The title has a nice touch of an early Agatha Christie story, or some 19th-Century pulp fiction by Robert Louis Stevenson or Conan Doyle of a lord who was relentlessly pursued by an evil international conspiracy. A devoted supporter of Palestine, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham hasn’t been crucified yet, but the usual suspects have made his life exceedingly bitter. Women have come to bear false witness against him; as one is discredited and sent packing, another one comes in her stead. The mighty BBC attacks him; the Guardian and the Times denounce him for his lack of love for ‘our elder brothers Jews’ and assorted crimes and misdemeanors. And recently he was accused of making a pass at his cousin – fifty (or 47?) years ago, and this is, I believe, the world’s first of its kind. His doings are misrepresented; newspapers lie or almost lie creating innuendos to besmirch him.
Ask anybody who has heard of him, and you will be told that he killed a man while driving and texting on the motorway. If that is not enough, he is called ‘a child abuser’ or ‘accused of child sex offences’. He was also accused of taking advantage of a vulnerable woman. Who would want to defend such a person? In addition, he is from Rotherham, the town notorious for Pakistani men suborning young English girls. This is such a toxic mix as the angels fear to tread, making me the proverbial fool who rushes in.
Lord Ahmed was a precursor of Ilhan Omar before Ilhan came into the public spotlight. He waded through the flood of accusations that threaten to overcome his friend Jeremy Corbyn. He came to England as a child from the Pakistani part of Kashmir; following his steel-worker-father, he joined Labour and became one of the first Muslim peers of the realm – a great career for the boy whose elder brothers became bus drivers. His sympathy for Palestine was his undoing.
He supported Palestine; travelled to Gaza aboard a siege-breaking vessel; cared about Palestinians; fought in the Parliament to save them. For this work of love he had been labelled an ‘antisemite’, thrice suspended from the Labour party and then had to leave it altogether. His enemies and the enemies of Palestine didn’t miss a trick to trap him, to accuse of enormous sins and crimes, and to efficiently neutralise him. He can’t even support people he would like to (Corbyn, inter alia), for his support would stain them.
This political eclipse of a strong and charismatic figure, the natural leader of British Muslim community sends a terrible message to British politicians: do not defend Palestine unless you round up every defence with a proclamation of your love to the Jewish state, as Jonathan Freedland does. My friend Jonathan Cook wrote about the way this Jewish writer for the Guardian smeared ‘antisemites’ Livingstone and Galloway.
Palestine is not a parochial cause; the real supporters of Palestine are the most-active and strongest voices of the anti-war party. They were against the Iraq war, and now they are against the brewing Russia war, against Venezuela regime change, against North Korean confrontation, and for all the right causes. Neutralisation of Ahmed (and Livingstone) by the Jewish Lobby portends a sad future to the world, as it coincides with Trump’s submission to the neocon agenda, so clearly described by Mike Whitney. Just when he is most needed, he can’t be engaged.
I met Lord Ahmed back home in Palestine. He called me, introduced himself and asked me to take him to Jerusalem. He wanted to learn first-hand what goes on from a Jew who sides with Palestinians. It is not every day a British peer asks a humble writer from Jaffa to guide him. We went to Jerusalem; I introduced him to my great Palestinian friend and teacher Bishop Atallah Hanna; we walked the streets and we observed the walls of the Palestinian ghetto from the summit of the Mount of Olives.
He was touched by what he saw; I was touched feeling his compassion. In a while, he invited me to speak in the House of Lords, in the Parliament, and so I did. My talk was probably too daring – I was asked to speak about Palestine, while I spoke about the Jews and their relation to the British Empire, for I thought it was the key to the question of Palestine. Whenever one speaks of Jews, one will be called ‘antisemite’, unless one breaks into dithyramb; this is a professional hazard. So I was called, and Lord Ahmed too, for breaking the wall of silence I had been surrounded with.
Whenever you read newspaper pieces about Lord Ahmed (and they usually sound like a litany of accusations), my invitation always takes a place of honour (or calumny, if you prefer). “His vile anti-British career”, wrote the preserver of British values Abhijit Pandya in the Daily Mail, culminated in 2005 as he “invited well-known anti-semite Israel Shamir to the House of Lords to talk about ‘Jews and Empire’”. He “hosted a book launch in the Lords for a notorious antisemite”, said the Times.
Wikipedia tells that he “hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for the controversial writer Israel Shamir, during which the latter claimed, among other things: “The Jews like an Empire…. This love of Empire explains the easiness Jews change their allegiance…. Simple minds call it ‘treacherous behaviour’, but it is actually love of Empire per se.” The Guardian said that he “hosted a reception at the House of Lords for the anti-Semitic writer Israel Shamir, who used the occasion to accuse Jews of wanting to set up a world empire”.
I do not know whether Lord Ahmed had read much (or any) of my writing before this invitation. He said in an interview given to a journalist of Al Jazeera Mehdi Hasan (for New Statesman and Huffington Post) that he didn’t Google me – “that’s my biggest mistake,” he admits. Does he regret the Shamir invitation? “I do. Because that’s kind of a big stain on my reputation.” Mehdi Hasan, fighting for the Brown Nose Award of the Year, kept pushing (there are Arabs who are just great in defending the Jewish cause, and two of them, Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish, attacked me and some years later, attacked Gilad Atzmon, too) and Lord Ahmad profusely apologised: “”I completely and unreservedly apologise to the Jewish community, to the judiciary, to the newspaper owners.” But you know that apologies do not help.
I am not hurt by Lord Ahmed’s attempt to straighten his relations with the powerful British Jewish community and with even-more-powerful British Judeophiles. It is very probable that he got more than he bargained for. He reasonably expected that an Israeli Jew he invited would present a straightforward line saying that the evil things done by Israelis are totally at variance with Jewish values and ethics. That I’ll drop a tear saying how come that wonderful Jews had been perverted by Zionism. Or alternatively that I wouldn’t even utter the word “Jew”. Probably it would have been better indeed.
On the other hand, Israeli Jews who do the expected things do not go as far as I did. They do not support full equality of a Jew with a non-Jew in the whole land of Palestine; they do not support the right of Palestinian refugees to come home. Even the best of Israeli Jews like the late lamented Uri Avnery were all for Bantustanised Palestine and for separation of non-Jews. That’s the way with Jews: when they are in minority, they support the minority rights; when they are in power, they repress the others. Such observations earned me the title of ‘controversial’ ‘antisemite’ and worse.
Lord Ahmed was not attacked because he invited me. I am not that important. He was attacked because of his support for Palestine, and my name had been used just as a marker of opprobrium to frighten off the meek. Likewise, my wonderful friend Julian Assange had been persecuted and almost martyred for revealing the hidden secrets of the empire, not because of my friendship, though it is always mentioned together with his Swedish sex scandal. That is the way the Lobby smears and neutralises people.
Because of his support for Palestine, Lord Ahmed had got on the black list of you-know-who, and they began their vendetta. In 2007, they had their field day when Lord Ahmed had a road accident. It was presented that he killed a pedestrian while texting and driving, though it was far from the truth. In reality, a drunken young foreigner bumped his Audi against the separating fence of the motorway and, confused by the shock, headed wrong way in the fast lane. Lord Ahmed, who drove his Jaguar with the whole of his family had no chance to avoid the head-on crash. The young foreigner was killed, Ahmed was wounded. Even the appeal judge said there was “little or nothing” Ahmed could have done to avoid the collision. After being knocked unconscious, he had come to and “risked his life trying to flag down other vehicles to stop them colliding with the Audi or his car”, commended the appeal judge.
During the trial, the prosecution revealed that Ahmed texted somebody a few minutes before the crush. This was true, as Ahmed admitted, though it had no relation to the fatal accident. It was as irrelevant as the question what he had had for lunch. He was not accused of killing, or of causing death, or of causing accident by dangerous driving – only of texting while driving. But a very independent British justice sentenced him to jail for several months. This was the first time a person with no previous offences had been sentenced to jail time for texting – usually it is a fine.
He appealed and quickly got out of jail, but not sooner than the Labour Party suspended him. A few years later, he said in an interview that he was unjustly punished by a judge who was obliged to the Jewish Lobby. He also said that Jewish media lords are after him because he travelled to Gaza to support Palestinians. This (factually true and obvious) remark created uproar. You know, you may not say such things! He was again suspended by the Labour, and had left the Party reasonably expecting to be expelled, as practically all friends of Palestine were.
He also said he would pay millions of dollars to deliver President Bush and his poodle Blair to the ICC in the Hague to stand trial for war crimes – a righteous sentiment that I am sure many of us share to this day. But the Jewish-owned British media was after him; his words were made to sound like he wanted actually to kidnap the criminal duo.
Together with other staunch defenders of Palestine and anti-war activists George Galloway and Ken Livingstone, also hunted by the Semite Squad, Lord Ahmed was out of the Party and marginalised. Corbyn trimmed the tree that supported him. All three men still love Corbyn, but they are unable to help him.
The enemy had kept on trying to get Lord Ahmed. A few years later, a Muslim woman-lawyer, the head of a Citizen Advice Bureau, came complaining that the lord took advantage of her depression, whatever it means. Her complaint to the House of Lords had been rejected; nothing the Baron did was illegal or immoral or even unacceptable for a peer. But mainstream media turned this non-event into a festival of hate.
The last card played against Lord Ahmed was almost unbeatable. Sex-crime allegation turns the accused into a toxic object and depletes his support; that’s why the enemy usually employs it. Thus Julian Assange, another great friend of mine, had been accused of ‘minor rape’ (having unprotected sex). Ahmed was accused of three sex attacks on children. The Times reported that “he was charged with two attempted rapes and an indecent assault. His alleged victims were a girl and a boy aged under 13”. Sounds awful! Such a fiend should rot in jail, you’d murmur.
Reality is quite different. The alleged misdeeds took place almost 50 years ago, when Ahmed was a teenager (he is 62 now). The complainants, a lady lawyer from Liverpool and her brother a grocer from Rotherham are cousins of Ahmed, a few years younger than him. They were in good relations, went to family weddings and things, but then the Liverpool lawyer ‘discovered her true sexuality’, shacked up with another Indian lady, and decided to fight the ugly world of men with their male privilege. She remembered all the evil things she had suffered in her last fifty years, and among them something that happened (or didn’t happen) in Yorkshire when she was 12. This was the main reason for the complaint, but in addition she felt she and her brother were cheated of an inheritance they felt should be theirs. The brother says he has to stand by his sister; so he also complained that 50 years ago Ahmed and his brothers assaulted him and tried to rape her.
At first, police had sent the cousins home, saying such claims are impossible to prosecute. But for some reason, police then decided indeed to act on such a case. One reason was political: the enemies of the lord could not miss such a chance. The second reason was that in England “historical sex crimes” came into vogue. The war hero Lord Bramall had been investigated for some ‘historical sex crimes’ when he was 92; his house had been searched, he had been questioned at length, but he wasn’t charged, and he had received the apologies of the police. Alleged crimes of the late singer Michael Jackson have been given cinematic treatment though he was exculpated by court.
If you have a newspaper, or better, the BBC, you can accuse anybody. Sometimes it misfires, as in the case of Cliff Richard, who was accused by the BBC, sued them and received millions in compensation. But Ahmed had been screwed by bad publicity. The Muslim lady from the Citizen Advice Bureau could not get Ahmed by law, and the House of Lords rejected her claims, but the BBC took it up and made the whole program about her and the Baron. And now the Lesbian Liverpool-Lawyer case has been presented like Ahmed is some paedophile, though in reality it is rehashing of some forgotten child grievances.
Probably the case will come to naught, but the political harm is huge, and it is a question whether Lord Ahmed will ever recover. His courageous position on Palestine and against the war has brought on him enmity of the Tribe, and they are a vengeful lot, who neither forgive, nor ever forget. In discussion of Ilhan Omar it was frequently said that non-whites can get away with more things than the whites. The case of the Lord Ahmed is a sterling proof of the opposite.
Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]
This article was first published at The Unz Review.