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Scribblings: Yvonne's New Job

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Tzvi Fleischer

Yvonne’s New Job

Readers may recall the visit to Australia in 2004 of Yvonne Ridley, the British journalist who was captured by the Taliban, converted to Islam, and began defending Islamist terrorism and terrorists, including the leader of the Beslan school massacre, al-Qaeda bombings of weddings in Jordanian hotels, and the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. According to the London Times, she argued in early 2004 that Palestinian suicide bombings that killed Israeli children should not be seen as terrorism since “child victims of Palestinian suicide bombers were not innocent because they grew up to join the Israeli army.” Readers may also recall that her visit here was organised by Monash University’s School of Political and Social Inquiry as part of its terrorism studies program and paid for with public funds.

In April this year, she was back in Australia for a conference, and accusing Australia of being the “most shocking” country in the world in terms of its “Islamophobia.”

Ridley: Iranian mouthpiece

Ms. Ridley now has a new job. She is London correspondent and the host of a talk show on PRESS TV, a new English language news channel wholly funded and operated by the Iranian Government. Not surprisingly, it is apparent that the channel exists primarily to tell viewers what the government in Teheran wants them to hear. There is almost no domestic Iranian news. For instance, the riots in Iran which followed the implementation of petrol rationing in June received little if any mention. Instead, the channel focuses on the public statements of Iranian government officials, Ayatollahs, and generals, announcements about the evil activities of “the Zionist regime” and some routine wire service news.

Moreover, on its website the channel strongly implied that the British car bombing attacks in early July were a British government plot, with a story saying, “In the first act of this play, they enrage Muslims by knighting Rushdie and then they orchestrate a terrorist attack on an airport, which has nothing to do with Rushdie or the ongoing war, claiming Muslims are out to avenge Salman Rushdie’s knighthood.” The channel also claimed that the Lebanese government, in its recent clashes at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp with the extremist Fatah al-Islam group, was seeking to turn the camp into an American military base.

Ms. Ridley defends her new role on the grounds that PRESS TV “[gives] a different perspective to the coverage that you get from the mainstream media.” Indeed, this is the channel’s generally claimed raison d’être, “break[ing] the media stranglehold of western outlets... [and showing] the other side of the story.” This is of course an attempt to put a post-modern sounding gloss on blatant propaganda.

But Ms. Ridley has evidently found her rightful place in life, as a paid propagandist for an authoritarian, terror supporting, Holocaust denying and genocide-inciting regime.

 

Libel Laws Liability

Have you ever heard of a book called Alms for Jihad? It explores the nexus of Islamic charities and Islamic radicalism, and was published by the Cambridge University Press and written by reputable American academic Prof. Robert O. Collins of the University of California-Santa Barbara, and J. Millard Burr, the former relief coordinator for US AID in Sudan. Interested in reading it? Sorry, chances are you probably will never be able to. The book has been withdrawn from print, all available copies destroyed, and libraries around the world asked to pull it off the shelf.

What happened? Sheikh Khaled bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire and one of the world’s richest men, used his wealth and Britain’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws to get the book pulled, because it briefly mentioned alleged links between the Sheikh and charities that gave funds to terrorist groups. Although the book had been legally checked before publication, Cambridge University Press was reportedly told that to successfully defend the case in Britain’s system was nearly impossible, and would certainly cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Taking the obviously safer course, they agreed to destroy all copies, apologise unreservedly to the Sheikh, and pay undisclosed “substantial damages.”  The American authors refused to join the settlement and stand by everything they wrote.

This is not the first case in which Mahfouz has used the British court system to muzzle authors alleging any financial connection between him and terrorist groups. In one earlier case, he sued Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Centre for Democracy, over her book, Funding Evil, which also sought to detail the funding of terrorist groups. Unlike Alms for Jihad, this book was never published or sold in Britain, but British courts found a “cause of action” on the grounds that British citizens had imported it through purchase on the internet. Ehrenfeld elected not to come to Britain to contest the claim, but is now using the American courts to fight a British court order that she pulp the book and pay US$225,000 in damages.

Ehrenfeld says she has documented that bin Mahfouz has used British lawsuits or their threat in “at least 36 cases” since 2002 to prevent any discussion of his alleged involvement in charities giving money to terrorist groups.

Whether the contentions of Burr, Collins, Ehrenfeld and others about bin Mahfouz’s connections are correct or not is beside the point. It is becoming very clear that actual and threatened defamation actions in British courts are becoming hugely destructive of genuine research into the vital issue of the financing of terrorism, not only in Britain, but worldwide.

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