NABA's Letters to Politicians

2001 - 2004

Contents

Ken Livingstone 5 November 2004
Alan Duncan: Conservative Party Response to NABA Complaints April 2003
Jenny Tongue January 2004
NABA Response to Kilroy-Silk January 2004
Trevor Philip March 2003: Response of the CRE
Concerns of British Arabs on the Situation in Iraq 2003 (Letters to several Officials)
( to Baroness Amos,
Hilary Benn, Gareth Thomas and others).
Mr Hakim, June and July 2003,
Principal Advisor to the Chairman CRE
The Foreign Office on Conditions in Iraq, July 2003
David Blunkett May 2002
Tony Blair April 2002
Kofy Annan April 2002
Tony Blair March 2001
Tony Blair on 11 September Events
US Ambassador September 2001

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To Ken Livingston

5 November 2004

Mr Ken Livingston

London Mayor
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
London SE1 2AA

Dear Mr Livingston

I write on behalf of the Arab Communities Forum to extend our thanks for your support of the Palestinian Trade Fair and for agreeing to open the Fair.

It is extremely important for the very future and survival of the Palestinian people that they are able to establish links with business outside of the Palestinian territories.  Opportunities such as the trade fair allow them to connect with the London business community and potential importers of Palestinian products; this is in addition to allowing the London public to see the quality of work and skills that exist in Palestine.

Your office have also offered enormous help and advice to the organisers of the trade fair and for this, and for your support we are extremely grateful. 

With best wishes

Yours sincerely

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lan Duncan to NABA: The Conservative Party response to NABA Complaints abount the Shadow PM comments on Arab

From: DUNCAN, Alan 
Sent: 28 April 2003 12:11
To: 'ikj@aljalili.com'
Cc: 'cdykes@conservatives.com'; ARGAR, Ed; SMITH, Andrew

Subject: Meeting - Nat Assn of British Arabs

Dear Dr Jalili,

I am contacting you in my capacity as the Conservative Party's shadow > Foreign Minister with specific responsibility for the Middle East. I have seen the correspondence with Christina Dykes in Conservative Central Office from members of your organisation, and would like to offer you the chance to have a private meeting with me to discuss the whole issue of the Middle East, so that you can be clear about the Conservative Party's  policy.
As you may know, I have spent many years travelling in the region, and am personally familiar with most of the Leaders there. A year ago, almost to the day, I went personally to Jenin, after the Israeli incursion, and so can also claim to have witnessed at first hand the effects of this continuing dispute.
I am the MP for Rutland & Melton, and so your practice in Stamford is very close to my constituency. I could meet you locally, although as Christina would also very much like to be at the meeting too, it would be preferable to meet in London should you be able to find a suitable day to come here.
I look forward to hearing from you. It may make sense for us to speak on the phone first to agree how to proceed.

Kind regards

Alan Duncan MP

020 7219 5204 / 1492
duncana@parliament.uk
www.alanduncan.org.uk <www.alanduncan.org.uk> 

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To Jenny Tongue - 23 January 2004

Rt Hon Dr Jenny Tongue MP
Liberal Democrat for Richmond
House of Commons
London SW1A

Dear Dr Tongue

I write to extend to you the support of the National Association of British Arabs on the principled stand you have taken and to express our dismay at the action taken against you.

We fully appreciate that your comments do not in any way support suicide bombers but rather express the utter despair and lack of hope felt by Palestinians of ongoing generations at the worsening situation in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The lack of any progress on the much touted 'Road Map' or any other solution only reinforces the Palestinians belief that they are conveniently forgotten by the outside world.

It is most unfortunate, and saddening to Arabs everywhere that so few politicians are willing to express the plight of the Palestinians as human beings, perhaps because those who did have suffered a similar fate to yours.   We shall however continue in our endeavours to highlight the worsening situation in the Middle East and take heart from comments such as yours.

With kind regards

Yours sincerely

I K Jalili FRCS FRCOphth
Chairman

cc:  
Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP
Rt Hon Menzies Campbell MP
Lord Dholakhia

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Letter to Greg Dyke, Director General of the BBC - 7 January 2004

7 January 2004

Mr Greg Dyke
Director-General
British Broadcasting Corporation
Wood Lane
London W12 7RJ

Dear Mr Dyke

Re: Article by Robert Kilroy Silk - We Owe Arabs Nothing

I write to express the absolute disgust felt by members of the British Arab community, of which there are 500,000 in the UK, at the blatant anti-Arab racism put out by the above journalist who is a prominent presented with The BBC. Whilst his stream of invective has been relatively constant, the latest article which was published in the Sunday Express on 4 January 2004 surpasses anything previously published. We believe that the contents of this article are vindictive and a slur on all Arabs.

Mr Kilroy Silk does not hold a small number of terrorists responsible for the incidents he speaks of, namely 9/11, suicide bombers etc. Rather he holds all Arabs responsible (of which there are approximately 200 million). This is a clear case of a blatant generalisation aimed at inciting anti-Arab racism. I would remind you that the Press Council upheld a complaint against The Sun for publishing similar comments about 'The Arabs' in 1987.

His extremely poor grasp of geography and general knowledge would be laughable were the subject matter not so serious in that he includes Iran as part of the Arab world. Iran is a largely Farsi-speaking country whose citizens are not Arabs (who are Semitic but appear to be precluded from claims of anti-Semitism) but Aryan. Can we also assume therefore that he is anti-Muslim? This would appear to be the case.

Arabs have been accustomed over the years to a hostile press and have followed the British procedure of complaining, usually to no avail. However, we believe that this attack on an ethnic group to be unprecedented and calls into question his continued employment with the BBC. We presume that had his comments been directed against say, the black, Jewish or gay communities, some action would have been taken. Will the Arab community be considered equally?

We note particularly your comments in the BBC's Producer's Guidelines which say "Our audiences rightly expect the highest ethical standards from the BBC, values such as impartiality, accuracy, fairness, editorial independence and our commitment to appropriate standards of taste and decency". We hope you will agree that Mr Robert Kilroy-Silk has fallen far short of these values and standards.

We now urge the BBC to take urgent and appropriate on this extremely serious matter to reassure the British Arab community that the BBC will not in any way accept the contemptible demonisation of an entire people.

Yours sincerely

Ismail Jalili, FRCS FRCOphth
NABA Chairman.

Cc Ms Alison Sharman, Controller, BBC Daytime Television
Ms Lorraine Heggessey, Controller BBC One

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7 January 2004

Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
Home Secretary
The Home Office
50 Queen Anne's Gate
London
SW1H 9AT

Dear Mr Blunkett

Re: Article by Robert Kilroy Silk - We Owe Arabs Nothing

I write to express the absolute disgust felt by members of the British Arab community, of which there are 500,000 in the UK, at the blatant anti-Arab racism written by the above (copy attached). Whilst his stream of invective has been relatively constant, the latest article which was published in the Sunday Express on 4 January 2004 surpasses anything previously experienced. We believe that the contents of this article are vindictive and a slur on all Arabs.

Mr Kilroy Silk does not hold a small number of terrorists responsible for the incidents he speaks of, namely 9/11, suicide bombers etc. Rather he holds all Arabs responsible (200 million). This is a clear case of a blatant generalisation aimed at inciting anti-Arab racism. I would remind you that the Press Council upheld a complaint against The Sun for publishing similar comments about 'The Arabs' in 1987.

His extremely poor grasp of geography and general knowledge would be laughable were the subject matter so serious. He includes Iran as part of the Arab world. Iran is a largely Farsi-speaking country whose citizens are not Arabs (who are Semitic but appear to be precluded from claims of anti-Semitism) but Aryan. Can we also assume that he is anti-Muslim? This would seem to be the case.

Arabs have become accustomed over the years to a hostile press and have followed the British procedure of complaining, usually to little reward. However we believe that this attack on an ethnic group to be unprecedented. We presume that had his comments been directed against,
say, the black or Jewish communities or the gay community, some action would have been taken. Will the Arab community be considered equally? 

Does the Home Secretary consider this article to be acceptable?

Yours sincerely

I K Jalili
Chairman

cc Rt Hon Tony Blair MP

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7 January 2004

Mr Trevor Philips
Commissioner
Commission for Racial Equality
Borough High Street
London


Dear Mr Philips

Re: Article by Robert Kilroy Silk - We Owe Arabs Nothing

I write to express the absolute disgust felt by members of the British Arab community, of which there are 500,000 in the UK, at the blatant anti-Arab racism put out by the above journalist who is a prominent presenter with The BBC. Whilst his stream of invective has been relatively constant, the latest article which was published in the Sunday Express on 4 January 2004 surpasses anything previously experienced. We believe that the contents of this article are vindictive and a slur on all Arabs.

Mr Kilroy Silk does not hold a small number of terrorists responsible for the incidents he speaks of, namely 9/11, suicide bombers etc. Rather he holds all Arabs responsible (200 million). This is a clear case of a blatant generalisation aimed at inciting anti-Arab racism. I would remind you that the Press Council upheld a complaint against The Sun for publishing similar comments about 'The Arabs' in 1987.

His extremely poor grasp of geography and general knowledge would be laughable were the subject matter so serious. He includes Iran as part of the Arab world. Iran is a largely Farsi-speaking country whose citizens are not Arabs (who are Semitic but appear to be precluded from claims of anti-Semitism) but Aryan. Can we also assume that he is anti-Muslim? This would seem to be the case.

Arabs have become accustomed over the years to a hostile press and have followed the British procedure of complaining, usually to no avail. However we believe that this attack on an ethnic group to be unprecedented. We presume that had his comments been directed against, say, the black, Jewish or gay communities, some action would have been taken. Will the Arab community be considered equally?

We have written to the BBC and NUJ but believe that this is an incident on which the CRE must also take action and be seen to take action. You will know from our repeated correspondence with the CRE that this is exactly the type of incident we sought to avoid by working with the CRE and we hope that you will now accept the dangers about which NABA have spoken.

Yours sincerely

I K Jalili
Chairman
cc Mr Dhamendra Kanani

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7 January 2004

Mr Jeremy Dear
General Secretary
National Union of Journalists
308-312 Gray's Inn Road
London
WC1X 8DP

Tel: 020 7843 3705
Fax: 020 7837 8143
Email info@nuj.org.uk
www.nuj.org.uk


Dear Mr Dear

Re: Article by Robert Kilroy Silk - We Owe Arabs Nothing

I write to express the absolute disgust felt by members of the British Arab community, of which there are 500,000 in the UK, at the blatant anti-Arab racism put out by the above journalist. Whilst his stream of invective has been relatively constant, the latest article which was published in the Sunday Express on 4 January 2004 surpasses anything previously experienced. We believe that the contents of this article are vindictive and a slur on all Arabs.

Some of the points we would raise in particular are:

1. Mr Kilroy Silk does not hold a small number of terrorists responsible for the incidents he speaks of, namely 9/11, suicide bombers etc. Rather he holds all Arabs responsible. This is a clear case of a blatant generalisation aimed at inciting anti-Arab racism. I would remind you that the Press Council upheld a complaint against The Sun for publishing similar comments about 'The Arabs' in 1987.

2. He displays an extremely poor grasp of geography for someone who considers himself a journalist in including Iran as part of the Arab world. Iran is a largely Farsi-speaking country whose citizens are not Arabs (who are Semitic) but Aryan.

3. There has been much comment in the press about journalists who bring their profession into disrepute by strongly opinionated articles. We do not wish to see an inane, bland press but at the same time the article in question is nothing more than a diatribe against an ethnic group. We wonder what the backlash would be if the article had been written in the same vein about Jews - we doubt very much that it would have seen the light of day. Mr Silk's article is no less anti-Semitic,
indeed more, than articles which have caused a furore from the Jewish community and have been condemned as such.

Arabs have become accustomed over the years to a hostile press and have followed the British procedure of complaining, usually to little reward. However we believe that this attack on an ethnic group to be unprecedented and we call on the NUJ to take affirmative action against such racist article appearing in the British press.

Yours sincerely

Ismail Jalili FRCS FRCOphth
Chairman

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Original Kilroy article, Express on Sunday, 4th January 2004: We owe Arabs nothing.

WE ARE told by some of the more hysterical critics of the war on terror that "it is destroying the Arab world". So? Should w e be worried about that? Shouldn't the destruction of the despotic, barbarous and corrupt Arab states and their replacement by democratic governments be a war
aim? After all, the Arab countries are not exactly shining examples of civilisation, are they? Few of them make much contribution to the welfare of the rest of the world. Indeed, apart from oil - which was discovered, is produced and is paid for by the West - what do they contribute? Can you think of anything? Anything really useful? Anything really valuable? Something we really need, could not do without? No, nor can I. Indeed, the Arab countries put together export less than Finland.

We're told that the Arabs loathe us. Really? For liberating the Iraqis? For subsidising the lifestyles of people in Egypt and Jordan, to name but two, for giving them vast amounts of aid? For providing them with science, medicine, technology and all the other benefits of the West? They should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States. What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the w ay they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders?

That we admire them for the cold-blooded killings in Mombassa, Yemen and elsewhere? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women-repressors? I don't think the Arab states should start a debate about what is really loathsome.

But why, in any case, should we be concerned that they feel angry and loathe us? The Arab world has not exactly earned our respect, has it? Iran is a vile, terrorist-supporting regime - part of the axis of evil. So is the Saddam Hussein supporting Syria. So is Libya. Indeed, most of
them chant support for Saddam.

That is to say they support an evil dictator who has gassed hundreds of thousands of their fellow Arabs and tortured and murdered thousands more. How can they do this and expect our respect?

Why do they imagine that only they can feel anger, call people loathsome? It is the equivalent of all the European nations coming out in support of Hitler the moment he was attacked by the US, because he was European, despite the fact that he was attempting to exterminate the Jews - and Arabs.

Moreover, the people who claim we are loathsome are currently threatening our civilian populations with chemical and biological weapons. They are promising to let suicide bombers loose in Western and American cities. They are trying to terrorise us, disrupt our lives. And then they expect us to be careful of their sensibilities? We have thousands of asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries living happily in this country on social security.

This shows what their own people think of the Arab regimes, doesn't it? There is not one single British asylum seeker in any Arab country. That says it all about which country deserves the epithet loathsome. GEORGE GALLOWAY, the member of parliament for Baghdad Central, as his tormentors describe him, called the British and American troops "wolves" and called for the Arab countries to rise up and fight them and to cut off oil from the combatants. Later he called upon British troops to refuse to obey "illegal orders". He has, predictably, been vilified. His comments have been termed a disgrace, disgusting, outrageous and so on.

He has been called a loony, naive, gullible and a traitor. There have been demands that George's constituency party should deselect him, that his constituents should not vote for him at the next general election, and that he should be deported to Iraq. No one, as yet, has demanded that he be put in the stocks or burnt at the stake, though no doubt this will come. But why all the fuss? Why is everyone getting into such an excitable lather over the predictable remarks of a no-mark? Who with any sense cares an Iraqi Dinar for what dear George thinks? Like Clare Short, George is a licensed court jester. He acts the buffoon while she's the straight part of the act, though she exaggerates her
sanctimonious seriousness.

Neither are taken seriously. Both are totally discredited laughing stocks that add to the variety of political life. At least George is open, honest and sincere." 

end of article.

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The Arab Community and the Commission for Racial Equality

27 March 2003

Mr Trevor Philips,
Commissioner
Commission for Racial Equality
Borough High Street
London

Dear Mr Philips,

I am writing to you on behalf of the British Arab community and in pursuance of our previous meeting with your colleague Khurshid Ahmed with whom we previously had a very fruitful meeting.   I enclose for your information the letter we sent to him after that meeting which sets out the case for the British Arab community.

There are presently around 500,000 British citizens of Arab heritage in the UK. The various ethnic communities making up the British Arab population, such s Egyptians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Sudanese, Somalis, Lebanese and others have come together in the Arab Communities Forum, of which the National Association of British Arabs is an affiliate. 

British Arabs are frequently termed ‘the invisible minority’ and are often subjected to serious racial discrimination and incitement which is too often neglected by the authorities. There are no Arabs in Parliament, and extremely few councillors. Unlike the situation for Britons of Asian or African-Caribbean heritage, there are no dedicated television programmes for the British Arab community, and few presenters of Arab heritage.

Moreover, given the present situation in the Middle East, there is the real prospect of a backlash against Britain’s Arab community, especially those of Iraqi heritage, if a protracted war ensues. This is intensified by the very negative way in which some media treat Arabs in a blatantly negative way, employing openly racist stereotypes against the community. We know that you have expressed fears of such a backlash against the largely South Asian Muslim community, but British Arabs are religiously diverse, and we estimate that about 30% are Christians and many others are secular.

I am therefore writing to request an early meeting with you as a matter of urgency so that we might continue the dialogue started with Kurshid Ahmed and given the current emergency.

Yours sincerely

Chairman 

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Concerns of British Arabs on the Situation in Iraq 2003.

Letters to Baroness Amos Department of Overseas Development
Hilary Benn, Minister of State, and Gareth Thomas Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

I write on behalf members of the National Association of British Arabs to express their ongoing and increasing concerns about the post-war situation in Iraq.  We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss these matters in full and to seek some reassurances about the position to be taken by the Department for Overseas Development to rectify some of the causes for concern.  In the interim, we are setting out some of these concerns:-

 1.        Infrastructure:   Iraq’s infrastructure had been largely rebuilt after the first Gulf War in respect of electricity and water supply   In a country where summer temperatures reach 50° C, lack of these basics bring a high price in terms of disease and mortality let alone in terms of life’s comforts. Raw sewage is still being pumped into the Tigris and Euphrates despite many are taking their drinking water from this source.  Iraqis within Iraq find it impossible to believe that the USA and UK are unable to restore infrastructure to a pre-war level.

2.        Education:  Over 50% of under 15 years old have been forced to leave school in order to sustain their families, 70% of schools are in urgent need of  renovation.  The strain of teaching in Iraq has led many qualified teachers away from their profession as teaching facilities have been reduced whilst the population increased.  Redundancy amongst female teaching staff often leads to long-term joblessness and has a negative effect on the entire community.  In universities and medical/dental schools, new reading material has been unavailable for many years leading many doctors and scientists to leave Iraq to seek their living and job satisfaction outside.  Iraq’s universities need help in all aspects, including books and journals, CD-ROMs, open internet access to medical journals and libraries, refresher training courses to update senior doctors, and possibly scholarships for junior doctors.

3.        Health Care:   Lack of investment in health care prior to the war, together with the sanctions, had brought the service to its knees.  Public amenities have not been fully operational for some time eg most hospitals have been less than 30% operational for the last four years.  Our feed-back from medical colleagues within Iraq is extremely distressing, particularly given the high standards in Iraq’s not too distant past.  Access to technology and scientific advancements have been denied for over ten years.  A generation of citizens have been born into squalor and pain.  CARE International give figures in excess of 126,000 new births since the start of the 2003 war.  A recent visit revealed that at the 1000 bed Al Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad, the only electrical dermatome had been broken resulting in four deaths in just one week.  The item cost less than £400.  Minor operations are conducted without anaesthetic in order that it may be saved for longer periods of surgery.

4.        Agriculture:   Iraq was considered at one time the breadbasket of the Middle East.  Now its crops are dying for lack of petrol to work combine harvesters.  Yet this at a time when its people are starving and having to rely on imported crops.  The irrigation system has been destroyed and grain stores looted.  Iraqi farmers are still owed $75 million for this years crops which would have been bought by the government.  Is the war to be used as an excuse to render Iraq reliant on purchasing its food from companies and countries who seek to profit from the war?  I refer in particular to the appointment of Daniel Amstutz at President Bush’s choice to oversee Iraq’s agricultural reconstruction despite his known links to the Cargill Grain Company.

 We seek an urgent meeting with you to discuss these matters.

Yours sincerely

Ismail Jalili FRCS FRCOphth
National Chairman and Secretary General
National Association of British Arabs

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Letter to F Hakim
, Principal Advisor to the Chairman Commission for Racial Equality

1 June 2003

Mr F Hakim
Principal Advisor to the Chairman
Commission for Racial Equality
210-111 Borough High Street
London SE1 1GZ

Dear Mr Hakim

I write with reference to your letter of 19 May written on behalf of Mr Phillips.

Unfortunately your reply does not address our issues.  We have already held very positive talks with Mr Kurshid Ahmed which would I believe cover your offer of talks with another member of the CRE ‘in the first instance’.

In addition, we do not feel it would be helpful for either the CRE or NABA if we were allocated to Mr Silverstone on the basis that he deals with the Muslim community.  As we have pointed out in our several letters to the CRE, as Arabs we represent all strands of our community ie Muslim, Christian and secular.  We hold no particular bias and, whilst our members share many of the problems experienced by the Muslim community in the UK, we do not represent Muslims in isolation and therefore our concerns are different and based on our ethnicity and not on our religion. 

I believe that this response will only lead our members once again to conclude that the CRE remains the last bastion of racism. 

We await hearing from you further.

Yours sincerely

Ismail Jalili
MBBCh, DO, FRCS, FRCOphth
National Chairman and Secretary General

 

   8 July 2003

    
    Mr F Hakim
    Principal Advisor to the Chairman

    Commission for Racial Equality
    210-111 Borough High Street
   
London SE1 1GZ

Dear Mr Hakim

I refer to my letter of 1 June 2003 and wonder when you will be in a position to reply.
Our members continue to be very concerned about the lack of response from the CRE.

Yours sincerely

I K Jalili
National Chairman

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NABA Letter to MPs on the Conditions in Iraq after the War July 2003

Letter to All MPs
17 July 2003

I write on behalf members of the National Association of British Arabs to express their ongoing and increasing concerns about the post-war situation in Iraq.  These concerns centre on the following:-

1.         Lack of security within Iraq:  The breakdown in personal security, in a society which was previously well structured with close community relationships, following on from a traumatic war, which proceeded thirteen years of ruinous sanctions, has been the final straw for the Iraqi population.  Very few within Iraq tell us that they prefer what has followed the war.

2.         Infrastructure:   Iraqi infrastructure had been largely rebuilt after the first Gulf War in respect of electricity and water supply   In a country where summer temperatures reach 50° C, lack of these basics bring a high price in terms of disease and mortality let alone in terms of life’s comforts. Iraqis within Iraq find it impossible to believe that the USA and UK are unable to restore infrastructure to a pre-war level.

3.         Education and Health Care:   Lack of investment in these two major elements of daily life prior to the war, together with the sanctions, had brought these services to their knees.  Our feed-back from medical colleagues within Iraq is distressing given the high standards in Iraq’s not too distant past.  The recent comment by Paul Bremer (8 July) about the privatisation of state-owned sectors is particularly worrying and to be deplored.

4.         Workers:   The great majority of Iraqi’s were employed within the state machine.  They continue to work without reimbursement.  It is their own contribution to rebuilding their country but this state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely and is adding to an already impoverished country . 

5.         Agriculture:   Iraq was considered at one time the breadbasket of the Middle East.  Now its crops are dying for lack of petrol to work combine harvesters.  Yet this at a time when its people are starving and having to rely on imported crops.  Is the war to be used as an excuse to render Iraq reliant on purchasing its food from companies and countries who seek to profit from the war?

6.        Debts:   Iraq is expected to honour the reparations imposed on the previous regime.  To tell a country that you are liberating them from an oppressive regime, and at the same time expect them be responsible for the debts of that regime (currently estimated at $150 billion cannot be justified. This is greed on a grand scale.

7.         Occupation:  The increasing unrest results from the unacceptability of occupation.  The USA and UK need to stop their intransigence and bring in the UN and a UN peacekeeping force.

Iraq’s citizens have suffered a total of 25 years of conflict and sanctions.  A nation of proud people has been reduced to despair and inhumanity.  The UK and USA, after inflicting this on Iraq, must now give its undivided attention to rectifying the situation and normalising life for this nation which was once the cradle of civilisation.   British Arabs seek your reassurance that their MPs are working to restore normal life to Iraq.

Yours sincerely

Ismail Jalili FRCS FRCOphth
National Chairman
The National Association of British Arabs

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NABA's Letter to David Blunkett on his Statements on the Integration of Ethnic Minorities

15 May 2002

 

Dear Mr Blunkett

 

I refer to your recent statements on integration of ethnic minorities into British Life and felt you might be interested in the National Association of British Arabs which has recently been formed.

I am attaching one of our brochures which explains our aims and objectives.

 

In the current climate, where sentiments are running high and the focus on ethnic groups is being politicised because of the current world problems, some communities are being seriously misrepresented, the case of the Arab communities is one.  The majority of Arabs in the UK are well educated and many of them work in the professions.  They came to the UK over the past thirty years from a variety of countries and for a variety of reasons, but in the main to escape political turmoil, and the majority of them realise that they will not return to their home countries and have integrated well into UK life.  However, because they do not live in easily defined areas but live among British society, their presence has gone largely unnoticed.  This does not mean that they do not face the same problems that other immigrants face, their problems are perhaps more covert given that the majority are not always as easily identifiable as other immigrant groups by their dress or appearance, and again this is a factor which goes unnoticed when the media concentrate only on, say the religious groups.

 

The long established British Arabs are deliberately withdrawing further from public view because of the following factors:

 

1.                  There has been no serious attempt to look into the question of Arabs as an ethnic minority.  We have written on many occasions to the Commission for Racial Equality which has no Arab representatives and they have never even replied to our letters.  Neither have they ever undertaken any study on this large minority.  This is a serious omission from a group which is under the auspices of the Home Office.   It is also well demonstrated in the ‘ethnic background’ sheet which is now a common feature for job applications, government statistics, census etc.  There is no separate section for Arab although they form just a much a race as the others included in these statistics and it is one of the repeated complaints we hear from Arabs that they resent being classed as ‘other’ on all official documents and surveys.

2.                  The majority of ‘representatives’ who have the ear of the government and are being interviewed are not even Arab but rather Muslim spokespersons from other ethnic groupings.  They cannot therefore speak on behalf of what is perhaps an ethnic group of approximately 400,000 (I have been unable to access the true figures of the Arabs in the UK) and many Arabs feel disheartened that they are not really represented.  The only sources of Arab voices have been the BBC and Channel 4 who have attempted to introduce some Arab speakers. 

3.                  Some younger generation have become disillusioned with the political climate worldwide which they feel lacks even handedness but this is a view shared by many British and Europeans.  This could also be reversed if they felt that the government were enforcing an ethical foreign policy which they espoused.

 

Arabs in the UK see this as their home and are grateful for what Britain has offered them, many of their children will form the next generation of doctors, scientists etc but they need to be accepted fully as part of the British framework. 

 

The National Association of British Arabs is trying to undertake this.  We are encouraging our members to become involved via the main political parties.  We agree that the only way forward is as part of the British system but we do not seek to be tacked onto other ethnic groups who do not share out cultural values and norms.     

 

 We realise that we have an uphill struggle ahead of us, particularly as we do not seek, neither do we have any funding from outside countries or agencies.  We seek to represent the views of what we believe to be the majority of Arabs in the UK.  Our future is here and we feel that the struggle is worthwhile if, at the end of it, we see a truly multiracial Britain which benefits from the best of what we each have to offer.

 

We are trying to obtain funding to further our work and would be grateful for any help that the Home Office can give in this.  In addition, I hope that you will take the time to study our arguments and views as set out above and would welcome an opportunity to discuss them further with you or with representatives of the Home Office.

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Top mark

Subject: From Calum MacDonald MP
To: naba@britisharabs.com
From: Ann Ross - wiclp <annross@wiclp.freeserve.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 16:27:48 +0100

Dear Dr Ismail Jalili

Thank you for your email of 17 July. I appreciate your concern about conditions in Iraq and, of course, there is still a long way to go. However, the formation of the Iraqi Governing Council represents a 
tremendous step forward and one which I hope your organisation would wholeheartedly support. As regards the wider social and economic reconstruction effort, I enclose a copy of Jack Straw's speech to the House of Commons last week.

Kind Regards

Calum MacDonald MP
Western Isles MP

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6 April 2002

Open Letter to the Prime Minster

 

Right Honourable Tony Blair MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London SW1

  

Dear Mr Blair

 

The escalating situation in the West Bank and occupied territories is a cause for grave concern for everybody.  As British Arabs we are particularly concerned that this government has failed to take a lead in seeking a solution to this spiral of violence and death despite the Prime Minister’s numerous trips abroad. 

 

In particular it disturbs us, and many other non-Arab British, that there is a serious element of double standards when both the UK and USA governments talk of Arab countries who are in contravention of UN resolutions as being ‘terrorists’ whilst Israel is allowed to flout the same resolutions without any such reprimand or backlash.  The situation as we see it currently is that the Israeli government is undertaking a policy of state sponsored terrorism akin to that of Nazi Germany and the UK and USA governments are appeasing this despite (in the case of the UK) being contrary to the wishes of the British population. 

 

‘Terrorism’ as defined by yourself and Mr Bush springs from despair and the Arab world has suffered despair in abundance over the preceding 20 years which has resulted from marginalisation, instability and disempowerment.   The events of 11th September should have been a turning point in world relations and the deaths of so many should have been a catalyst for political impetus to find solutions to the long-standing problems of the Middle East.  Unfortunately, the alternate path appears to have been chosen with aggression being dealt with more aggression – one can only assume that it is the intention that the collapse of the stock markets will be reversed by gains in the armaments industries. 

 

You have on many occasions publicly used your profession of the Christian faith in the national media but I know of no faith which would condone the path you have chosen for the British Government on any of the questions of the Middle East. 

 

Yours faithfully

Dr Ismail Jalili
National Chairman

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Letter to Kofi Annan on the Escalation of Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian territories

 

April 2002

 

Mr Kofi Annan

Secretary General

United Nations

UN Plaza

New York

NY 10017

USA

 

 

Dear Secretary General

 

We write to express our grave concern at the escalating events in the Palestinian territories and to request the UN to take affirmative action to put a stop to the reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

 

The founding ethos of the United Nations brought hope to those who had suffered oppression but over the years we have watched with sadness the dilution of the powers of that body and the flouting of many of its resolutions. 

 

In the current crisis we are being forced to watch state sponsored terrorism openly supported by the USA from a state who were direct beneficiaries of the UN following the second world war.  In assessing the behaviour of the Israeli state we are witnessing victims turned victimisers.

 

In addition to gross breaches of the Geneva Convention in treatment of prisoners, assassinations, home demolitions and incursions into Palestinian territory, the attacks on, and murder of medical personnel in pursuit of their duties is truly despicable as is the refusal of the rights of citizens to medical treatment. 

 

We urge the United Nations to act with all speed to enforce the resolutions passed against Israel and to reinstate the good name of the United Nations through active pursuit of peace in that sad region.

 
Yours sincerely

Dr I K Jalili
Chairman

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The Concerns of the British Arabs  on the Escalation of atrocities against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

15 March 2001

Right Honourable Tony Blair MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London SW1

Dear Mr Blair

The current escalating situation in the West Bank and occupied territories is a cause for grave concern and as British Arabs we are particularly concerned that Her Majesty’s government be seen to take a lead in seeking a solution to this spiral of violence and death. 

It is salutary that 9th April will see the joint anniversaries of Jewish Holocaust Day and Deir Yassin Day.  The latter is less well known and certainly less publicised than the former but commemorates the massacre of the civilian population of the village of Deir Yassin in 1948 by joint forces of the Irgun and Stern Gang.  These two movements were considered by the British authorities to be terrorists and yet within the space of 50 years their successors are hailed as defenders of freedom and democracy, the victims had become the victimisers.

Ariel Sharon in his speech today spoke of Palestinian ‘murderers’, yet this is a man who was found by his own judiciary to be culpable of the Sabra and Chatilla massacres.

What the above shows us is that the categorisation of ‘terrorism’ is extremely fluid and changes with the imperatives of politics and history.  The government of Ariel Sharon is now exploiting the US ‘War on Terror’ to justify its own onslaught on Palestinians through state sponsored terrorism. 

The UK government has been, not unsurprisingly, restrained in condemning the actions of the Israeli government in terms of assassinations, home demolitions and incursions into Palestinian territory.  Yet, if we are seeking an international rationale of the current situation, then Israel stands accused of:

1.           Breach of the Geneva Convention in refusing medical aid to wounded civilians and in attacking medical personnel in the pursuit of their humanitarian duties.

2.           Breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention for extra-judicial executions which, as such, constitute war crimes subject to universal jurisdiction as set out in Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

These terrorist actions alone warrant the immediate deployment of an international protection force to prevent further violations.

The above is in addition to Israel’s long-running record of completely ignoring all UN resolutions.  Yet, when it serves its own purpose, breach of UN resolutions by the Palestinians and Iraq are used as a viable excuse for war footing by the UK and US governments. 

As British Arabs are we truly expected to view this government as any better than the dictatorships we left in search of democracy?

Yours faithfully

Ismail Jalili
National Chairman

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Letter to the British Prime minister on the 11 September Events

12 September 2001

The Right Honourable Tony Blair
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Dear Mr Blair

We write to express our horror and shock at the very sad events in America this week.  British Arabs share in the sadness and disbelief of their fellow Britons at this futile and brutal loss of life of so many individuals including those from the UK. 

We welcomed your speech in the House of Commons today, which confirmed that Islam should not be blamed for this unjustifiable horror undertaken by as yet unknown perpetrators. 

Our hope is that true and unbiased justice will prevail and that from this appalling tragedy lessons will be learned.  In particular we hope that world governments will seek to address the political issues that may have precipitated this terrible attack.  Many Arabs worldwide have felt frustrated at the lack of political will to settle the many problems in the Middle East and, whilst this should not be used as a justification for this or any other such act of vengeance, that frustration needs to be understood and the hope of settlement of the many problems in this unhappy region made a matter of urgency by governments worldwide.

Yours sincerely

Ismail Jalili FRCS, FRCOphth
Chairman

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Letter to the US Ambassador September 2001

We write to express our horror and shock at the very sad events in America this week.  British Arabs share in the sadness and disbelief of their fellow Britons at this futile and brutal loss of life of so many individuals including those from the UK. 

We welcomed the speeches made by the Prime Minister and Party Leaders in the House of Commons today, which echoed the sentiment of the Prime Minister that Islam should not be blamed for this unjustifiable horror undertaken by as yet unknown perpetrators. 

Our hope is that true and unbiased justice will prevail and that from this appalling tragedy lessons will be learned.  In particular we hope that world governments will seek to address the political issues that may have precipitated this terrible attack.  Many Arabs worldwide have felt frustrated at the lack of political will to settle the many problems in the Middle East and, whilst this should not be used as a justification for this or any other such act of vengeance, that frustration needs to be understood and the hope of settlement of the many problems in this unhappy region made a matter of urgency by governments worldwide.

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