My original letter
Saturday 21 October 2023
Dear Scott Mann,
Last Saturday I was one of tens of thousands who flocked to Whitehall to protest at our government's absurd support for Israel. Events since then in Gaza and the West Bank should have served to make you seriously consider your position as a junior member of a government that is clearly supporting (and thus complicit in) war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and state terrorism.
Over the past week I have had a Palestinian flag flying at our house in Launceston - many walkers pass by, and every single one who as enquired or commented has expressed strong support for the Palestinian people and despair at our government's old fashioned attitude. As the representative of the people of Launceston and North Cornwall it seems to me that you need to urgently take steps to understand why people feel like this.
If you take the trouble (and government censorship of mainstream media has made it a bit more difficult) to find out about the history of what has happened in Palestine since 1900, and especially since 1948 when the British Government enabled the expulsion of millions of people from their ancestral lands, and the consequences today, including voices and opinions of the people directly affected, then I am sure you would have grave doubts about continuing your support for a government that is not supported by the people you represent.
I imagine that it is difficult for you in the Westminster bubble to access reliable alternative sources of information to the government's approved narrative. I urge you to take the time to do so - you might be very surprised by what you find out not only about the Middle Eastern situation, but also about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. In both cases our government has been taking a profoundly undemocratic and troublesome line.
Today I understand that a third of a million people gathered in London expressing support for the Palestinian people and deploring the actions of the Israeli regime and the governments that are propping it up (primarily the US and UK). Sadly we were not able to be there, but wholeheartedly support the position of the Palestinian people and hope you can find it in your heart to do the same.
At the very least I hope you will have sufficient doubts to enable you to not support the Economic Activity of Public Bodies bill when it returns for its third reading. It is a gross interference in the freedom of bodies and individuals to express and support their views in a democratic way.
His reply 2nd November
Thank you for your email to Scott Mann MP.
Scott wholeheartedly condemns Hamas’ terrorist attack last month, in which many hundreds of innocent people were murdered, assaulted, raped, tortured, and abducted. Hundreds of people, including many non-Israelis, remain hostages of Hamas, who are likely using them as human shields.
He also believes that Israel has a right to retaliate in such a way as to render Hamas incapable of repeating its terrorist activities in future. Like the UK Government, Scott believes that the Israeli armed forces should do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties in their operations. This is difficult, given the densely populated nature of Gaza Strip, and because of Hamas’ suspected use of civilian infrastructure to hide their operations and munitions, but the upmost caution still needs to be exercised.
Speaking more widely, Scott believes the most viable solution to this decades-long conflict is the establishment of two viable co-existing states. The two-state solution.
Scott would also strongly refute your utterly baseless claim that the Government censors our media.
Finally, the Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill had his support in the past and will continue to do so. The rampant anti-Semitism we have seen throughout the world since these ghastly attacks only strengthens the need for legislation to stop people discriminating on the basis of their political views, including public sector organisations.
I hope this information is helpful.
Senior Parliamentary Assistant
Office of Scott Mann MP
Member of Parliament for North Cornwall
Government Whip for the Home Office and Ministry of Justice
Thursday 2 November 2023
Thank you for your reply delegated to your assistant. I will assume that you are aware of, and happy with, the content.
There are several points Calum makes on your behalf which merit a fuller response, but I will try and be brief.
1. I note that you condemn Hamas. They form the democratically elected government in Gaza. The fully provoked response to 75 years of oppression by the Israeli state was launched by the al-Qassam, a militant cadre within Gaza. For an analogy consider the relationship between Sinn Féin (a political wing like Hamas), and the provisional IRA a militant armed wing of the Irish nationalist movement who arose in response to oppression (as they saw it) by the British state (analogous to al-Qassam in the Middle East). Even while British troops were fighting the Provos on the streets of Northern Ireland there was no move to ban or outlaw Sinn Féin - indeed they stood in elections and were duly elected to the British parliament.
2. I have no problem with you condemning armed violence. Where, then, have you condemned the far more extreme violence perpetrated by the Israeli regime on the Palestinians? Even if everything that is alleged to have happened on Oct 7th were true, the response is out of all proportion and the bellicose statements and actions of the Israeli regime have gone way beyond the pale. Your support for this puts you at odds with the UN, and legal opinion, and is potentially making you complicit in, and liable to answer in law for, extremely serious offences of war crimes. Are you comfortable with that?
3. My use of the word "alleged" in the previous paragraph may have raised a red flag in your mind. In war it is often the case that the first casualty is truth, and in the 'fog of war' one has to be very careful in making one's judgements. There is apparently no credible evidence of rape or torture by either side (this is reported in Israel itself). The abuse of babies story has been thoroughly discredited (the journalist who started the story has publicly admitted that she made it up). It has become apparent that of the 1400 killed in Israeli on Oct 7th around 40% were active serving members of their armed forces, and the injuries on many of the dead do not appear to have been caused by weapons in possession of the invading forces - the most likely explanation being that they were caught in crossfire and killed by shots from their own side.
4. To take someone hostage is by definition to use them to force the opposing side to either take, or desist from taking, some action (eg releasing some prisoners); in order to do so it is necessary to take good care of your hostages - and those who have been released so far confirm that they have indeed been well treated. To call them "human shields" is an emotive term that rather underscores the weakness of your argument.
5. There is one thing that we can agree upon - and that is the desirability of two viable co-existing states. I would be interested to know what steps you, as a parliamentarian and junior member of the government, have taken to pursue this objective - you are well positioned to have some small influence in guiding things towards this end - not least by standing up against the continuing military and civil support your government provides to only one side in the current conflict. It is as well to remember that the British are largely responsible for the whole situation in the "Holy Land" for the past three-quarters of a century and have never apparently taken any steps to support and implement the "two state solution", or honour the promises made to the Palestinian people.
As a bit of an aside I do wonder whether the alternative solution of a single secular state covering the territory of both Palestine and Israel with a new name and a constitutional freedom of religion together with bar on religion interfering in politics, might not be a better solution. For hundreds of years Jews and Muslims and Christians have peacefully coexisted in states across the Middle East and elsewhere.
The problems, as so often, seem to come from allowing a religion to be the discriminator for a nation state. Combining this with religious fundamentalism, as the Zionists do, is a recipe for trouble. I wonder what your take on this would be?
6. I did not mean to suggest that the government explicitly censors our legacy media other than through the use of D notices and similar instruments. It is, of course, attempting to explicitly censor new media by passing laws giving the government of the day the right to curtail freedom of expression, and by pressuring new media operators with threats - clear censorship. As regards legacy media I would suggest that there is a form of implicit censorship; to understand how this works look up the concept of the "Overton Window" and take Chomsky's book "Manufacturing Consent" as good starting points.
7. It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the policies and actions of the Zionist state of Israel. Zionism is a particular cult within a well respected and peaceful monotheistic world religion (Judaism). Your reference to "rampant anti-Semitism" in relation to the Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill, I find quite extraordinary. As I understand it the Bill makes no explicit reference to antisemitism, which is already subject to legal prohibition. I believe it does currently explicitly mention Israel and Palestine (clause 3) without giving any clear rationale. Antisemitism is already outlawed by existing laws and if your objective is to reduce it perhaps you should simply use the existing law and not make new open-ended laws liable to abuse by a future government.
Aside from that I find your suggestion that people in general should not discriminate on the basis of their political opinions deeply offensive. Every time I go to the polling both and cast my vote I am discriminating on the basis of my political (and other) opinions. Are you seriously suggesting that the government should pass laws to prevent people voting for their preferred brand of politics. I do hope not, but since you are a member of the government I worry that your statement "the need for legislation to stop people discriminating on the basis of their political views" is rather opening a Pandora's Box of authoritarianism.
There is plenty more in your reply that merits a response, the meaning of terrorism and antisemitism being just two points, but for now that's quite enough. I appreciate you are busy, but I hope you can find time to give a more considered response to the important issues we are discussing.
I will be publishing the correspondence online in due course.
watch this space for the next instalment...