Not Such Innocents Abroad – The Benefit of a Brief Bio in Hiding Bias

This is a guest post by AKUS

In a “Comment is Free” column published on March 13th – Breaking the Gaza deadlock – a British politician with, under the circumstances, the unfortunate name of Andy Slaughter reported on his trip to visit the murderous group of thugs in Gaza known as Hamas. The sub-heading of this article for once accurately reflected the views of the author. The solution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas proposed by yet another non-Arabic speaking gullible Westerner was: “Progress can be achieved through open engagement without preconditions – and that includes Hamas”.
The first comment on the thread below the line, while perhaps accurate in that this politician was treated to a typical round of discussions giving him what he wanted to hear, actually missed two key issues: Who is “Andy Slaughter” and who organized the delegation he accompanied?


Actually, not such innocents abroad. What Abtalyon missed was some background to this visit. As so often happens, once one starts digging a little into these opinion pieces interesting facts start to emerge.
So – who is “Andy Slaughter”? The Guardian, as usual, gives us this gentleman’s bio:


(The misspelling is the Guardian’s –“Shepherd’s Bush” was intended).
This brief and innocuous bio hides some interesting facts about this MP. He travelled to Gaza, he states, as part of a parliamentary delegation from the “Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group”, a group that rejoices in the unwieldy acronym BPAPPG. It is chaired by Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield. Burden’s website has a section dedicated solely to Palestinian issues. You will find a report there from 20 May, 2009, where he describes a previous visit to Gaza by a delegation from the BPAPPG that included, you guessed it, Andy Slaughter.
Those who follow the endless episodes of the I/P columns on CiF will undoubtedly remember the numerous articles and hundreds of comments that appeared after the Peter Oborne documentary about the non-existent Israeli “lobby” in the UK, and the scathing remarks that are often hurled at Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat “Friends of Israel” groups. The reference to BPAPPG passed unnoticed, and the fact that this group has supported every single issue over the last few years in which it could condemn Israel indicates that, like the Goldstone report, the report by this group was determined in advance of the visit and irrespective of the facts on the ground.
The tale begins to get even more interesting when we understand who helped organize the visit by this delegation to Gaza.
Let me introduce you to a new acronym – CAABU. Never heard of it? I’ll translate. “CAABU” stands for “Council for Arab-British Understanding” and its website states that it organized this trip. Under “latest additions” on CAABU’s website, there are clear indications of how the organization views Israel and the blockade of Gaza:


It seems rather likely that Mr. Slaughter, traveling, as the CAABU website announced, on a trip organized by CAABU may not be the most impartial of peacemakers. This supposition is borne out by a visit to Mr. Slaughter’s website: http://www.andyslaughter.com/ .
Like Burden’s, Slaughter’s site prominently displays an obsessive interest in Gaza under the heading “Recent News”. I have to wonder why the residents of Shepherd’s Bush appear to require such exhaustive coverage of Gaza from a Member of Parliament whose motto, on his website, is “Fighting for You” (presumably the residents of Shepherd’s Bush, not Gaza). Perhaps the Guardian chose not to reveal this in order to present the article as less influenced by Slaughter’s predisposition to accept Hamas’ version of the situation in Gaza.
It should be no great surprise that bizarrely, yet pretty much standard operating practice for the Guardian, he manages to stand almost every significant issue concerning Hamas on its head when he writes in his report:

Time and again, the Hamas leadership – in Syria as well as Gaza – has given signals that it is prepared to compromise on or abandon the policies cited by Israel and its supporters as barriers to dialogue. The release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held in Gaza for four years, removal of objectionable clauses from the Hamas founding charter, an end to all violent attacks on Israeli citizens and soil, and an acceptance of a two-state solution on 1967 borders.

There is not a word of truth in this paragraph. What Hamas has “signaled” is that it is willing to enter into a hudna, a temporary truce, in order to allow itself to better rearm using supplies that would come in unrestrictedly through the crossing from Israel and Egypt. It has only been willing to free Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of terrorists held by Israel, not as a means to facilitate negotiations. It has never, to my knowledge, ever indicated that it would remove so much as a comma from its charter, let alone the rabidly antisemitic sections and the statements that it will not cease its activity until Israel is destroyed. Not only has it not “signaled” that it would put an end to attacks on Israel, it has repeatedly stated that its objective is to renew those attacks as soon as possible, and, in fact, although barely ever reported in the Western press, every week several rockets are fired at Israel from Gaza. The “two-state” solution has never been accepted by Hamas, as illustrated by this news report from Ha’aretz as recently as last September- Hamas: We won’t accept two-state solution or this from UPI last May: Hamas leader rejects two-state solution.
Slaughter rounds out his article with two extraordinary comments:

“Meanwhile, Israel appears to hold a veto over any engagement with Hamas.”

And

“One way to break the deadlock is to negotiate without preconditions with those who have a mandate and a willingness to achieve progress.”

How exactly does Israel exercise a “veto” of “engagement with Hamas? Slaughter’s own trip indicates that there is no such veto. But in addition, his throwaway comment, part of the same sort of automatic anti-Israeli bias we’ve seen so often smacks of typical conspiracy theory. The hidden hand of Israel compels the USA, UK, EU, etc. – in fact almost every non-Moslem country – to refrain from “engaging” with what most have proscribed as a terrorist organization. Or else. Mmm, hmm – everyone knows that!
Slaughter’s comment about negotiating without pre-conditions (which is, in fact, what Israel has always demanded) is farcical in the face of the preconditions that the Palestinians have stated must be met before any negotiations can take place. The PA has demanded that Israel stop adding to existing suburbs in Jerusalem (as well as new settlements) and will not accept Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a precondition to holding any further talks with Israel. Hamas, to the extent that there is any truth in their willingness to reach an agreement with Israel, demands a full return to the 1967 Green Line, which has taken on a mythical status as a border between Israel and future Palestinian state before it will even consider discussing anything at all with Israel.
Perhaps Slaughter is well-meaning. But his gullibility in falling for Hamas’ taqqiyah, even in the face of the arrest and subsequent appeasing release of British journalist Paul Martin, is evident. I find the incessant meddling of people like this infuriating. They fly in and out of a complex situation and take their prejudices and spoon-fed lies back home with them, while Hamas tightens its theocratic, misogynistic, and thuggish grip remorselessly on the unfortunate citizens of Gaza and the rockets continue to fly into Israel. If Hamas were operating in Shepherd’s Bush, I doubt that Mr. Slaughter would be quite so willing to engage without preconditions with that organization, which is antithetical to everything that a modern Western society expects of its citizens.

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