Back in the sands of time, when my involvement with the Labour Party was winding down towards its inevitable end, I went on a night out with two key activists in the Stop The War coalition and they shared some stories with me about various things.
At the time I was going to rallies and stuffing envelopes for their organisation, as war with Iraq loomed, and I mentioned my interest in doing the same for one of the Palestinian charities working out of Glasgow. Something one of those guys said has stuck with me ever since.
“Israel,” he told me, “never accepts criticism of any kind. Every piece of it, no matter how minor, meets with a counter-attack. Be careful with this stuff.” It’s been years since that night, but I’ve seen the evidence of what he told me over and over again.
Today, The Sun has reverted to type and the Israeli lobby is throwing its first metaphorical grenade in the direction of our fans. The backlash, which most people expected, has begun, launched out of the Israeli embassy itself no less, and the big guns have been rolled out early; the spectre of terrorism has been brought to bear. A grisly attempt has been made to cast our supporters’ campaign under a dark shadow.
These are people who’ve perfected the art of the smear campaign.
Every mainstream critic of Israel has, over the years, been subjected to this. They’ve brought the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn to the brink by accusing him of being sympathetic to anti-Semetic views. That’s how influencial they are.
Now it’s the turn of Celtic fans, and it’s no great surprise to see that the wholly disreputable arse-rag of Fleet Street has been used as the conduit for it.
So, did The Sun go to them, or did they go to The Sun?
Does it really matter?
Michael Freeman, who’s official title at the embassy is Officer for Civil Society Affairs, made the suggestion to the paper that the cash raised might find its way into the hands of Hamas, as if the Green Brigade was collecting it in buckets and giving it to dodgy looking geezers, instead of donating it to two very select charities.
The very suggestion that people donating money should be wary about where it ends up is an affront to everyone involved in the campaign, everyone who’s already given something and everyone who cares about seeing justice for the people over there.
The Green Brigade has chosen two excellent causes to be the recipients of this money; even the most cursory examination of them tells you all you need to know.
They are wholly reputable, and their members should seriously consider suing the paper and taking the embassy to task over the merest implication that they might not be.
Medical Aid For Palestine is a British charity whose patrons include peers of the realm, a former cabinet minister, a former Consul to Jerusalem and Scotland’s own Pauline McNeil, the MSP and trade unionist, who’s one of the people I consider my earliest political influences.
She’s one of the small group I dedicated my first novel to.
The Lajee Children’s Centre is based in the Aida refugee camp.
It’s what it says on the tin; a place where kids go to experience creative learning. The kids there paint and draw and tell stories. It’s a damnable disgrace to suggest that money raised for them could wind up in the hands of Hamas, but the people spreading this smear have absolutely no shame.
The paper goes on to mention a series of allegations surrounding the “Gaza branch of the charity World Vision”, with the somewhat vague accusation that supplies under the control of its local co-ordinator were diverted “to areas where Hamas members live.”
This is the kind of vague, easy to allege but bloody hard to disprove, garbage that goes on, and that sections of the Israeli lobby have perfected. The aim here isn’t to come right out and say that money raised by this campaign will end up fuelling Hamas rockets; it simply aims to plant the seed in impressionable minds that maybe it could …
I can’t fart loudly enough to express my disgust at that.
These are spurious, even ludicrous, allegations that ought to be lent no weight whatsoever.
It’s a transparent effort at casting doubt on the humanitarian principles behind the donation, and an effort to smear the wider campaign for Palestinian statehood, and it ought to be treated with the utter contempt it deserves.