Friday, 4 January 2013

Queen Mary: where signing a terrorist propaganda statement on a terrorist supporting blog counts as a media appearance

Queen Mary University of London has a reputation as being a place that is intimidating for Jewish students and staff because of its long history of Islamic fundamentalism on campus and numerous invitations by the Muslim students association of openly anti-Semitic hate speakers (see here and here for just some of the recent stuff).

Now it appears (see below) that QM also sees itself as being in the business of pumping out anti-Israel  propaganda disguised bizarrely as "Queen Mary media appearances" on its public website. The fact that it is neither a media appearance nor news does not bother the Principal Simon Gaskel. Nor does the fact that publicising this kind of nonsense in QM News has exactly the opposite impact of what was intended (it brings disgrace and ridicule on the College).

In November 2012 when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas who run Gaza started a conflict with Israel by firing hundreds of rockets against civilian targets Queen Mary University of London  published an article on its website section "Queen Mary Media Appearances" titled:

"Linguists including Noam Chomsky condemn Gaza coverage"

The link takes you to the following QM news page

that says
"Linguists including Noam Chomsky condemn “reprehensible” Gaza coverage.
Global Peace and Justice Auckland blog
Professor Borer has joined an international group of academics, including Noam Chomsky, to condemn the failure of major media outlets to report on recent killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza."
(Note that the Queen Mary person 'in the media' is not the well-known anti-American and anti-Israel academic fraud Noam Chomski in the misleading heading of the article but the unknown Prof Borer.)

This page in turn links to the "news item" in question

This is clearly NOT a news item at all. The Global Peace and Justice Auckland blog is an anti-Israel forum. The (only) 'news outlet' which posted the actual statement that was signed by a Queen Mary Professor was the notorious anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist website "The Electronic Intifada".  Indeed, the blog article begins with the statement "The Electronic Intifada received today the following statement from international academics who recently participated in a conference on linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza..."  Presumably even Prof Borer would have realised it was not a good idea to be bragging about an appearance on a blatantly anti-Semitic website. 

The signed statement is so full of blatant lies (for example "News items overwhelmingly focus on the rockets that have been fired from Gaza, none of which have caused human casualties") that no serious media outlet would have associated themselves with it. The whole QM spin on the story about “reprehensible” Gaza coverage by the media is the ultimate inversion of reality. What was truly reprehensible about the media coverage were the numerous cases of genuinely false reporting. This includes the several cases of pictures of 'dead Gaza Palestinian children' that were actually proven to be photos from Syria, the case of the dead Palestinian baby who was actually killed by a Hamas rocket, and the complete failure of the media to report on the 1000 rockets launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians in the 2 weeks BEFORE Israel finally responded by killing the Hamas military commander (who had been conducting the rocket attacks) in a precision-targeted strike.

When a member of staff complained about the article (details below) the College refused to dissociate itself with the article, and also refused any direct right of reply to it. When the Principal eventually responded (after more than 3 weeks) he implied that  it was an honour "being referenced alongside high-profile academics such as Noam Chomsky". This claim might be valid if the reference was related to the academic's research or teaching. But that is certainly not the case here.  Noam Chomsky is 'high-profile' not for his academic work in linguistics but for his extreme political activism including support for Islamic terrorist groups. He is also known for his great dishonesty, fanaticism and genocide denial. (see for example, here and here).

Indeed, it is no coincidence that Chomsky chose the Islamic University of Gaza for his 'linguistics' conference. This institution is wholly under the control of the terrorist organisation Hamas, having been co-founded by the original Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1978 and with its current leader Haniye on its board of trustees. Even the Palestinian Authority designated it as a terrorist organisation in January 2007 when its security forces seized assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades during a raid. IUG is also known to be a favourite recipient of donations collected by organisations comprising the Union of Good, a worldwide collection of charities collecting money for Hamas and headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader and Jew-baiter Youssef Qaradawi. The IUG is also well known for its promotion of vicious antisemitism (see, for example here, here, and here). 

As the member of staff pointed out to the Principal, perhaps it would be more appropriate to look into why a Queen Mary Professor was allowed to attend such a 'conference' (presumably funded through QM and tax payer money) during term time, rather than promoting their ignorant and biased views as some kind of honour.

The member of staff at Queen Mary contacted the PR department on 21 Nov 2012 to complain, raising some of the above points and concluding:
As this piece of terrorist supporting anti-Israel propaganda does not actually constitute a "Queen Mary media appearance"it should never have been included irrespective of the underlying propaganda.

So what should happen now? As the e-bulletin was sent to all members of staff and the article appears on the public website, you should issue a statement apologising for that item ever having been included, and a strong statement disassociating QM with the views that were contained therein. Also, since readers were linked to the outrageous Electronic Intifada statement, there should be a link to a site which has done a proper analysis of media reporting of the conflict (including exposing the lies) such as this one:

Only after several follow-up emails and telephone calls did the member of staff get the following response from the Acting Head of Public Relations (name reomved to preserve confidentiality):

As the College's PR Team we are here to impartially report where and when our academics have appeared in the news.
Perhaps if you have an issue with the content or tone of the article that should be taken up with the academic in question.
Many thanks

Dissatisfied with this response the member of staff wrote the following to the Principal Simon Gaskel concluding with:

Whether or not I choose to take this up with the academic in question is of no concern to XXXXX (and I have told her this). What is a concern to Queen Mary is that a decision was made by someone in PR to publish this article under "Queen Mary media appearances". It was neither a media appearance nor news but it was extremely offensive to people like myself. 

I made it clear what the response should be in my original email message and I expect that to happen.

After numerous follow-ups the Principal finally replied on 17 December 2012

In addressing your concerns, the first point that I note is your observation about the validity of the item that was highlighted in the ‘QM in the News’ email. Blogs and ‘citizen journalism’ are an accepted and growing element of today’s media and this is an arena where QM academics will increasing seek to express their findings, observations and views. It seems entirely appropriate to me that we should be active in these media channels and that the Communications Team should highlight these appearances. For the sake of clarity, a note has been added to the ‘QM in the News’ emails, which states that these bulletins cover ‘blogs and other forms of citizenship journalism in the public domain’.

Secondly, I would like to turn to the specific item that you have referenced in your email. The Communications Team linked to this item as it featured a QM professor being referenced alongside high-profile academics such as Noam Chomsky. In making this link, they were acting impartially and in line with our policy of freedom of speech and expression, which allows members of our university community to hear and express diverse views, as long there is no evidence of illegality (related to the written or spoken word) associated with those making these statements. As such, the inclusion of the item in ‘QM in the News’ was not inappropriate and I will not be asking for any direct action to be taken in relation to the article in question.

I acknowledge that you found the highlighted statement distasteful, but our commitment to freedom of expression is often most tested in circumstances such as these. At QM will we continue to operate a policy where we promote freedom of expression within the law, trusting in our staff and students to discern when to engage with and challenge opinions that are expressed in a legal manner. The Communications Team will periodically review its policy in relation to blogs and citizen journalism to ensure that our principles are applied consistently in what is a rapidly changing environment.

The member of staff's  reply detailed the Chomsky and Islamic University of Gaza issue and also included:

If I have understood you correctly this seems to be saying that the item was NOT a valid news item according to the definition used AT THE TIME of its publication. When you say "For the sake of clarity, a note has been added..." that sounds to me as if you have decided to retrospectively redefine what constitutes a valid news item.
It seems to me that Queen Mary has made a decision that the feelings of Jewish staff and students are the ones that are most easily ignored. I made clear in my emails to you that there was a much broader context of  antisemitism and Islamic fundamentalism at QM that has been going on for a long time without any intervention. You have not addressed this in your response.
...  presumably you fully agree with the right of reply to the offending article. I already twice suggested such a response in my messages to you.
 Here is the full and final response from the Principal:

Thanks for your email. To clarify, the policy on blogs being an accepted definition of a news item was in place prior to publication of 'QM in the News' on the date in question. A statement has now been added to the emails making this policy position explicit.

We will continue to apply our policy of freedom of expression within the law (and with regard for public safety when assessing events) to all activities at QM in a consistent and impartial manner. I did not see your suggestion of a right to reply in your earlier email but of course you have the option to do this through whichever media channel you see fit.

Note that, contrary to what Gaskel writes,  'freedom of expression' was never an issue for the member of staff complaining. Nobody was saying that Prof Borer should not be allowed to 'publish' their political views (although it is interesting that universities do not insist that such views should be published on personal web pages and blogs rather than using the university web pages and resources - a similar issue is raised here).

But note that Gaskel does qualify what type of (legal) freedom of expression he will apply. There is a very good reason why he says "and with regard for public safety when assessing events". While Queen mary has been happy to allow anti-Semitic, terrorist supporting Islamic speakers to spew their hatred on campus they have a history of NOT allowing freedom of expression to anybody expressing views that the Islamic extremists do not like. For example they cancelled a meeting of the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society on ‘Sharia Law and Human Rights’ after threats of violence from Islamic extremists. This is also the reason why, for example, the Jewish Society at Queen Mary has long since given up inviting any speaker who shows any kind of sympathy to Israel. So Gaskel's cherished freedom of speech at Queen Mary turns out to be highly selective.
Also QM's policy seems to suggest that it would be happy to publice as a news item anything that any member of staff wishes to say on a blog - no matter how obscure. So if a Queen Mary member of staff publishes a blog statement demanding, for example, that the Queen be forced to appear naked on Channel 4 - or maybe even demanding the resignation of the Principal - then they would rightly argue discrimination if their statement was not publicised in Queen Mary News.