“Buzz off.” I wanted to put it less politely, but what follows is a message that should be taken on board by even by the most tenderhearted, so I decided on delicacy.
A few days ago, the journalist Michael Weiss posted a column on The New Criterion weblog called “The Libyan School of Economics.” There, he reports on the penchant of the London School of Economics for accepting money from dubious sources, including members of Colonel Gaddafi’s family. As Michael points out, the venerable London institution has “lately become quite the sheikh’s haven for blood capitalism.”
In the course of his piece, Michael devotes a paragraph to a recent talk organized by the LSE’s Palestine Society and chaired by one Martha Mundy, an anthropologist and, by the sound of it, a dedicated enemy of Israel. The event featured Abdel Bari Atwan, a London-based Palestinian newspaper editor whom the journalist Douglas Murray, writing in The Wall Street Journal, described as “a man with a long record of extreme statements.”
Michael includes a few examples in his column, noting that Atwan:
has welcomed the attacks of September 11 as the end of American empire, cheered Saddam Hussein just before he was hanged in Iraq, and said, infamously, that “If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.” The purpose of the talk . . . was to address the “Zionist lobby in US/UK foreign policy.” In her introduction of Atwan, Mundy enthused, “In May of this year Middle East magazine named Abdel Bari Atwan one of the 50 most influential Arabs. We hope there are more like you among those 50.” Atwan then took the occasion to blame the Jews in the audience for the invasion of Gaza.
Nothing new here, of course, just the usual rabid ravings by “Zionist-entity” Muslim lunatics and their Western enablers.
But perhaps Mr. Atwan is better read than I might have imagined. I do not know if reading The New Criterion or its weblog is part of his regular literary diet, but he somehow came upon Michael Weiss’s column. This elicited from Mr. Atwan the following email to the magazine’s comments page:
We wish to draw your attention to defamatory comments about editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, Mr Abdel Bari Atwan, in an article on your web blog entitled ‘The Libyan School of Economics’.
We are sure you will wish to retract these unfounded and libellous remarks and publish an unreserved apology in a prominent position.
The entire paragraph about Mr Atwan is false and an example of the most carelessly irresponsible ‘journalism’. It is clear that the writer, Michael Weiss, did not attend the LSE lecture described and has relied on biased heresay instead, with cavalier disregard for the truth.
The suggestion that Mr Atwan, who is a British citizen, ‘welcomed the attacks of September 11’ is a monstrous claim and is entirely false, libellous and defamatory. In his book ‘The Secret History of al-Qa’ida’ he makes it absolutely clear that he considers the organisation a terror group and that he abhors all acts of violence. He describes the attack on the twin towers as ‘the terrible events of 9/11’.
If we do not hear from you that an apology for the entire paragraph – with specific reference to the remark cited above – has been published prominently, in a way that will be immediately obvious to all those who read the offending article, we will have no choice but to instruct our lawyers to seek financial compensation for these extremely serious allegations and slurs on Mr Atwan’s character.
al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper
Here’s where I say: “Buzz off, Atwan.” We aren’t retracting or apologizing for anything. Let’s leave aside such esoteric matters as jurisdiction and the First Amendment: I wouldn’t expect someone like Abdel Bari Atwan to comprehend such esoterica. No, we aren’t apologizing for the simple reason that everything that Michael Weiss wrote about Abdel Bari Atwan is true.
■ Welcoming the 9/11 attacks? Here is a report from the BBC on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of 9/11: “The events of 11 September will be remembered as the end of the US empire. This is because all empires collapse when they pursue the arrogance of power.”
■ Cheering Saddam Hussein? Here’s the Guardian, which quotes Atwan celebrating Saddam for having “preserved the unity of Iraq,” and here’s the BBC again, which quotes him praising Saddam as the “man The Arab people will remember . . . as the sole Arab leader who fired 40 missiles into Tel Aviv and stood with the Palestinian resistance.”
■ Promising to do his Fred Astaire imitation in Trafalgar Square if Iran attacks Israel with missiles? You can watch him say that here at about minute 1.15.
No, I don’t think we’ll be issuing any apologies to Abdel Bari Atwan. I’m not sure, however, that he will have time to notice. He probably has his hands full dealing with the criminal investigation the London police have launched into allegations of his anti-Semitic speech at the LSE where, among other things, he pointed to various Jewish students and said: “You bombed Gaza.”