neturei Karta:
Firstly, no interfaith group would meet with Ahron Cohen. He once suggested ‘god would have saved the victims of the Nazis if they had deserved to live’. The Neturei Karta don’t represent Jews (0.03% of the Jewish population) and it is akin to meeting up with the Westboro Baptist Church and claiming you reached out to Christians. The three key figures from Chester in the image are Joseph O’Neill, Peter Reilly and Nahida Izzat. O’Neill created the interfaith group and O’Neill, Reilly and Izzat were three of the first four members of the Facebook group. They are the central people behind this group.
Who are these people?
Joseph O’Neill is the key figure behind Interfaith for Palestine:
Joseph O’Neill has been an activist for a long time. In 2013 he was desperate to hold an event on Holocaust Memorial Day because he felt the way the British Government treats migrants is ‘reminiscent of how the Jews were treated.’ Make of that what you will. O’Neill seem to be a Christian component in the interfaith group:
Joseph O’Neill thinks the Mossad are behind the Christchurch and Sri Lanka terror attacks, troubles in India and Venezuela, Boko Haram, the Kennedy assassination and so on:
Joseph thinks Mossad can do this, because they control all the money. Examples from both Twitter and Facebook:
The Humans are Free article above suggests the Jews ‘engineered’ World War one as part of their global plan to create Israel. The website considers Holocaust denier David Irving ‘the best historian’, whitewashes Hitler and rejects the Holocaust as a myth. O’Neill has a problem with the Holocaust generally, and feels that before Jews (or anyone else) can talk about the 6 million who died in a genocide, they must first talk about Palestinians:
Peter Reilly, another key player in the group is also an antisemitic conspiracy theorist:
On his timeline there are dozens of ‘Israel are behind’ ISIS posts and countless shares from fake news and conspiracy websites based in the US. Reilly was picked up by my research in early 2017 as a leader of local ‘Friends of Palestine’ groups. Many of his shares are simply inexcusable. The post below has nothing to do with Zionism at all, but is simply the Khazar myth. A quick look at the article and the website should leave you in little doubt (NSFW), Lasha Darkmoon, the author is a white supremacist (NSFW).
Saving the best to last – the final piece of the interfaith puzzle is Nahida Izzat or ‘Nahida Exiled’. Izzat is a good friend of Gilad Atzmon and they have known each other for years. This from yesterday:
The London ‘Truth Conference’ with Izzat, Atzmon, Alan Hart and Ken O’Keefe. Rarely has there been so toxic a gathering. Izzat claims Palestinian heritage and has long been ostracised from mainstream anti-Israel groups because of her anti-Jewish racism. Nahida is the Muslim element of this interfaith group. She is also probably the reason Atzmon was in attendance.
Nahida is an exercise in hard-core antisemitism and it is impossible to do the level of her hate justice in this blog. She has a habit of misrepresenting the Talmud – most of her criticisms have little to do with Zionism and she is one of the only people to have been expelled from Palestine Live because she simply would not stop posting anti-Jewish hatred. Can you imagine being too antisemitic for Palestine Live and Elleanne Green?
Along with tweets such as this:
Nahida pushes a distinct and blatant anti-Jewish argument. Period.
So why is this anything to do with the Church?
Because the furore over the event focused on the speakers – and the Church cancelled for that reason. But this is a hate group – dressing up as something it most certainly is not. The real question is not how did Atzmon slip through the net, but rather what connections exist between this group and the church?
These people are just Chester Friends of Palestine hiding behind a mask. Here is Joseph from the interfaith group being used for the Chester Friends of Palestine brand:
Joseph was the first person to like the first image on the Chester FOP FB page and one of only two people on the street in a public protest in May. Chester FOP and Interfaith for Palestine are identical twins. Just two months before the Church cancelled the Atzmon / Napier/ Sizer conference there was this event inside a Catholic school:
The image above is of a hate group, led by an antisemitic conspiracy theorist using the facilities of a Catholic School to spread hate against the Jewish state. Just like they intended to use the Church for the conference – and would have succeeded had it not been for the activity of North West Friends of Israel.
During their October ‘Palfest’ – a warm up act for their conference– the group held an event at St Columba’s on October 6th, another on October 27th and a film showing on the 30th at Chester St John’s Wesley Methodist Church. In an additional note, the Church listing for these events puts the toxic Joseph O’Neill at the front of a third local group – ‘Friends of the Holy Land’. The Church was even kind enough to give Joseph space in their newsletter to advertise for donations:
What needs to be done?
Much of this shows how normalised antisemitism has become and how blind the British mainstream remains. Addressing this problem is part of the wider battle, but several actions can be taken NOW. The first is to recognise that a hate group is dressing up as an interfaith group in Chester. Perhaps the Board of Deputies can take this up with local Muslim and Christian groups to ensure that this ends here. There is no justification whatsoever for antisemitic conspiracy theorists to be granted access to Christian communities in order to spread anti-Jewish hatred.
The second is the local Church groups need to look at the access points. What connects these people to the Church – how did they gain access – and why those particular sites. Local Church groups clearly need to be warned.
Finally, there is the issue of the venue that did agree to host the conference, at least for the first day. It is clear now that the concerns of the Jewish community were not just correct but understated. It is also apparent that the reaction of Hoole Community Centre (even before the email exchanges) to these Jewish concerns was woeful.
The centre certainly needs to urgently address the manner, language and attitude of its Chairman. An anti-Jewish hate group rented a room. When the Jewish community were rightfully outraged, they were verbally attacked. There were references to a ‘Jewish lobby’ and threats were made about taking this public and going to the police. I am sure that I speak for many in the community when I say to Roderick Heather MBE – do your worst – your actions were shameful. Raphi from NWFOI deserves an apology and I have little doubt complaints will be made to the Charity commission over this behaviour.
This shows how dark the enemy can be. Toxic Chester FOP are a branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The hierarchy of the PSC read my report in 2017 (page 54-55) and much of the information about Izzat and Reilly was contained within. It shows how little they care that the PSC are reluctant to publicly ostracise antisemites. Just like the Scottish PSC. Mick Napier even tried to score virtue points by cancelling his talk at the conference when it became public knowledge that Atzmon was being platformed, but many of the people behind these events are his friends. He knows them.
A hate group dressing up as an interfaith organisation -and it takes the Jews to stand up and call it out. We have every right to ask our friends in the Christian community to pay closer attention to what is happening – and who exactly is involved- when these groups rock up at their door.
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