Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Every picture tells a story: or does it? Afterword to the Coleman hearing

Brian Coleman's supporter Jonathan Hoffman (right) and Roberta Moore, former English Defence League member

Since Monday's hearing, Mrs Angry has been thinking quite a lot about the issues raised, as a smokescreen, by Brian Coleman and his solicitor, in an effort to excuse the emails he sent which contained what was described by the investigator, and confirmed by the committee's decision, as 'deliberately personal, offensive and insulting abuse'.

The issues raised, the smokescreen, of course, being that of the subject of alleged anti semitism and/or 'anti Zionism'.

In previous posts, Mrs Angry has twice published extracts from statements by the two complainants, Ron Cohen and Dr Charlotte Jago, in which they make it absolutely, unequivocally clear that in fact they totally abhor anti semitism ( hardly surprising, you might think, in the case of Ron Cohen) and far from being 'anti Zionists' are both supporters of the state of Israel.

It seems not to matter in the slightest, however, in some quarters, how many times this inconvenient truth is emphasised.

If you recall, at the request of certain parties, a staged demonstration - by four men - took place at the Town Hall before the hearing, led by one Jonathan Hoffman. He and his friends then came in to the room, helped themselves to the coffee and biscuits laid out for the committee, and proceeded to talk loudly about Coleman and the complainants, one of whom, they stated was 'a racist'. When Mrs Angry had expressed her objection to these remarks, they turned on her and accused her of various peculiar practices including, bizarrely, being inclined to advocate 'the murder of homosexuals'. Clearly the thought processes of these stalwart supporters of Councillor Coleman are somewhat confused.

What was notable at the hearing was the complete absence of any Barnet Tories to offer their support to Brian Coleman. Why is this? Why do none of his Barnet colleagues want to speak up for him? He was reliant on his party agent from Camden, his mother, personal assistant and the friends of Jonathan Hoffman for backing. And after talking to Barnet blogger Roger Tichborne, who explained to him what the complaint was really about, Hoffman and his friends left, and did not return.

The complainants in this case were not given the opportunity to speak, but had to sit and listen to their characters and motives being smeared, without the opportunity to challenge the awful distortion of the truth that was presented as 'fact'. The gross misrepresentation of the facts, in fact, largely went unchallenged. Coleman was found guilty of breaching the code, but given the slapped wrist sanction of a formal censure and an order to write an apology to the complainants. He is appealing against this decision.

In the local Barnet Press, the hearing was duly reported,

including more allegations in the attached comments by someone called 'Jonathan' ... and here is a report on the demonstration too: see -

Also in the Press is a story which does give a voice to one of the complainants, so let's listen to another perspective:

Councillor ‘uses Jewish suffering for political gain’, claims Ron Cohen

Wednesday, 07 March 2012

By Daniel O'Brien

THE MAN Brian Coleman branded a “disloyal” Israeli has accused the councillor of exploiting religious tensions for political gain.

Ron Cohen was one of two successful complainants in Mr Coleman’s code of conduct hearing on Monday, after the Totteridge ward member accused him of being “anti-Israel” for criticising the nation’s human rights record.

Mr Cohen said that rather than defending Israel, Mr Coleman’s comments were damaging to the Jewish community.

“Brian Coleman pretends to be a friend of Israel and the Jewish community. In fact he’s the complete opposite,” said Mr Cohen. “He tried to enlist the suffering of the Jewish people for his narrow political and financial agenda, by labelling opponents of his policies as anti-Semites.

“He committed the crime of banalising the suffering of the Jewish people, reducing our people’s history of victimisation, persecution and genocide to a petty political bickering.”

Back to the photo then: here you will see a picture that Jonathan Hoffman does not like.

It shows him at a demonstration standing by Roberta Moore, a sometime follower of the infamous Meir Kahane, and more latterly also a member of the English Defence League - until last summer. See this report in the JC:

Strange bedfellows, eh?

Oh: now - here is the thing.

As reported, Jonathan Hoffman does not like the photograph published here, and strenuously denies any connection with Ms Moore, or the EDL. He says that they were merely at the same demonstration, and for what it is worth, from reading my way through various articles, and trying to form a balanced view, which is an approach Mr Hoffman and his chums might like to consider, I think he is telling the truth. I think - I hope - that he has found himself in this position by mischance.

I would also like to think that he might have learned a lesson from this experience, and learned not to jump to the wrong conclusion without being in full possession of the facts. But if so, he has failed to apply this lesson to the Coleman complaint. He has accepted the slurs about the complainants as facts, and made accusations about them which are patently not true. Did Mr Hoffman bother to read the report and the statements of the complainants before agreeing to support the allegations made about them? I think not. I think he owes Ron Cohen and Dr Jago an apology, along with Brian Coleman.

While Coleman was at the hearing, making his self congratulatory speech, in defence of his actions, he stated that if anything in his career was worth doing, it was to fight anti semitism. A noble declaration, you might think. And who could deny that anti semitism is not prevalent, even now, in our society. Is it on the rise? Unfortunately so. Attacks on individuals, the appalling desecration of graveyards and Jewish community buildings demonstrate this fact, and the Community Security Trust, which monitors levels of attacks, reports continually increasing annual figures.

Are political criticisms of Israel simply anti semitic in origin? Some are undoubtedly so, I would say, but here is another truth which Mr Hoffman does not wish to address - many are not, and it is and must be perfectly possible for someone, Jew or non Jew, to hold and express views that are critical of Israeli government policy without wanting to deny the right of Israel to exist, or, even worse, to be labelled as an anti semite.

And how does Brian Coleman fight the evil of anti semitism, anyway? I'm not sure, apart from attending functions in support of various community bodies. Is that enough?

Anti semitism is racism, and racism is an attitude not confined to one ethnic or minority group. You can't pick'n'mix in the fight against persecution, bigotry and hatred, can you?

The prosecution of all hate crimes has increased by 33% in the last year, according to the CPS.There are other forms of racism in this country, and in this borough, which are curiously overlooked, Brian, did you know?

Look at the new surge in hatred caused by the gratuitously offensive, sensationalising, exploitative 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding series on Channel Four. Let's remember Brian's own remarks about travellers, not so long ago, on a BBC programme. Refusing to countenance the idea of 'one single site' for gypsies or travellers in our borough, and stating that they should stay put 'in Ireland', he was sharply criticised by other contributors, as this local press report shows:

"Father Joe Browne, chairman of the Irish traveller movement, who was also on the panel, said there is a shortage of legal sites in London which impacts negatively on gypsy groups, and went on to condemn Mr Coleman’s comments.

“I’m shocked Brian would take that attitude,” he said.

“It’s simply unacceptable to say they should stay where they are.”

Andrew Slaughter, Labour MP for Ealing Acton and Shepherds Bush, responded on the show by branding Mr Coleman “loudmouthed” and saying the comments were “inflammatory and quite disgraceful”.

He said: “[The comments] would be completely unacceptable when talking about any other ethnic minority.”

Exactly the point. Pick'n'mix politics. Replace the word traveller or gypsy with the word Jew, stand back, and think again.

Councillor Coleman, at his hearing this week, with breathtaking cheek, actually invoked the protection of the human rights act in defence of his case. Yes: you know - "human rights, his backside", as he referred to them in a recent interview.

And human rights, not just the ones Brian Coleman wants to remember when he gets himself into trouble are meant, or so Mrs Angry believes, to apply to all human beings: Jews, gypsies, travellers, Muslims, Christians, oh, and even Palestinians. It's not either or, or one more than others, or exclusive of people we don't approve of or like. And no one minority group has a monopoly on suffering and persecution, although undoubtedly some groups have suffered more than others.

The worst thing, perhaps, about false accusations of anti semitism, or any form of racism, is that it devalues the meaning of the word, and desensitises us to the full horror of the real thing. Anyone who seeks to benefit from such accusations, or encourages a climate of 'witchfinding', looking for proof of racism where is does not exist, should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

If you have ever known anyone who has witnessed at first hand, and somehow survived, the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, you will be acutely aware of the potential for cruelty and wickedness of the human race. To make accusations of similarly detestable attitudes or actions on false grounds is despicable, and must be condemned by anyone with any sense of integrity.


baarnett said...

As in the case, on International Women's Day, Mrs A, of these remarkable women:

Mrs Angry said...

yes, very interesting article, baarnett. And I believe that the Rev Koschland, who was one of the independent committee members at Coleman's hearing, came to this country as a child refugee from Nazi Germany with the Kindertransport scheme.

rahul said...

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Mrs Angry said...

oh no, thank you Rahul. Good to know my efforts are not entirely wasted, and a fitting end to another lovely week in Broken Barnet.

Mrs Angry said...

a kind reader is worrying that Mrs Angry thinks that Rahul is making a real comment& not spamming her. Thank you, kind reader, Mrs Angry was attempting what we bloggers call a joke. Admittedly it was not very funny. Normal service may be resumed if and when Mrs Angry is in a better mood.

baarnett said...

Not entirely sure of the significance of the picture, at the bottom of the right-hand column, Mrs A.

Is it a still from that nice Mr Bugle's "Barnet's Bungling Botch-ups" videos - of you tweeting away, in the public gallery?

On the other hand, judging by the filename, it is of Charles Dickins's character, Madame Therese Defarge – "a vengeful female revolutionary".

In it, Mrs A, you are arguably the main villain, and ruthlessly seek revenge against the Barnet Cabinet, including Brian Coleman, his bag-carrier Richard Cornelius, and the child Tom Davey, for investment, parking and administration crimes that the Cabinet has committed.

Eventually, your quest for vengeance becomes your, well, undoing, Mrs A, and results in your downfall.

So be careful. That's all I'm saying. Be careful.

Mrs Angry said...

Greetings, Citoyen Barnett. Yes: it is an allusion to A Tale of Two Cities/Tale of Two Barnets - and clearly Mrs Angry & Madame Defarge have much in common - but also, Mrs Angry has been advised to take up knitting to occupy her in her lonely old age, and she is trying to get into character for both roles.

Mrs Angry said...

'realzionist': very interesting comment - can you email me? Want to check something you said ... thanks

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for the smear with that photo.

The EDL smear was comprehensively demolished here:

The only people who peddle it are the Israel Haters. They do not - or cannot - deal in facts.

Instead they deal in despicable innuendoes and smears.

Shame on them - and shame on you

As for the biscuits - there was nothing to say that they were solely for the Committee - another smear.

Jonathan Hoffman

Mrs Angry said...

Jonathan: if this is really you - if anyone has been smeared, it is Charlotte Jago and Ron Cohen. They support the state of Israel, as do I, - they also have a conscience, and worry about the need for justice and peace in the Palestinian territories - as do I. You need to stop seeing the issue in such simplistic terms, and accept that it is a very complex matter, and that people are entitled to hold a range of different views on the subject, without being accused of the vile smear of being 'anti semites'.

I wouldn't worry about the biscuits.

Mrs Angry said...

... oh, and ps, if you actually bothered to read this post, (and it might have helped if you bothered to read the council report before smearing Dr Jago and Ron Cohen)you will see the following:

"As reported, Jonathan Hoffman does not like the photograph published here, and strenuously denies any connection with Ms Moore, or the EDL. He says that they were merely at the same demonstration, and for what it is worth, from reading my way through various articles, and trying to form a balanced view, which is an approach Mr Hoffman and his chums might like to consider, I think he is telling the truth. I think - I hope - that he has found himself in this position by mischance."

I think you owe me an apology.