November 20, 2007

Trumped up charges?

Well well well, it seems that Scottish Palestine Solidarity has been dabbling with the ancient "you-own-a-hotel-chain" libel. Here's the SPSC report from their home page:
As part of international actions against the apartheid wall, on Sat 10 November Scottish PSC protested outside the Caledonian Hotel after reports confirmed the sale of the hotel to an Israeli consortium operating as the Caledonian Operating Company.
Well following what must have been a successful picket SPSC received a letter from lawyers acting for the World Zionist Organisation. Woops! Did I say World Zionist Organisation? It looks like I did. I mean of course The Caledonian Operating Company Limited. Anyway, the letter says:
Further to your protest over the weekend opposite the Caledonian Hilton in Edinburgh and your proposed subsequent protest, we write to you on behalf of our client The Caledonian Operating Company Limited (the "Company"), which is owner of the Caledonian Hilton Edinburgh Hotel (the "Hotel"), to inform you that the Company is incorporated in England and Wales and has no Israeli shareholders.
It goes on to say,
Your protest outside the Hotel accompanied by the type of allegations as circulated in your leaflets are incredibly damaging to the Hotel's reputation and its business. We believe that you may have engaged in this campaign under a false assumption that the Hotel was bought by an Israeli property group. There were some newspaper reports suggesting this to be the case. In fact the deal never happened and the Hotel was bought, as we say above, by our client. For the moment, we are prepared to assume that our client's business has been included in your campaign by mistake.
The letter goes on to ask SPSC to confirm that they will refrain from further protest, remove the Hotel's name from their literature and remove references to the Hotel from their website. It also mentions, threateningly in my opinion, that SPSC is responsible for what it publishes. Now pending SPSC's reply, the Company "will reserve their rights under the law and will refrain from taking any legal action" and looks "forward to hearing from" SPSC "as a matter of urgency."

Well back comes SPSC with this reply:
To: Mishcon de Reya
Summit House
12 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4QD

17 November 2007

Dear Sirs

We are in receipt of your email of 13.11.07, written on behalf of The Caledonian Operating Company Limited. We have indeed alleged to the general public, and customers at the Edinburgh Caledonian Hotel, that this city-centre hotel is Israeli-owned.

The Israeli authorities have announced that they are going to demolish Fasayil Primary School in the Jordan Valley on November 29th, a little school which many people in Edinburgh have contributed to. We see no reason why Israelis should be allowed to build a property portfolio anywhere while they are demolishing property across Palestine, indeed demolishing Palestine.

The acquisition of the Caledonian Hotel by an Israeli consortium was anticipated in the Scotsman of August 9th this year. The full completion of the sale was widely reported in the specialist hotel industry press the following day (10.08.07) and the Edinburgh Evening News confirmed the sale with a piece beginning, “The sale of one of the Capital's most prestigious hotels has been completed...[to]... a consortium of Israeli investors...”(11.08.07). Six days
later Caterer and Hotelkeeper again confirmed that the new owners were Israeli (16.08.07).

So you can see that we are surprised by your assertion that your “client The Caledonian Operating Company Limited...which is the owner of The Caledonian Hilton Edinburgh Hotel...has no Israeli shareholders.” This claim appears three months after the uncontested reports of an Israeli purchase of the hotel, and follows our first day of protest outside the Hotel.

You claim in your letter to us that labelling the hotel as Israeli-owned (“the type of allegations as circulated in your leaflets”) is “incredibly damaging to the hotel and its business.” We concede that this is so, and are, therefore, doubly perplexed as to why your client felt no inclination over a period of three months to clean up its image by responding to the string of press stories asserting such Israeli ownership.

You can see our problem. When the Israeli authorities lie so brazenly about their crimes, even about the murder of British citizens such as Tom Hurndall and James Millar, and as the image of the Israeli brand sinks so low in the eyes of the public, it is obvious that Israeli businessmen have an interest in concealing their ownership of businesses that could fall within the ambit of the growing boycott movement.

Our scepticism is reinforced by the knowledge that one of your own company’s senior partners is a Zionist fanatic, Anthony Julius, a ludicrous labeller of opponents of Israeli crimes as ‘anti-Semites’. He is an exponent of a vile political creed whose advocates planned and executed the ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine, and are spreading their apartheid system throughout all the areas they have conquered. This being so, you must expect our Campaign to view your letter with deep mistrust. Since we are committed to universal human rights, we are compelled to see your racist Senior Partner as untrustworthy, and as casting a baleful shadow on your company as a whole.

Should we hear that even one of the journalists who reported the original story admits that their reporting was inaccurate and untrue, and that they will issue the necessary corrections to the effect that The Caledonian Operating Company Limited is not Israeli-owned, we will promptly reconsider our position. In the meantime we will proceed on the basis of the information which is unchallenged in the public domain and regret that we cannot yet comply with your

Yours faithfully

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
I love the idea that for it to be known or believed that the owner of a hotel is Israeli is "incredibly damaging." I wonder if whoever wrote the letter from Mishcon de Reya ran it by Anthony Julius before sending it out.


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