A group of British Jews were barred from what they claim was a 'racist' meeting inside Parliament last week at which a top Palestinian attacked the UK for 'still sympathising with the Jews as being the victims of the Holocaust'.
Christian Today has learned that the pro-Palestinian gathering in committee room 6 of the Palace of Westminster was initially advertised as an open event, but a group of Jews who applied to attend were then told it was a 'private' meeting with reduced space, and were turned away, apart from one Jewish woman who used an Islamic-sounding name and dressed in a hijab.
The 'EuroPal' event last Wednesday, entitled 'the UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People: How to end 70 years of injustice?' was hosted by the SNP MP Tommy Sheppard and attended by the peer Jenny Tonge, who was sacked as a Liberal Democrat front-bench spokesperson by the late Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy in 2004 for saying she would consider becoming a suicide bomber if she was Palestinian.
There is no suggestion of antisemitism on the part of Sheppard or Tonge.
In recorded comments at the meeting heard by Christian Today, Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority Ambassador to the UK, said of the British approach towards Israel: 'They are still doing trade relations and still sympathising with the Jews as being the victims of the Holocaust. Enough of this rhetoric. We have made and paid for this historic concession when we have agreed to give 78 per cent of this historic Palestine on a golden platter...'
It is not uncommon for Palestinians in the region to refer to Israelis as 'the Jews' and likewise for Israelis to refer to 'the Arabs'.
One British Jew, a member of the Campaign 4 Truth Jewish activist group who attempted to attend the meeting, explained: 'We had heard that the event would be controversial and a group of us decided to attend booking our tickets via Eventbrite in good faith. Some booked tickets under their own names and others used pseudonyms.
'About a week ago we all received an email from Eventbrite asking us to confirm our registration in order to get our tickets, which we did. Then a few days later some of us received emails from EuroPal Forum informing us that there was a room change to a smaller space and that unfortunately we would not be able to attend.'
The Jewish woman who used an Islamic-sounding name and wore a hijab, whose real name is Ambrosine Shitrit, recorded the event after turning up along with six other Jewish people who were denied entry. Ms Shitrit, who campaigns for the group Eye on Antisemitism, said: 'It was only putting [in for] a ticket in a Muslim name that allowed myself to gain entry into that event and only by covering myself with a scarf did I manage to be able to film and to bring you the good tidings of more antisemitic rhetoric.'
'EuroPal advertised this as a public meeting, but altered it to a private meeting when they wrote to us to cancel the bookings,' said a Jewish person who tried to attend.
'EuroPal changed the status from public to private simply to be able to deny we Jews and our supporters access via our legitimately reserved tickets. This was clearly a meeting where in the absence of Jews they felt free to invoke Holocaust fatigue with Hassassian not talking about Israelis or Zionists, but about Jews. The organisers and the host clearly felt free to platform racists at their meeting. Ordinarily this would be objectionable, but in the House of Commons it is totally unacceptable.'
Manuel Hassassian told Christian Today: 'We Palestinians empathise with the Jews who suffered so terribly in the Holocaust but it should not be used to continue the relentless victimisation of the Palestinian people.'
Tommy Sheppard told Christian Today: 'I have fought against antisemitism all my life and I used the opportunity of last week's meeting to state unequivocally the need to resist it as a virulent form of racism.
'I do know [Hassassian]...to be a man of character and a staunch opponent of antisemitism. He has a perspective on this as a Palestinian Christian.
'I think his point – and mine – is that it is not antisemitic to criticise the polices of the Israeli state or the actions of its government.'
Baroness Tonge, speaking to Christian Today, also differentiated between 'Jews' and the current Israeli government. She said that Hassassian is 'a very forceful speaker and feels very passionately about things' but added that she would herself always make the differentiation between 'Zionists in the Israeli government' and Jews. She added that 'the Holocaust was the worst thing ever done by humans' but that 'what I am now interested in is what's happening in Palestine now, where international law is being broken'.
There is no suggestion that Sheppard knew that some Jews were barred from entering the meeting. But Baroness Tonge did acknowledge this, claiming that certain figures who turned up to the meeting were 'known disrupters'.
However, Sharon Klaff of Campaign 4 Truth, who was one of those denied entry to the meeting, said: 'The situation on the UK for Jews is fast becoming intolerable. We have witnessed how Jews are leaving France and now UK Jews are beginning to ask whether or not there is a place for them in the UK. Antisemitism, or Jew hatred, that illogical age old despising of Jews, is now so overt that I finally understand how it came about that 6 million Jews were exterminated in Europe just over 70 years ago.'
Dr Irene Lancaster, an eminent Jewish academic whose grandmother was exterminated in the Holocaust, said: 'This is yet another example of racist, vicious ferocious poisonous antisemitism masquerading as support for Palestinians...the fact that we Jews have to disguise ourselves in a hijab in order to respond to the outrageous lies and defamations made against us demonstrates that the Jewish community can no longer trust the "mother of Parliaments".'