UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Professional Standards Authority to Reconsider Nazim Ali Case

The Professional Standards Authority (“the PSA”) has confirmed that it is reconsidering the Nazim Ali case. UKLFI Charitable Trust has written to the PSA to voice concerns about the latest decision of the General Pharmaceutical Council’s Fitness to Practise Committee.

Nazim Ali, a pharmacist by profession,  launched a tirade against Zionists as he led the Al Quds march in London in 2017, which included “They are responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell. The Zionist supporters of the Tory Party”, amongst other inflammatory remarks. Complaints were made to the regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), which eventually arranged a hearing of its Fitness to Practise Committee (“the Committee”) in 2020, after attempts to have Mr Ali prosecuted were blocked by the Crown Prosecution Service and the High Court.

At the Committee’s original hearing Mr Ali admitted that his comments were offensive and that his fitness to practise was impaired. However, he denied that the remarks were antisemitic, and the Committee found that the charge of antisemitism was not proved. The Committee decided not to suspend him, but issued a warning.

Following an intervention by UKLFI Charitable Trust (UKLFI CT) at the request of some of the complainants, the PSA agreed that this verdict was insufficient to maintain public confidence and brought a claim for judicial review in the High Court.

Mr Justice Johnson ruled in 2021 that the Committee had erred when it considered whether Mr Ali’s remarks were antisemitic, in taking into account what it considered to be Mr Ali’s intention and character and in not taking into account the cumulative impact of the remarks. He quashed the finding that antisemitism had not been proved and remitted the case back to the Committee for a fresh determination. The Committee eventually reconsidered the case at the end of August 2023.

This time the Committee concluded that two of the four sample remarks of Mr Ali were antisemitic, but that the other two were not proved to have been antisemitic. The two remarks held to be antisemitic were the blood libel regarding the Grenfell disaster quoted above and the remark: “Any Zionist, any Jew coming into your centre supporting Israel, any Jew coming into your centre who is a Zionist. Any Jew coming into your centre who is a member of the Board of Deputies, is not a Rabbi, he’s an imposter.”

Mr Ali was again given a warning but no further sanction.

UKLFI CT has now written again to the PSA, questioning whether the latest decision of the Committee is sufficient to maintain confidence in the pharmacy profession and the maintenance of proper professional standards and conduct. UKLFI CT’s letter criticises the Committee of unsatisfactory and ignorant reasoning in its decision that two of the sample remarks were not shown to be antisemitic .

The first sample remark that the Committee considered not proven to be antisemitic was: “It’s in their genes. The Zionists are here to occupy Regent Street. It’s in their genes, it’s in their genetic code”.

The Committee considered this remark was not shown to be antisemitic on the basis that, in their view, “in their genes” and “in their genetic code” are “not an uncommon figure of speech conveying the idea of something that comes naturally or forms part of someone’s usual behaviour”, and because it referred to Zionists, not Jews. 

UKLFI CT’s letter to the PSA points out that this ignores the fact that the vast majority of Jews are Zionists, in that they support the right of the modern state of Israel to exist as a State of the Jewish people.  The remark was thus a stereotypical allegation about the vast majority of Jews, that was racist and antisemitic in line with the second example of antisemitism identified in the IHRA definition.

The second sample remark was: “European alleged Jews. Remember brothers and sisters, Zionists are not Jews”

The Committee considered that the “reasonable person” would find the reference to “European alleged Jews” incomprehensible and therefore not antisemitic.

UKLFI CT’s letter notes that the Committee was evidently ignorant of the theory that European (Ashkenazi) Jews are descended from Khazar converts. This theory is discredited but is frequently invoked in allegations that Israelis are mainly Ashkenazi Jews (which is itself incorrect) and thus European imposters improperly posing as Semites with an ancestral home in Palestine.

This common antisemitic trope was repeated in a recent speech by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, which has been widely condemned as antisemitic including by the British Foreign Secretary.

The Judgment of Johnson J had confirmed that the test to be applied is “whether a reasonable person with all the relevant information would consider the words to be antisemitic”.

UKLFI CT’s letter points out that the relevant information includes knowledge of the antisemitic trope based on the discredited Khazar theory to which Mr Ali was referring. The letter contends that a reasonable person with this knowledge would clearly consider this remark by Mr Ali to be a use of this antisemitic trope.

As David Collier, one of the witnesses at the original hearing, has pointed out, the Committee made no attempt then to obtain relevant information enabling them to understand what was meant by this remark, and it appears that it has made no attempt since.  

UKLFI CT’s letter concludes: “In our view, the ignorance of the Committee and their failure to take steps to inform themselves of relevant information undermine confidence in the pharmacy profession and in the maintenance of proper professional standards and conduct for members of this profession.”