On Tuesday – unbelievably -the Policy and Sustainability Committee of Edinburgh Council will debate and vote on a motion to twin Edinburgh with the HQ of a radical Islamic terrorist group. The 17 Councillors on this Committee (5 SNP, 5 Conservative, 3 Labour, 2 LibDem, 2 Green) will debate a petition concocted by an antisemite whose twisted thinking proved even too toxic for the proscribed group Labour Against the Witchhunt. Yes, that’s right, Tony Greenstein, a notorious antisemite himself, kicked this guy out over his antisemitism. That is how bad he is.
Yet his vile motion, that seeks to give the proscribed terror group Hamas a hug, is going be discussed. And even though it was born from the mind of a clear antisemite, two SNP Westminster MPs, Tommy Sheppard and Philippa Whitford, have disgracefully supported the proposal.
According to the original proposal in 2019, there seems to be a council process which means they have to consider a petition that garners more than 200 signatures ‘unless there is a good reason to oppose it’.
I am sure that if this were a far-right racist, asking for a debate that baited Edinburgh’s black community, the Council would have triggered the ‘opposition’ clause by now. The fact this is still going ahead because it only baits Jews – is just more proof that racism against Jews is still acceptable in Scotland.
The toxic proposer.
Anyone who is familiar with the fight against antisemitism in the Labour Party needs no introduction to Pete Gregson, the key actor behind this debate.
Gregson was expelled by the GMB union for antisemitism. Gregson has expressed a view that the Holocaust had been exaggerated. He added that this was ‘by Israel’, for ‘political purposes’. Gregson has previously made complaints about the way he has been portrayed as an antisemite in the media. IPSO did not agree with him.
He was a member of Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), but his association and support for 9/11 truther Ian Fantom and his bunch of extremists, along with his description of Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom as not a ‘denier’, but a ”Holocaust sceptic’ – led to him being ousted. It is worth noting that LAW is chock full of antisemites and conspiracy theorists itself, and it has even been proscribed by the Labour Party. Gregson was too toxic even for them.
LAW didn’t even support his twinning ideas. Too toxic for LAW, but suitable for Edinburgh Council. That surely is not something to be proud of.
Pete Gregson and LAZIR
He set up his own group, ‘Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism’ (LAZIR). His group handed out fliers that sought to ‘rid Labour’ of Zionists.
Gregson has clearly swallowed a lot of fake news about Israel and he often speaks in empty soundbites that he seems to have picked up from fake news websites. His leaflets even went as far as showing a ‘laser’ destroying the Jewish Labour Movement:
Gregson also has an obvious problem with truth, although it is unclear if it is just ignorance, bad research, or his antisemitism that blinds him. In his original petition for example, he spoke up about the wonders of a Sinn Fein led petition to twin Moyle District Council in 2012. He claims it helped with many important issues. He even implies that the project only ended when Moyle Council was reorganised.
Except of course none of it is true. In fact, the arguments and proposal damaged the town, and just eight months after Sinn Fein had pushed it through, the twinning was withdrawn. The council was only reorganised three years later. Gregson is spinning lies. Shamefully this easily disproved lie has been repeated in local Edinburgh press. Don’t journalists do even the most basic research anymore?
Gregson’s lack of knowledge on Israel is astounding – even more so given it is his key obsession. The website Israellycool just published some of Gregson’s absurd comments at a recent gathering. At one point he says Hamas has *only* killed 44 people (presumably referring to rockets), which whatever the actual number ignores the 1000+ they have slaughtered on buses, in pubs, clubs and on the streets.
Gilad Atzmon even considers him an ally and tags him into his posts.
The lies of the petition
The petition Gregson put together only contains 253 words, but still manages to spin a bundle of disinformation and outright lies.
The petition states that Gaza is currently twinned with other cities such as Tel Aviv, Dunkirk, Barcelona and Turin. Each of these were twinned between 1996 and 1998, during the Oslo peace process. It is one thing to twin with Gaza as a sweetener to encourage Palestinians to continue down the path of peace – quite another to do it when it is controlled by a radical Islamic terror group. Gregson is attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the Edinburgh Council.
Further, the source of many of these claims is Wikipedia – which suggests the authors of the petition are somewhat reliant on nonsense for their news. For example the petition lists ‘Camden’ in New Jersey, although even in 2012, local officials had no idea at all where this claim came from. Would Americans really rush to twin cities with one in which 9/11 was publicly celebrated?
The petition says that Britain ‘gifted the beginnings of what is now Israel to Zionists through the 1917 Balfour Declaration‘. This is untrue and remains one of the most often cited lies of anti-Israel propagandists. Britain did not, nor could not, gift anything. In 1917 Balfour wrote a letter of support for an idea. The following five years were to see Britain awarded a mandate through an internationally sanctioned process. When Britain assumed the Mandate in 1922, it was carrying out the will of the League of Nations. Much to the dismay of anti-Israel propaganda, there is more international legal support for Israel in historical documentation, than any other nation on earth. It is why they ignore the Paris Peace Conference, the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Sèvres, the San Remo Conference, and the League of Nations Mandate and pretend it is all just about a letter.
The petition also states that ‘the majority of Palestinians living in Gaza City are refugees who had to leave their homes when Israel was established.‘ This is nonsense. The average age of people living in Gaza is about 18. To be a refugee who left their home in 1948, you would need to be at least 74.
It also suggests that all they (Gazans) want is to be able to live in freedom and to return to the land their families came from. There are hidden messages of support here for a nonsensical ‘right of return’ that would wipe Israel off the map (does Edinburgh support two states for two peoples – or two Palestinian states?). That aside, it is simply not true. Hamas, a radical terrorist organisation, did not assume power in Gaza by acccident. They won an election there. To suggest Hamas supporters just want to live in freedom is nonsensical. Hamas is a proscribed radical Islamic terror group that seeks to impose an Islamic state (Pan Arab, not Palestinian). They celebrate every time an innocent civilian Israeli is murdered. Hamas is a radical Islamist death cult.
Incredibly, the Edinburgh Council, whilst discussing whether to twin with a city controlled by a radical Islamic terror group, have invited Gaza’s Mayor to speak. Nizar Hijazi, leader of the municipal council of Gaza City. This is the *MAYOR* of a HAMAS RUN city. Does anyone doubt he is affiliated to Hamas. If he wasn’t – do you think he would be its Mayor?
Yet he is speaking in a meeting of a city Council in the United Kingdom!
What are these people thinking? Has anybody involved with Edinburgh Council, done due diligence and looked at the FB page for the Municipality of Gaza to see what it contains? The Mayor often meets with delegations of the Hamas leadership from various neighbourhoods. All current research suggests he is affiliated to Hamas, and it would be absurd to think this is not correct.
They want to give him a platform?
The two SNP supporters are also no strangers to anti-Israel obsessions – Tommy Sheppard and Philippa Whitford. I have myself witnessed Tommy Sheppard host a couple of anti-Jewish events in Westminster. And Phillipa Whitford is an expert at spreading demonising lies about Israel. We know that Scotland’s anti-Israel movement is overrun with antisemitic ideology. They even took a Holocaust denying non-Jew, pretended she was Jewish – and got her to speak as the face of Scottish Jews against Zionism. Scotland has a problem with Jews.
Make no mistake about how bad all this is. Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI, said: “Gaza City is ruled by Hamas, which is proscribed in its entirety under the Terrorism Act 2000. This means that it is very difficult to see how Councillors or Officers could participate in any twinning activity without committing criminal offences.”
Address the problem
There is little doubt that one of the reasons the peace talks have stalled is because of the Hamas domination of Gaza. And the violence they have brought to the area has left innocent Palestinians caught in a truly heart-breaking situation So maybe Edinburgh Council should do something that helps Palestinians and weakens the Hamas grip? That would truly be a cause worth supporting.
This is no different from a Council permitting a far-right agitator a stage upon which to deliberately provoke a minority group. Edinburgh Council should be ashamed that it has even got this far. Gregson’s racist ideology was too toxic for the proscribed group Labour Against the Witchhunt – yet Edinburgh Council gives him a platform. We can only hope that there are enough sensible heads around the Council table in Edinburgh to see this for what it is – and show Pete Gregson that neither he, nor his twisted antisemitism, has any place in our politics.
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