In April, 14 employees at Lancashire County Council were suspended, pending investigation into allegations of the distribution of racist literature on the Council intranet. Tom Moseley, of the Lancashire Telegraph, picked it up and confirmed that the material had related to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009.
The content would be familiar to anyone who follows this sewer of thought even moderately closely. Entitled “Holocaust Survivors”, it started with implorations to “show the world the true face of this murderous state”… anyone noticed how events were barely off our television screens and newspapers and street-corners? Yes, good, let us move on.
Then followed the juxtapositioning of photographs of victims of the Shoah to those of the current situation in Gaza and the taunting of Jews, a scant 65 years after Auschwitz, with Nazi regalia. For those genuinely unsure of differences, here is a photograph the former:
Here is the latter, including some woman whose brother-in-law was once British Prime Minister.
There appears also to be a deliberate attempt at deceit, as the material would have been blocked by firewall software. To circumvent this, files were brought into Council offices on external storage devices.
Moseley also suggested that the images, both from then and now, were of a highly graphic nature. I can quite believe this, as there is often an almost sexual element to a desire to show broken Palestinian Arab bodies – preferably children – at the hands, claws and tentacles of the Israeli state. Also in the article was a statement from Cllr. Salim Mulla, for Blackburn with Darwen, and also senior vice-chairman for the Lancashire Council of Mosques who was contacted by a number of those implicated:
I believe it was an exchange of views on the Israeli Palestine situation. Lancashire County Council should be sensible in dealing with these issues. In any organisation you get emails that do not relate to the job, and to suspend people for it sends out the wrong message.
Whilst I see the benefit of the judicious use internal e-mail for social chat, it remains the property of the company (or, in this case, Local Council) and the Computer Misuse Act can reasonably be seen as defining the sending of any data as distribution. Furthermore, a *Local* Council does not have a foreign policy, and staff should be particularly careful in being seen to be associating their Council with one: let alone one as contentious as Operation Cast Lead.
But, lookie here! A fortnight later, Moseley confirmed that Cllr. Mulla had also received and forwarded the material! To all fellow Blackburn and Darwen councillors, no less.
His justification was:
I shared it with my colleagues. I send a lot of emails.
A lot of people didn’t fully understand what was going on. I felt at the time, when the war was taking place, that it was important there were discussions within the council.
It’s something I feel very strongly about and I wanted to share it with the elected members. I speak my mind – some people like it, some people do not.
I have supported Holocaust Memorial Day every single year and I will continue to do that. But if there are other similar atrocities going on, not just in Gaza, I will say they are not acceptable.
This smells like a fib to me. The first sentence suggests he causally forwarded material without considering its content, which could be put down to stupidity, but he goes on to display premeditation and cognizance. Did I mention this was a Local Council without a foreign policy?
The final two sentences were just risible. Whatever the rights and wrongs – or, more accurately, both – of Operation Cast Lead were, comparisons to the Nazi-period are unsustainable and gratuitously offensive. The Shoah is one of the most traumatic events any cultural or religious group can experience, and it is well-within living memory. It is up to the Survivors and their posterity to decree how it is to be commemorated, and anyone who disagrees can fuck-off and die roaring.
I would understand and find understandable any decision by an HMD organizer to decline a munificent offer of grief for dead Jews from an individual who disseminated an e-mail entitled “Holocaust Survivors” which the explicit claim that Palestinian Arabs were the final victims of the Nazis. And the same goes for tearful suspended employees whom Moseley reported as insisted they did not consider herself to be a racist people or that the graphic images of Shoah-victims was not intended to be offensive to Jews.
Moseley has now reported that the subsequent three month internal investigation has resulted in the dismissal of four [non-union] employees and issuing of final written warnings to five: the remaining five may be subject to subsequent reprimanding by their line managers.
I can find no details, however, of an investigation against Mulla.
Moseley had reported union representatives as variously claiming that individuals had been suspended for merely receiving the e-mail or that failure to pursue Mulla and other councilors invalidated the proceedings. On the first point, I doubt it: when I worked in large offices with internal e-mail, I sometimes received pornographic e-mails from colleagues who were subsequently dismissed. I *never* forwarded them, and in most cases did not even open them (those occasions when I did, it was simply because I was not yet wise to the sender).
Therefore, I never did distribute the material.
On the second point, I fail to see why lack of proceedings against B affects actions against A when both are, presumably, equally culpable. It should also be noted that those dismissed or disciplined have been Council employees, whilst Mulla is an elected Councilor.
There are different procedures in this case, which are outlined here if anyone feels there is cause for further investigation.