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‘Hypocritical hysteria’: Ex-UK MP says targeted for Palestine advocacy on Press TV

Former Labour MP Chris Williamson has been hosting Press TV's weekly show, Palestine Declassified, since March 2022.

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

A former UK Labour Party MP, Chris Williamson, was on Tuesday stripped of his parliamentary pass until further notice by a committee of lawmakers in what he described as “confected controversy.”

The 66-year-old seasoned British politician and human rights campaigner, who served as the MP for Derby North from 2010 to 2015 and again between 2017 and 2019, had since July 2020 been in possession of one of more than 300 security passes given to former parliamentarians.

The pass was revoked over what the committee termed his “unacceptable” role as a co-host of the weekly show ‘Palestine Declassified’ on Press TV, Iran’s premier international news network.

“The Administration Committee met yesterday and decided to suspend your parliamentary pass until further notice,” the committee chair and conservative MP Charles Walker wrote to Williamson in a comminque.

“The Committee considered that your continued presence on Press TV, a broadcaster that has been banned in the UK and multiple other countries, is unacceptable and risks bringing Parliament into disrepute.”

Speaking to the Press TV Website, Williamson said he “wasn’t surprised” by the arbitrary decision, noting that the political class in the UK has been “gripped by a kind of hypocritical hysteria”.

“The grounds for the arbitrary cancellation of my pass are absurd. They claim that my presence on Press TV ‘risks bringing parliament into disrepute’,” asserted Williamson, one of the closest allies of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and author of ‘Ten Years Hard Labour’.

“But it's their attack on free speech that is bringing parliament into disrepute, not the fact that I present a weekly programme on Press TV about Palestine's struggle for freedom.”

The former British shadow minister who has previously been falsely accused of ‘anti-Semitism” said he never used his parliamentary pass since leaving the job in 2019 and was being targeted for championing the Palestinian cause and “exposing the brutal Israeli apartheid regime”.

He hastened to add that he intends to “write back” to Charles Walker and ask the committee to “think again in view of the absurdity and inconsistency of their position”.

A staunch socialist, trade unionist and anti-imperialist, Williamson has been co-hosting the ‘Palestine Declassified’ show on Press TV since March 2022 with David Miller, a former Bristol University professor who was sacked in October 2021 for his views on Israeli apartheid.

The popular show highlights with cutting-edge research and analysis the Israeli regime’s unbridled aggression in the occupied Palestinian territories and seeks to build global solidarity for the Palestinian cause. To a great extent, it has been successful in that goal.

Pertinently, Press TV was taken off air in the UK in January 2012 by media regulator Ofcom, which accused the network of “breaching broadcasting license rules” with its “editorial content”.

The network, in a statement at the time, called the decision “a clear example of censorship”.

“It is precisely because I host a programme about Palestine that's broadcasted by Press TV, and because I have criticized the (British) government’s support for NATO's proxy war in Ukraine,” Williamson told the Press TV Website, commenting on his parliamentary pass being stripped.

“MPs have used these two facts as a pretext for spurious complaints, suggesting that I therefore pose some sort of security risk. It is utterly absurd and frankly insulting”.

He decried the smear campaign and attacks against Press TV, saying it was “off the scale”.

“The hypocrisy over the treatment of Press TV is off the scale. But it indicates that the ruling class is insecure in their position, so we should take heart from that and keep going."

The former MP also called out the "disturbing scale of censorship" in British society, saying the ability to speak out against the prevailing establishment narrative is “strictly restricted”.

“Little to no platform is provided by the corporate media to articulate a contrary viewpoint, and even access to social media is being restricted,” he told the Press TV Website.

“Academics have lost their careers for speaking out against the evils of Zionism for example, and anyone calling for a diplomatic solution is dismissed as a ‘Putin apologist’.”

Williamson further noted that the Zionist lobby and acolytes of the NATO military alliance in the British parliament exert an “entirely disproportionate influence”.

“The British political class only represent the interests of powerful lobbies, rather than the wellbeing of the communities they are elected to serve, and on whose votes they rely for their privileged positions,” he said, pointing to the gap between the rulers and the subjects.

A strong anti-war and anti-racism voice who has resolutely opposed the war in Ukraine – which completes one year this week – Williamson said the Nazi influence in Ukraine is “well-documented” while calling the embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “NATO's useful idiot”.

“The ultimate ambition of the war hawks in the US is to weaken and ultimately balkanize Russia, and then pivot against China,” Williamson asserted, adding that the European governments are “allowing themselves to be used to help the US retain its dominant position in the unipolar world”.

“The US Defense Department openly commissions a report by the Rand Corporation on ways to achieve their goal against Russia. Furthermore, prominent figures in the Atlantic Council, NATO's de-facto think tank, were setting out the strategic case for risking war with Russia in Ukraine before the present military conflict began,” he said, pinning the blame on the US-led NATO military alliance for the simmering crisis in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the staunch advocate for the Palestinian cause vowed to continue his advocacy work for the weak and vulnerable irrespective of whether he holds the parliamentary pass or not.

“Whatever dirty tricks they deploy against me, these political lackeys of the war machine and parliamentary servants of Israel's brutal apartheid regime, they will never stop me campaigning for peace and supporting the liberation of Palestine,” Williamson asserted.

He also invoked the 20th-century Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, that these out-of-touch politicians “can cut all the flowers but cannot keep spring from coming”.

“And I believe the day is coming when Palestine will be free from the river to the sea."


Syed Zafar Mehdi is a Tehran-based journalist, political commentator and author. He has reported for more than 13 years from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and West Asia for leading publications worldwide.


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