When a friend of mine called me this morning telling me that the British tabloid The Sun dedicated a whole article to me I thought he was confusing me with someone else. “The sun? shouldn’t they be picking on some model with an anorexia problem or some Tory lord who can’t keep his pants on around young girls?”. Ever since it was clear that Jeremy Corbyn makes a realistic chance of winning the contest for labour leadership, sleeping dogs have been called into action. Jeremy Corbyn is the worst nightmare of the ruling elite in Britain and beyond. A man who was consistent all through his political career in his socialist ideas, support for legitimate resistance, and promotion of dialogue among peoples.
It is in this framework that I have briefly met and collaborated with Jeremy Corbyn in 2009. We organised a debate at the British parliament where Corbyn, myself, and Hezbullah MP, and current Lebanese government minister, Hussein Haj Hassan spoke. A day before, we had also spoken together at a rally of the British anti-war movement. Corbyn’s openness to dialogue is what made the visit possible. The pro-Israel lobby then woke up and started a smear campaign against me resulting in a hasty and unjustified decision by the interior minister to deny me re-entry to the UK. That campaign had almost the same content as the current campaign that is spearheaded by the pro-Israel lobby and the conservatives. The claims are that I am anti-Semitic, that I am a bigot, and that I rejoice the death of British soldiers.
The first claim is the most repeated and is based upon two separate elements. First the fact that I am indeed opposed to Zionism and to the policies of the state of Israel. I am indeed a supporter of a "one secular state for all" solution in Palestine, in the line of the south African dismantling of the apartheid state. I do not support ethnic-religious colonial states, whether they are Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist. Therefore, all the supporters of the ethnic-religious colonial state of Israel have all the reasons to express their horror of my position. However, when they accuse me of anti-Semitism because of that they have no ground to stand on. Equating Zionism with Judaism is what they do in this case, and that itself is anti-Semitic.
The second reason I am accused of anti-Semitism is the fact that in 2006, the AEL, an organisation that I have presided, had launched a campaign of satirical cartoons and articles in response to the Danish cartoons that stereotyped and stigmatized Muslims via their prophet. Our campaign tried to demonstrate the double standards dominating the freedom of speech discourse in Europe. In that campaign the AEL broke every possible taboo in Europe. All the cartoons where offensive to people and several groups for all kinds of reasons. The important thing to note regarding that campaign is that the AEL published a disclaimer with each cartoon stating that we do not endorse the message of any of these cartoons and that we are doing this as an exercise in Freedom of speech and in order to demonstrate the double standards. We were Charlie avant la letter so to speak. And our campaign worked. Not only have we received thousands of hate mails including death threats from enlightened otherwise pro-satire Europeans, The AEL was also fined in the Netherlands by a court because of the cartoons. We rested our case.
Now, one can question our tactic, but no one can claim that we supported the content of satire that we have ourselves, at the time, characterized as vile and offensive and meant only to demonstrate hypocrisy. Such a claim would be false, and utterly ludicrous.
The accusation of bigotry (against homosexuals and other groups) is also to be brought back to that same satire campaign and the same context and is therefore groundless.
As for rejoicing the death of British occupation soldiers in Iraq, this is a misrepresentation of a position that I still uphold until this day. The occupation and destruction of Iraq in 2003 was unlawful, criminal and a crime against humanity. We still witness the repercussions of that terrible crime until this day. The criminals responsible for it, including Tony Blair, are still at large enjoying impunity. Every soldier taking part in an illegal occupation is a legitimate target for resistance. This is a guaranteed right of resistance to all occupied peoples under international law. However, rejoicing the death of people, even enemy soldiers, is not something that I would do. Rejoicing the victory of peoples resistance against occupation, is another matter.
So here you have the other side of the story, and you can judge for yourself.
This “fanatic”, “firebrand”, “extremist”, “terrorist” is also a recognised columnist of a prestigious centre-right newspaper in Belgium and has been chosen as the 4TH most influential Belgian of Foreign origin, only preceded by 3 people who are the former Prime minister Di Rupo, the Leader of the Green Party Almaci, and Vincent Kompany, the captain of Manchester City. If you think that you can bring the time back to 2003 when another Belgium reacted hysterically to our emancipation movement, the AEL, you are committing a terrible mistake. We are in 2015 and in the mean time I have won every possible law case against me and even enemies of that time, became friends today.
Yes, I do support Jeremy Corbyn, and I am hopeful he will win the leadership of Labour and help build a better future for the British people. I am like Mr Corbyn a socialist, and we do share similar values. This does not mean that I agree with him on everything and I am sure that he also disagrees with me on some things. He was not my cheerleader back then and I am not his cheerleader today, serious people do not reason in these terms.
The subliminal ego of British conservatism is a sewer that stinks to centuries of colonial theft, oppression, murder and lies. And I am catching a tiny bit of that stench right now. It makes me more determined to revisit the UK, to speak to people there, and to struggle together for a better future in Europe and beyond. See you soon in London.