Jews and Hamas propaganda at Birkbeck

WP_20160331_18_01_16_ProI spent 7 years studying at Birkbeck in the centre of London. I took a 4-year BSc, received a distinction on a 2 year MSc and spent an additional year doing post graduate modules in Law. Last night, on 31/03/2016, my connection with the university was irrevocably shaken.

I attended what had seemed like a relatively harmless event, with Palestinian documentary maker, Rawan Al-Damen promoting the Al-Jazeera propaganda project ‘Palestine Remix’. It ended up being one of the more disturbing events I have attended.

Supported and promoted by the Middle East Monitor, the evening began with a single handout, the Spinwatch/Middle East Monitor investigation (attack) on The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) from 2013. As this is neither new, nor on topic, one wonders why this was the information the organisers felt the delegates ‘must have’ to take home with them.

The event started and the ‘Palestine Remix’ product itself is impressive. The technology behind the website allows for the user to engage with documentary evidence, search videos using text references and then take the chosen excerpts to share on social media, download or to ‘remix’ into a bespoke documentary. All available in several languages. ‘Heady stuff’.

And they want to push this as an education tool in our schools and in our universities. Coming just a day after I attended a dire Zionist event, this highlights the gulf between the tired, lifeless, self-indulgent Zionist leadership in the UK and the fresh, innovative and spirited defence emerging from the Palestinian side. And a useful tool it would be too if it were not total propaganda. Al-Jazeera has delivered an instrument of total historical revisionism. The timeline of 1948 does not include a single violent Arab action. This, the underlying distortion in the Arab narrative that turns a bloody civil war and a battle for survival into a one sided and brutal rout.

There is even a documentary about Moroccan Jews who describe Zionist actions that ‘conned’ them into fleeing Morocco. As hundreds of thousands of Jewish Arab refugees were created through persecution and expulsion, this website passes it off as a self created ‘Zionist plot’.

Rawan Al-Damen relies on the exception/rule strategy that fuels the entire Palestinian propaganda machine. They take the rule (Arab violence and rejectionism) and make it look like an exception whilst taking the exception (Israeli extremist action) and make it look like the rule. This way, they get to turn the entire story on its head and the victim becomes the aggressor. This piece of software should get nowhere near children or students, it is a brain washing machine.

Alongside Rawan Al-Damen, stood Sue Wolstenholme from Ashley PR. Sue was apparently attending to instruct people about the PR aspect of selling the narrative. How to ‘spread the word’. Ironically, whilst standing on a stage with some of the best hi-tech propaganda I have seen, Sue suggested propaganda doesn’t work. Whether this woman is naïve, stupid or driven by her own hatred I cannot be sure, but to stand on the stage and push this as ‘balanced’ (yes, she used that word) simply puts aside all sense of justice. My own wife’s family was expelled penniless from Egypt.  Isn’t it funny how the justice these people and those pushing the BDS movement constantly seek never includes justice for anyone Jewish.

And talking of Jews, Sue Wolstenholme had another surprise for us all. During the Q&A session a question was asked of Netanyahu, basically asking ‘how the international community let him get away with it’. Sue’s answer was to the point:

“The politician’s needs are not what they should be in their identification of the problem. And therefore Benjamin Netanyahu represents money because of the Jewish populations in the countries concerned, who are business people and all sorts of things like that. So it isn’t about friendship.”

Once again my role as a Jew in the UK is misunderstood. Personally, I have a hard time paying for the upkeep of this simple research, but somehow as a Jew, I am rich, a ‘business person’ and responsible for Netanyahu ‘getting away’ with whatever it is he is meant to be doing. Our money is once again buying the silence of UK politicians. Not Zionists of course (of whatever religion), or people who may have a capitalist, democratic, or value based affiliation with Israel, but specifically Jews.

And then I thought it was over. Only it wasn’t. Upon leaving I passed once more by the registration desk, and this time there was one other book on sale:

“The Political Thought of the Islamic Movement Hamas” by Khaled Meshaal.

What the writings of the leader of a proscribed terrorist organisation was doing inside Birkbeck I have no idea, but the organisers clearly felt that having knocked BICOM and having blamed the Jews of the UK for Israel’s actions, the delegates were in need of some Hamas ’refreshment’. And for the bargain price of £3

hamas birkbeckThe book has a whole section on resistance. This a short excerpt:

“Hamas… is part of a blessed chain which has continued for over a century taking in all its revolution, icons and leaders: Izzedin al-Qassam, Haj Amin al-Husseini, Fahran al-Saadi and Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni and the others who led great struggles despite the adversities of the time”

These are more details of the people being praised:

  • Izzedin al-Qassam. Syrian born. Fought with the Ottomans against the French and British. Fled after the fall of Syria to British Palestine (therefore will claim his family has lived there for millennia). Eventually killed by the British after terrorist atrocities in the early 1930’s.
  • Haj Amin al-Husseini. Long history of anti -Jewish violence. Met Hitler. Collaborated with the Nazis.
  • Fahran al-Saadi. Involved in the 1929 massacres against Jews. One of those that started the 1936 revolt. Led a terrorist group. Eventually executed by the British.
  • Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni. In late 1933 founded the secret militant group known as the Organization for Holy Struggle (Munathamat al-Jihad al-Muqaddas). Exiled by the British in 1938, like Haj Amin was involved in the coup in Iraq. Secretly came back to British Palestine and led some of the irregular armed forces in early 1948 that ignited the civil war. Was killed in action.

I do not need to detail the entire book, a book that explains away acts of utter horror and barbarity. A book that places the UK, US and Israel on one side and the ‘Ummah’ (the whole community of Muslims) on the other. A book that talks of Israel’s ‘inevitable’ demise.  Nor do I have to. This is a book written by the head of an organisation that sent terrorists onto buses, into malls, into clubs and justifies it. This is a man who leads a group that was responsible for a bombing at a tourist pub, where I personally lost a good friend. A man responsible for attacking Israel the way the UK was attacked in 7/7, the way Belgium was attacked, France and the US.  Why was this book for sale at this event in Birkbeck?  Doesn’t PREVENT have any teeth at all?

Note this was not ‘a’ book for sale, it was the only book for sale. Not one of a library, not one from a set, it was the single most important book the organisers felt you had to buy, the only book for sale on the table.

Just what exactly did this book have to do with the evening? As always, there is the face of human rights, the face of equality, the face of fairness, but behind it all lies a mask of Islamic radicalism and terrorism. This is insidious. It is not just dangerous revisionism. Last night someone pushed a one sided narrative that takes every Israeli action out of context, this was followed by someone suggesting that the Jews of the UK clear the way for unjust Israeli actions and then to wrap it up you can read Khaled Meshaal justify all forms of ‘resistance’.

Thank you Birkbeck, I am a Jew in the UK and you just made my life that little bit less safe. It is time that universities were called to account for what they are nurturing, fostering and promoting.


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14 thoughts on “Jews and Hamas propaganda at Birkbeck

  1. So we are basically going to Palestinian let events with a fantastic technology propagating their agenda lying about their history and then we went to a pro suppose it is relevant put on by all Jewish community with no fantastic technology propagating their agenda lying about the history blaming Netanyahu blaming The concept of Zionism and basically doing exactly the same thing as the Palestinians building in the name of the Jewish leadership and two state solution arm Yachad uk !

  2. Another excellent piece, David, and not at all prolix. Almost every word was needed! You are going from strength to strength. These occasions must be very trying indeed. I wonder do you just observe, record and leave, or do you confront the likes of Sue Wolstenholme? And if so, what kind of lame responses do you get?

    1. It depends. I believe that most of the time there is no ‘value’ in speaking out. Not because I do not have a voice, but because there is no one there to hear it. Sometimes, there is real value in speaking out, people in the audience that can be swayed and so on. On occassions, despite there being reason to speak out, I choose to stay silent, perhaps so I can have a private conversation with a delegate without ‘outing myself’. And then there are times I just become frustrated and open up anyway. So I have no ‘rule’ and I rarely know before I go which way it is going to go.

  3. David
    I trust you sent a suitably worded letter to the college head

  4. I applaud you for having the courage to stomach an entire evening listening to this rabidly antisemitic diatribe that contains nothing but lies and brainwashed rhetoric. I have nothing valuable to add to your scintillating piece other than to echo your despair because I too, as a British Jew, feel very unsafe living in the UK.

  5. Who is reading this, or are we just talking to ourselves again? . It needs to be widely circulated,along with similar writings, and deposited in places for those who SHOULD.. be reading it so they .have access – , and I would happily contribute towards any costs.

  6. I suggest you send copies to the Prime Minister, The Education Minister, and all the MPs who are known to be pro-Israel. As a former student of Birkbeck it makes me very sad.

  7. I am an anti-Zionist. I found this blog through an ynet article that pointed out your name, and I became curious that a Zionists who attends BDS events. I find it somehow an interesting starting point.

    Historic “narrative” is a very important part in this conflict, in my opinion; but the reading of events, and the even events themselves are also shaped by ideologies, beliefs and subjective feelings. And even the whole concept of “narrative” itself as well: as the Zionist narrative, in fact, entails a narrative of the Jewish people which is – antrhopologically speaking – a myth; something subjective, an interpretation, a perception of own identity which is a belief, that normaly people are not ready to discuss and expresses their right to believe and perceive themselves how they choose to.

    I was reading your article and I was feeling perplexed. I have a perception like that… I was looking for something like pointing things, claims that could be compared with something in the other narrative to make an argument… Instead I had this strange feeling that the shot was off, basically the whole text was “not argumentative” to me. It is far away from all “points” that would be determinant to the thinking of an anti-Zionist like me. I wonder if you can get to the real points that sustain anti-Zionist ideologies and Palestinian narrative.
    Those points that you address seem totally peripheral to me and I note huge omissions, it’s skimming the actual reasons and points that make Zionism – and its narrative – be unacceptable to many.

    Yes Palestinian historic narrative may have its own areas of removal, but Zionist narrative has areas of removal too of identical parts (Zionists also cooperated with Nazis, for example); and those areas on both sides not the grounds of the conflict. Those are not the point.

    I also note that while you warn against propaganda and “unbalanced” view, you rebut some outright slogans, terms like “Arab violence” and “rejectionism”. I may suggest that could be a good idea to stop for a moment and think about the very meaning, the sheer ideological value of those “concepts”. Those terms actually express a view of things completely through the lensens and blinders of ideology. What do those things *really* mean? If you want to understand something of the other side, you need to step out from this, see it it from the outside; de-construct those ideological formulas, if you want to see how other people “cut” reality and concepts in different ways.

    1. My starting point, is your starting point – the historical narrative. Yes, of course it is a very important part. Something nasty happened to some of the Arabs who resided there, did the other side have any justification….did the tables turn at any point….how it happened, how it unfolded, what unfolded, and so on are vital parts of the discussion. The same can be said for nasty events that occur to us individually, people react in different ways, some better, some worse. Sometimes, the reaction to a bad event is the driving force of a feud.

      I accept that the narrative that includes a ‘Jewish people’ is for some already ‘a myth’. My response to that is relatively simple. I believe that we are all ‘one’ and the world would be far more productive, happier and safer, if we could all just get along. I also believe that if the most important factor was my belief or your belief, perhaps we could all put our weapons down tomorrow. In answering the question are the Jews a people and if so, do they have a right to a land of their own, I’d simply ask, are any people a people and does anyone? You declare yourself to be antizionist, does that mean you are specifically against the Jewish right, or is it a more global humanity driven belief. From your anthropological comment, you’d probably discount the majority of nations..If so, the term antizionist is somewhat misplaced with you.

      So if other people can have a subjective opinion of themselves, an ‘interpretation’, if this is clearly enough on this planet for statehood and borders and armies. Why not the Jews? Was it because of what you believe they did? So is America not a nation? Australia? Canada? Even within your own narrative (this is not my narrative), do you move away from the Israel argument and place a similar claim against those nations?

      Is it one of time? Is it one of efficiency? If you consider Israel a ‘settler colonial’ project like the others, why is this the one that should be dismantled? Many genocides were taking place throughout history.some relatively it because Israel didn’t actually kill that many (it was not policy)? Is Israel facing international opposition because it did not wipe its enemies out? Had the Jews actually been as brutal as other ‘settler colonial nations’, would there be BDS today? Can you show me BDS against the others? What exactly is this punishment for? If you kick a man out we will punish you, but if you kill him that is okay, it’s better for everyone… is this the argument?

      My issue with all this is simply that our world isn’t controlled by people like you. Whether there are inherent weaknesses in humanity or not, the world is a nasty place. We tend to choose our causes and leaders badly. For better and worse, Jews are part of this world. I cannot allow you to place a theoretical bubble around Jews and act as if the argument is taking place inside a university test tube. Is the world mainly split up into warring tribes, factions? Yes, do nations tend to act in self-interest? Yes, Are the Jews considered a people by themselves and most around them, Yes, have they been mutilated because of this, yes. The Jews have to live in this environment, not the theoretical one. As nice as most people might be in theory. Our world has *never* worked like that. I’d ask you to use a different people as a Guinea pig, I believe there has been enough ‘testing’ done on the Jews.

      The blog is not really created to argue against you, so I doubt you’d find arguments within. I can argue for Israel, I can persuade the 60% in the middle, there is little point actually working on the 20% who for whatever reason have already raised the Palestinian flag. Although there have been one or two long exchanges in the comments, so there is content that does address the deeper historical context. I also have another disadvantage; I’ve been told to keep the word count down. Arguing a case in such little space, doesn’t lend for deep discussion. I have the arguments, I’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss them.

      I was bothered by your mention of Zionist cooperation with Nazis. It was the first point in your post that alarm bells went off. What does this mean? I’ve read all the claims, both the real and the conspiratorial. Jews were being pulped by the Nazis…what do you mean collaborated? There are different forms of collaboration surely. There are those that seek to assist (like the Mufti etc) and those that seek to diminish (if we do a deal can we lower the death count)…there are those driven by leaders and those of individuals looking to is ethically flawed to draw all these together.. the word ‘collaboration’ is meaningless in and out of context. The man that orders his last meal on death row, has he just ‘collaborated’ with his executioner? Your use of this, in this discussion does imply to me there are deep issues with your own narrative. Why is this even important? Why mention it?

      Your final suggestion misses the mark with me completely. Nobody can remove entirely all the errors in argument because errors can also be subjective (listening to a narrative that removes partition or relates 1948 without mentioning Arab violence isn’t a subjective error). My research is of the ‘anti’ message, my reading is Chomsky and Pappe and Finkelstein and Said and Atzmon.. the most pro-Zionist narrative on my shelf is Benny Morris… I play devil’s advocate as a way of double checking every belief I hold.. I believe I have a pretty good idea of what the argument is. Can you place yourself in the shoes of the Zionist?

      1. There are many points. I was thinking about a “long” reply but I think it will take too long and it’s better to go by little steps. I will pick just one point in this post: you wrote: “So if other people can have a subjective opinion of themselves, an ‘interpretation’, if this is clearly enough on this planet for statehood and borders and armies. Why not the Jews?”
        I hope I’ll make clear something by answering this on how I see things. The problem is not whether “the Jews” have a right to their own interpretation of themselves (albeit, this is only incidental, I doubt that they actually have one agreed interpretation), Zionism might well seen as a specific political interpretation of Judaism, therefore as an interpretation of national identity and narrative, or a political ideology, therefore legitimate as any other political position. The problem with Zionism (or Zionist Jews, as for your words) is not whether a group of people have a “right” to an ideology, national identity or state. They obviously have a right to think whatever thely like. The problem comes when they demand *other* groups to subscribe to their ideology.

        This is what cases the problem with Zionism. It’s not that it is true or false or right or wrong in its myths. As for my diagnosis Zionism is just disfunctional, insofar as in its application to reality it requires and demands a pledge or acceptance from people who have antagonist identity and will never accept it.

        Jews (or some of them) may well think they are a group with an historical “right” to a state, or that Israel has a “right” to be a Jewish nation and so on. They can have their subjective interpretation and beliefs about their rights and their narrative. But it is foolish and pointless to expect that others, and specifically Palestinians, will ever recognize such “rights”. This will simply never happen.

        That would be like East Germany demanding that West Germany recognizes its right to be Communist. Or like if the USA required the USSR to recognize a right to be “capitalist”. Or would be like requiring that secular countries recognize other countries the right to have islamic law. Or like requesting the Jews to recognize Jesus as a Messiah. Those requests would be foolish. Peoples don’t pledge to the ideologies of others. Here we are not talking about things like whether a group of people has or not a right to decide to pledge to Islamism and apply the Sharia law. Groups may well have a “right” to organize themselves around myths and values as sovereign entities. But it would be foolish to expect those who don’t believe that ideology to accept it.

        If Zionism is an ideology that needs non-Jewish and Palestinians to accept its values and narratives in order to obtain peace, the problem becomes intractable. This is one of the things I belive about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, that is that even if mistakes in the narratives are pointed out and corrected, there can’t be a mutual recognizing between the two positions.
        And also, again it’s not that there is something necessarily intrinsically bad in the idea that Jews may have a state; they might well have a state, like other religious or ethnical or idological groups. That state, on an international level, is and would be recognized as a state like all other states. But Jews won’t be recognized a *right* to have a national state by other groups, simply because such right doesn’t exist. It’s their subjective interpretation, not a “right” that others will recognize. There is no such thing as a right of religious/ethnical groups to statehood, or a right of ideologies, nor a “legitimization” of ideologies, neither a right of a state to be “Jewish” or have other qualities. People won’t just recognize ideologies that are alien to them or “rights” that don’t exist in the law.

        There are also specific points to be raised about why the Palestinians in particular cannot accept the concept of Zionism itself (in my opinion this is expressed by statements of Benny Morris), and then also aboout when you look at the conflict from the point of view of possible solutions. This is a main reason why I am becoming inclined to support BDS stance, mostly this is a consequence of a diagnosis, a solution-oriented view, that is from an analysis of the positions and options on the table I have come to believe there will be no “two-state solution”, that it’s unrealistic. That the perspective is basically a fraud. It’s because of this conclusion that I see the need to look forward and diffrent ways to approach the question..

        1. This post was a complete waste of time in 2016 and it’s a complete waste of time 5 years later. The only value of reading it (I processed it in 30 seconds and will forget all of its points in 3 minutes) is confirmation that the one-state utopians are slightly dangerous but mostly stupid and irrelevant assholes.

  8. As a British Jew I have lived my life as someone who is British who also happens to be Jewish, but since 2014 I have increasingly felt like a Jew in Britain, and, in my mind, this is entirely down to ‘the narrative’.

    The problem is that it seems as though those who have chosen a side – between Israel and the Palestinians (and those of us who are labelled simply because of our religion by the ‘other side’) – seem to be living in two entirely different realities. The narrative has become all consuming, solid fact, something to cling onto, something to justify the most hanous of crimes against individuals and against humanity, and entirely polorised. Both sides talk of their right to the land based on thousands of years of history, but their versions often suffer from historical rewrites where the other side is edited out; one side talks of Palestine and that Israel does not exist, the other of Israel and Palestine does not exist; one side talks of a colonial-style invasion, the other of an internationally sanctioned legal transfer of ownership; one talks of stolen land, the other of land that was paid for in money and in blood; one side talks of peaceful Arabs murdered and raped, pushed from land that was rightly theirs; the other of Arab nations telling those in current Israel to leave so they could return once every Jew had been driven into the sea. Same story, entirely different perspectives, perspectives that have become so polarised as to become unrecognisable from one another, so polarised that we are asked to simply believe one or the other without consideration, without reasearch, without care for ‘the truth’.

    Surely the truth is not that difficult to assertain, surely the important facts are self evident and should simply be accepted as the foundation of truth that each side’s narrative should be assessed against. Surely there should be some international body that will crush the lies that perpetuate the hatred from one side of the other, perpetuated by ‘the narrative’ being taught to the next generation, given almost religious status of its own, again being followed rather than questioned, getting ever further from the other side’s perception. The UN should be that body, but seriously, who believes that any more! The US does a reasonable job, but internationally they have a perception problem also as they are seen to support Israel blindly (despite the obvious issues between the White House and the Knesset), Britain and the European nations, especially because of our history in the region and part to play in the creation of Israel should champion truth, but we seem more interested in following the UN Israel bashing. Academics in all nations, those who study history, those whose intellectual curiosity took them to where they are now, should ‘know’ the truth and they should be the voice of reason, the myth crushers, but all we hear about are the minority that sign petitions in national newspapers and offer their support for the BDS movement. Why can the lies peddled as truths not simply be laughed away, thrown out, torn to shreds by those who know that the truth really is? Surely the truth is stronger than the lies.

    Unfortunately there does not seem to be any impartial organisation or internationally recognised body doing a good enough job of telling the truth, and worse still there just does not seem to be an appetite for the truth out there. People are happy in their polorised positions with their polarised narratives, and truth be damned.

    It all seems rediculously confounding to a British Jew who grew up believing in the strength of truth over lies that nobody (of course there are some who do, but I’m escalating this to a global scale) seems to care to look for it any more, prefering instead to point to whatever propaganda-based video, blog, book, newsreel or documentation, map, or comment that supports their side of the story.

    We need to recapture the importance of truth over narrative, whatever that truth may be, and we all need to accept that as the starting point. Only when that happens can the curtain of rhetoric fall and both sides start to move closer to a solution.

  9. The technology itself is easily duplicated. Essentially the time codes of the dialog and the video are matched. By selecting a segment of dialog one gets the beginning and end point of each segment, and then pastes them into a new segment. It’s based on an open source library from which should mean that the source code is available to anyone. The Al-Jazeera platform was developed starting last summer in conjunction with HyperAudio, which indicates that the principles and principals of the company are linked to the project. Here’s an entry describing the development: They don’t have a large client base which means that the company itself is small – if they were larger they’d have bios and more endorsements on their web site. Based on endorsements, AJ would be their major, client at this point in time, but Hyperaudio is independent.

    The content is not quite as easy to put together. It consists of the following:
    28 film segments – I’d estimate about 22.5 hours of film based on an average length of 48 minutes. It’s a bit time consuming to create a transcripts and matching it to time codes and it looks like they are doing it in 4 languages: English, Arabic, Turkish and Bosnian. Can’t figure out why Bosnian.

    14 maps translating into about 14 1 minute segments.
    11 drone segments, average 2 minutes each.

    The terminology and timeline menu items are strictly for navigation to particular segments, and the Quiz is there for indoctrination purposes.

    Note that the content is backed by the economic power of Al-Jazeera and Qatar. They can add content at will based on their ability to pay for it. They did at least one thing that was stupid – every moment of the video is branded Al-Jazeera. So will every derivative item. So it’s easy to deride this as propaganda by pointing this out.

    The first danger is that this combination is itself a propaganda tool designed to indoctrinate the user. One of the objections if this is given to Birkkbeck College as a trojan horse gift is that while the video editing software is acceptable, the content is clearly propaganda and is therefore unsuitable for an academic institution. Nor is balancing media acceptable either.

    The secondary danger is the fabrication of propaganda to be disseminated. How? youtube? There’s too much content there already for this stuff to get share of mind. Used to create videos to indoctrinate students in courses. Possibly, but then these courses already indoctrinate students, so one is back to a previous problem. Having teachers tell students use the AJ site to create videos – could happen. Shouldn’t get away with it because its so inherently one sided, but if the student is in Beirut or Abu Dabi, what can you do anyway. Having students pick this up on their own – could happen too.

    Like most software demos, the demo looks great. In practice, hard to tell. It’s not a slick as it initially looks. Composition is easy, moving stuff around not so much. I can come up with a dozen or so improvements. Other than mixing you can’t do any customization such as scene titles which would both show “authorship”, add information and allow you and me to add subversive (to them) commentary. They spend a lot of effort trying to make it work on mobile devices – imv that’s wasted effort. There are lots of easy to use tools – look at all the video content out there.

    The good news – if this approach is any good it will be copied and corrupted. One “answer” is a similar tool that has the added ability to extract any youtube video and index it. At which point there is so much propaganda out there for whatever that nobody listens to it any more. At least that’s my take.

    Haven’t looked at exporting a created video to social media and then extracting it, downloading it and editing it. At one time I knew this could be done but I never tried it myself.

    Thanks for noticing this. It’s worth keeping an eye on it. Revisit it in 8 months and see where it’s going, if anywhere. It was released Nov, 2014.

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