By Lauren Booth
Congratulations on your political memoir becoming an instant bestseller. I’m in Iran and have the only copy in the country. I can tell you, it’s so fiercely fought over, it’s worth its weight in waepons of mass destruction’s. Note to Random House: have ‘A Journey’ translated into Farsi and Arabic asap, it’ll fly off the shelves in this part of the world.
Tony, yesterday [3 September] I went the Al Quds [Jerusalem] day protest in Tehran. You may have heard of it? It’s the rally where Iranians gather to protest against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, including the Holy city of Jerusalem.
I’m being sarcastic by asking if you’ve heard of Al Quds day, because I know you have. It is after all your very worst nightmare right? It must be horrifying with the ‘world view,’ you express in your memoirs to watch scenes on the BBC news showing the precise meeting point of politics and Islam.
Personally I’ve never understood this fear of ‘political Islam’ it seems to me that religious people should always be educated on world events rather than kept in ignorance like say, Mid West Christian Zionists in the US who can’t even find their home city on a map of their state.
Anyway, yesterday, I stood in the midst of more than one million Iranian Muslims all chanting in unison ‘Marg Bar Isre-hell!’ and ‘Marg Bar Am-ri-ca!’ You know what that means Tony I’m sure ; ‘Down with Israel, down with America’. The men, women and children around me withstood a day of no water and no food (it’s called Ramadan, Tony, it’s a fast). Coping with hunger and thirst in the hundred degrees heat, as if it were nothing. They can withstand deprivation in the Muslim world, and think it a proud thing to suffer in order to express their fury at the continued slaughter of Palestinians. To protest the theft of what little remains of Palestinian land by settlers. To protest the blockade of Gaza causing immense suffering to millions.
Now, the Christian Zionists in the US and the Jewish Zionists in Israel would have you believe that I was am in danger in Iran, especially on a day like Al Quds. Well here again Tony, you’ve been fed and have consumed in its entirety, a massive lie. The lie that says that when Muslims march they march against infidels (like me I suppose) in some kind of Middle Eastern homage to the ancient crusades.
Yet the crusade Tony is yours, not ‘theirs.’
Today I spoke with many women on the Tehran protest. One mother who wept, not out of hatred for ‘the West’ but out of empathy for the mothers of Rafah, Khan Younis, Nablus and Jenin. Do you recognise these place names Tony, as Middle East peace envoy you really should. Israel has massacred children in all of these cities in recent years. Didn’t you know?
Anyway the women I met were gentle, frustrated by the refusal of the international community to stop the arrests of Palestinian children, to stop the routine bombing of the tunnels (the main access still for food and essential items in the Gaza strip). We embraced in the streets of Tehran like sisters. Not in Islam Tony, but in the fight against your brand of extremism and prejudice.
And today when the streets of London reverberate with cries of ‘Allahuakbar!’ and ‘Down Down Israel.’ Christians and Jews will join the thunderous cries of ‘Down Down Israel, marching against the ‘political’ Muslims you say you fear so much, That you would have me fear too if you could.
Having spent a good deal of time in Palestine in recent years, certainly more than you and your the ‘peace envoy’ supposedly. It repulsed me to read your blatant swallowing of the Israeli narrative regarding Palestine and its people.
The ‘conflict’ between Palestine and Israel is according to you all about religion and has nothing at all to do with the ethnic cleansing of the Arab population, nor the degredation of those who remain by their Israeli occupiers. You say that Arabs have and always will see ‘Jews’ as enemies. For God’s sake Tony do your history. And if you’re going to run a ‘Faith Foundation’ then better gen up on Islam 101 don’t you think? Did your pals in Tel Aviv forget to tell you how many thousands of Jews lived in Historic Palestine in harmony with their Arab neighbours before 1948? Do you really not know that even today tens of thousand of Jews reside contentedly in Iran?
I’ve sat with dozens and dozens of Muslim families, those whose children have been burned by Israeli/US phosphorous bombs. Those who are still suffering hunger due to the Israel siege of Gaza. Those who have lived through the early days of sanctions against Iran when they needed food vouchers just to live. And every single Muslim in these suffering families has the same message ; ‘We don’t hate anyone for their race or their religion. We cannot hate Jews they are in our holy book it is against the teachings of the Koran.’ But Tony let me ask you this. Why should any people Muslim or otherwise have NO right to justice and NO right to challenge an evil being done to them and their children? or to those who share a set of common beliefs? Do you have no understanding of what it is like to live in Gaza? Under siege, attacked with chemical weapons, your children’s schools razed to the ground by Israeli missiles, your hospitals shelled, your electricity limited, your water undrinkable?
Or do understand the ‘idea’ of the hardships suffered by millions in the Middle East as a direct result of your support for Israel and just think they deserve it?
In your book you say you knew full well how many Beirut homes were flattened, how many civilians died in Lebanon in 2006. Yet you dismiss Lebanese rage about Israeli land theft of ‘Shebas Farm’ as being an irrelevance, about a ‘tiny’ amount of land. You cannot see it as part of an attack on Lebanese life as a whole, by it’s heavily armed aggressive neighbour. You see it as: ‘Israel is attacked. Israel strikes back.’ As if Israel lives in placid peace, being kindly to all around it in between these massacres.
As other world leaders came out to demand Israel immediately cease its 2006 bombing raids on Lebanese cities, you stayed silent.
‘If I had condemned Israel’ you say ‘I would have been more than dishonest. It would have undermined my world view.’
Your world view that Muslims are mad, bad, dangerous to know. A contagion to be contained. Your final chapter is a must read here in the Middle East Tony, congratulations! For it lays out the ‘them’ and ‘us’ agenda of your friends in Washington and Tel Aviv and in David Milliband, the ambassador of Zionism that he is.
In the final chapter you say; ‘we need a religious counter attack’ against Islam. And by ‘Islam’ you mean the Al Quds rallies, the Palestinian intifada (based on an anti Apartheid struggle Tony, NOT religious bigotry), against every Arab who fails to raise a flag as the F16s rain on their homes and refugee camps and breaks out singing ‘Imagine all the people...’
When you say ‘extremism’ must be ‘controlled and beaten’ you mean the message of solidarity shared by Non Muslims alike on the streets of London and across the world today, joining the Al Quds day protests.
‘Not only extremism must be defeated’ you say but ‘the narrative that has to be assailed.’
Iran is indeed the place where Islamic tradition meets political action.
But I’m not afraid here Tony. The people are kind, friendly, full of good humour.
They are also highly aware of the history of this region, the wrongs perpetrated by Israel against Palestine and the political machinations of the US and the UK governments.
And as your book remains highly sought after here in Tehran. It’s that and not Islam, that you and your Israeli chums should be afraid of because it reveals you in all your ignorant glory.
Broadcaster and Journalist
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