London’s newly elected Mayor Sadiq Khan is now firmly seated in his office in City Hall.
A few weeks into his mandate and the diminutive politician continues to enjoy surprisingly positive headlines from a normally hostile press.
Yet for all the glowing praises surrounding his election – somehow described as historic – his first acts in office are certainly not praiseworthy.
When his candidacy was first announced back in September, the Tooting MP insisted his campaign and consequent time in office would be focused on London and local concerns, and that international issues such as the Palestine-Israel conflict would not feature in his programme.
Yet a week after being chosen as the Labour Party’s candidate, Sadiq Khan gave an interview to the Daily Mail where he outlined his plan to support a festival showcasing Israeli capital Tel Aviv, and promising to oppose the peaceful initiative launched to oppose Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land – the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions initiative known as BDS.
He also stated that his party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to engage with Palestinian and Lebanese organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah would turn London into a potential terror target.
It rapidly emerged that what he meant by refusing to draw in international issues to the London campaign was in fact refusing to support the Palestine narrative in the ongoing Middle Eastern dispute.
Siding with Israel, and what it does and stands for, was a somewhat comfortable position to support, judging by his actions from the outset.
While his leader failed to reign him in, London’s Muslim electorate became increasingly split over his one-sided and increasingly divisive discourse.
Desperate to court one tranche of the electorate, he very blatantly antagonised another.
At a time when Islamophobic attacks are on the increase and hijab-wearing women are primary targets, Khan painted them as “suspicious” and alien to the London he was familiar with, adding to the climate of hostility these visible members of the Muslim community were suffering.
Had similar statements been uttered by any other candidate, accusations of Islamophobia and bigotry would have been flying. Instead, media coverage focused on the equally racist campaign of his main rival Zac Goldsmith conveniently turning Khan, who first targeted Muslim women, into a victim.
Many factors played into Khan’s comfortable victory: his persona is, however, not to be credited.
For one thing, many saw in a vote for Khan a means by which to support Jeremy Corbyn, who was by the time of the mayoral election bogged down in a fabricated scandal over alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
It is also worth noting that the Tory Party is well into its second term in office. Mid-term elections are often a way by which electorates punish the party in government. London’s mayoral election was no exception.
Ultimately, while Sadiq Khan’s score remains impressive, he won on the back of Corbyn’s popularity and Cameron’s increasing lack of it.
But international headlines never really looked at the bigger picture of British politics and instead chose to focus on the attractive buzzword that London had elected its first Muslim mayor.
Hardly a feat, since London has only had two others in its history; a third one emanating from the largest minority in the capital is barely surprising.
After all, would anyone ever express surprise at New York electing a Jewish mayor?
Admittedly, the current climate of Islamophobia did make his election appear improbable at times, but the reality was that Londoners simply did not elect a “Muslim” but the “Labour guy”. Had his name been Khan, Kahn or Caan, it would have made no difference to an electorate keen on punishing the Conservative party in power.
Sadiq, friend of Israel
In the run-up to the elections, Khan told the Jewish Chronicle that he would be a pro-Jewish politician stating that his commitment to Israel would not be challenged.
A worrying statement if ever there was one. The Jewish electorate, relatively small in number, is very split over the issue of Israel and many London Jews would recoil at the idea of being associated with a state that is in violation of 67 UN resolutions.
While influential Jewish Zionist organisations insist that support for Israel is a Jewish concern, the reality is that many Jews refuse this association and insist their loyalty is towards Britain and not a foreign entity whose colonial policies they fiercely oppose.
The ambitious Khan was in fact never really courting the “Jewish” vote which is relatively small, but rather the powerful Zionist lobby that boasts a vast network embedded at the highest echelons of Britain’s political establishment.
This is something countless Jewish voices have denounced in recent weeks to a deaf media intent on presenting all of Britain’s 250,000 Jews as pro-Israel.
The clout enjoyed by Zionist organisations in the UK is unquestionable. How else could an innocuous Facebook post, first posted by Jewish academic Norman Finkelstein, almost lead to the implosion of Britain’s main opposition party?
Sadiq Khan realised which way his bread would be buttered and decided that courting one particular group over all others would be the way to go.
His first official engagement as Mayor of London was alongside the former face of Israel’s operation Cast Lead, Mark Regev, a face many Holocaust survivors or their descendants would deplore being associated with.
Khan, who made his father’s profession a major feature in his campaign maintained that his working-class credentials – he is the son of a bus driver in case anyone missed this – would make him the “inclusive” mayor par excellence.
Yet when the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) invited him to an event commemorating the Nakba or catastrophe, marking the expulsion and ethnic cleansing by Zionist terrorists in 1948 of Palestinians, Khan simply ignored it.
Perhaps even more shocking is his response to a question from a listener to a radio show he was on. Asked why he had ignored the PSC’s invite despite claiming to be an inclusive mayor, he launched an interminable explanation about attending a Holocaust memorial ceremony.
But why bring in the Holocaust when discussing the Palestinian Nakba? What was this “inclusive” mayor attempting to do?
Was he linking the two events? Was he openly saying that Holocaust survivors are more important? Why the association?
Furthermore, he then used this question about attending an important event in which Britain played a historic role (it was, after all, British Lord Balfour that offered Palestine, a land which did not belong to Britain, to European settlers from Eastern Europe) to denounce anti-Semitism. Again why the connection? What does the displacement of millions of Palestinians from their land, the destruction of scores of villagers, the slaughter of thousands of Palestinian men and women, have to do with anti-Semitism in London?
The subliminal link Khan was making is very alarming and forces one to ask serious questions about Khan’s ability to be London’s “inclusive” mayor simply by virtue of being from an ethnic minority.
Time and again Khan has openly sided with Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians, whose cause Londoners have been increasingly supportive of.
As the anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism row continues to rock the Labour Party, one thing at least has emerged since May’s election: you do not have to be Jewish to be Zionist, in fact, you can be a Muslim and a Zionist. Mayor Khan has aptly proven that.[Source: Middle East Eye]