Tag Archives: 1948 Palestinians

Feature on 1948 Palestinian Right Of Return march

Palestinians assert right to return on Israeli “Independence Day”. Published by the Electronic Intifada, 1 May:

Abir Kopty, also from Nazareth, frequently takes part in demonstrations all over occupied Palestine. She has taken part in the March of Return every year for the last ten years. “It’s important as a Palestinian, especially during the Independence Day of Israel, while Israelis are celebrating, to tell them that your celebration is actually on the ruins of my people,” she said.

The full article is here (photo above is by me).

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Court victory for Raed Salah deals blow to UK “anti-terror” policy

Published by The Electronic Intifada and protected by copyright. Republished with permission.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | Ramallah | 9 April 2012

After nearly ten months fighting to clear his name in UK courts, Palestinian activist Sheikh Raed Salah won his case against deportation on Saturday.

Salah is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, a political and religious organization. Upper tribunal judge Mark Ockelton ruled that Sheikh Salah’s appeal succeeded “on all grounds.”

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Raed Salah deportation case disintegrates in UK court, but verdict still to follow

Published by Electronic Intifada and protected by copyright. Republished with permission.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 15 February 2012

The judge heading the panel assessing whether Palestinian civil rights leader Sheikh Raed Salah can be deported from the UK has cast serious doubt on the British government’s case.

CMG Ockelton, an immigration judge, said on 8 February that the original text of a poem by Salah was “completely different” from how it appeared in a government order banning him from UK territory. The original banning order had accused Salah of anti-Semitism, citing an altered version of the poem.

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New Pappe book highlights plight of forgotten Palestinians

Published by the Electronic Intifada, 7 December.

Asa Winstanley| The Electronic Intifada | 7 December 2011

After the Nakba, Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing operations, only approximately 160,000 Palestinians were left within the borders of what became Israel. Their numbers grew to 600,000 by the mid-1980s (152), and to about 1.2 million today. They struggled for Israeli citizenship, and won the right to vote in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), but were kept under the thumb of strict military rule until 1966.

Thanks partly to the growing international notoriety of their representatives and activists (such as current and former members of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi and the exiled Azmi Bishara) in recent years there has been more attention paid to the situation of these Palestinians. But in the western solidarity movement, there is still a learning process to be had of understanding that “the Palestinians” includes more than the people of the West Bank and Gaza. As such The Forgotten Palestinians, Ilan Pappe’s latest work of popular history, is a welcome contribution.

Pappe contextualizes the book as almost a sequel to his most celebrated work: “this book continues my research on Palestine and Israel, which I began in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). It is only through a history of the Palestinian minority in Israel that one can imagine the extent to which the long-lived Zionist and Israeli desire for ethnic supremacy and exclusivity has brought about the current reality on the ground” (11). This approach very much pays off. Through the prism of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, Pappe explores the general Palestinian condition.

The Forgotten Palestinians ably displays Pappe’s main strength: his ability to relate a strong historical narrative. He ties many threads together, giving some much-needed perspective.

The Nakba, continued

Pappe addresses the plight of Palestinians who remained in the new State of Israel following the Nakba. In urban areas, “cordoned off with wire and fences,” Pappe writes that there were Israeli “attempts to concentrate Palestinians who had lost their homes but remained within the boundaries of the hometown … supervised by Israeli officers, who called these confinement areas ‘ghettos.’” These “ghettos” would not disappear until 1950 (18).

Like the rest of the scattered Palestinian community at large, this was a deeply traumatized people. “If they lived in rural areas, they belonged to a hundred and so villages left intact out of more than five hundred whose inhabitants were evicted and in 1949 were wiped out by the Israeli tractors, turning them into either recreation parks or Jewish settlements,” Pappe states (19). The ethnic cleansing operations went on into the 1950s.

Characteristic of Pappe, there are plenty of challenges here to the idea of “left wing” Zionism, including: “the [Palestinian] people of Khirbet Jalami, who were evicted following a demand by the newly founded left-wing kibbutz of Lehavot Haviva in March 1950” (34).

In this early phase (1948-57), even the presence of the Palestinians in Israel was under threat: “the very existence of the community was in question. Their presence was regarded by important figures in the Israeli regime as ‘unfinished business,’ and quite a few of the politicians and heads of the security services still contemplated the removal of the Palestinian citizens from the Jewish state” (47).

This threat later receded somewhat, but it never truly went away, and has very much been revived during the rise of Avigdor Lieberman, arch-racist and current foreign minister of Israel, whose party Yisrael Beiteinu made electoral gains by calling for Palestinians citizens to be made to swear oaths committing to a Jewish state, with the slogan “no loyalty – no citizenship.”

In October 2010, Pappe records, “Israeli police simulated a scenario whereby parts of Israel in which Palestinians lived were appended to the West Bank — while the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank were incorporated into the Jewish state” (5).

Pappe says it was only in 1958 that the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion “conceded in an official document that the option of transfer was not applicable any more” (31).

By 1955, Ben-Gurion’s second “advisor on Arab affairs” Shemuel Divon would have to concede that “There is no way the Arabs of Israel will be loyal to the state. It would have been advantageous if the state could either expel them or convert them to Judaism, but these are not realistic options” (31). Ben-Gurion seemed to agree (33). It is very interesting that Zionist leaders still entertained the delusion that Palestinians could be converted to Judaism late into the 1950s. This is also quite a challenge to the narrative of “secular” Israel.

All this goes some way to explain why the community’s struggle in this first phase was not for national or cultural rights as Palestinians, but simply to stay in their homes and to win citizenship.

The struggle for citizenship

In its propaganda, Israel likes to boast that it benevolently gave its “Arab Israelis” citizenship. But something that comes across strongly in this book is the extent to which this is not true: many had to struggle for even this basic right.

In 1953, the new Israeli citizenship law cynically declared that only those registered in the November 1948 census would be automatically given citizenship. Partly because Israel did not yet have full military control, “out of 160,000 Palestinians, 100,000 were not registered by November 1948.”

This was a racist law, because it did not apply to Jews (from anywhere in the world) who are still automatically granted citizenship under the “Law of Return.” The upshot of this was that a majority of the “Arab Israelis” were not benevolently “granted” citizenship as Israel likes to claim, but in fact had to struggle for it, often in the courts (35-7).

The military regime in the 1948 areas

Another key challenge to the Israeli narrative of democracy is that, until 1966 it kept its Arab citizens under a military rule similar to that now in effect in the West Bank. This is still a traumatic memory for people in the community until this day.

Making use of British Mandate laws, “the [military] governor had the right to arrest people without a warrant and detain them without trial for long periods; he could ban their entrance to a place or expel them from their homes; he could also confine them under house arrest. He could close schools, businesses, newspapers and journals, and prohibit demonstrations or protests” (49).

Amazingly, many of these laws are still on the books, and the army still has the power to declare parts of the country “closed military zones.” Since 1996 a legal change has required an annual renewal of the laws (264).

In the 1950s, a special committee met to coordinate military rule. At its first meeting, the Palestinian citizens were defined as a “hostile community” that needed to be closely watched, a “fifth column.” Members of the committee included agents of the Shin Bet (Shabak), the Israeli General Security Service; the prime minister’s advisor on Arab affairs; officials from the military rule unit and, interestingly, representatives from the Histadrut — Israel’s general trade union (which until 1953 banned Arabs from membership (69). This committee met until the end of military rule in 1966 (48-9).

The Palestinian citizens of Israel today

The book spans the complete historical narrative of the Palestinians of 1948, bringing things right into the present day. Pappe concludes that, although the 1950s threat to expel the remaining Palestinians from Israel was later backed away from, this thinking has returned. The head of the regional council of lower Galilee, Motti Dotan (from the “left-wing” Zionist Labor party) in 2008 said, “If we lose the Jewish majority in the Galilee this is the end of the Jewish state … I would like to imagine a Galilee without Arabs: no thefts, no crimes … we will have a normal life” (257).

If the book has a weakness, it is something about which I have criticized Pappe’s work previously: sometimes there is lack of direct quotes. One is left to trust in the historian’s judgment. This does make for a more readable, flowing narrative, but I would have liked more specifics at times. For example, he says that the Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua “famously invited [Palestinian novelist Anton] Shammas to leave the country if he was unhappy with the Zionist regime and the success of Jews in dispossessing the Palestinians” (190). I would have liked to have read the exact words of Yehoshua here.

Apart from this and a few other very minor quibbles, I have no hesitation in recommending this book. It’s a great read, especially for those new to the topic. Those more familiar with the situation will still learn new things, and gain some important perspectives on the situation and history of this neglected, but key part of the Palestinian people.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who writes about Palestine. He edited the new book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation and regularly contributes to The Electronic Intifada, where he also has a blog. His general website is www.winstanleys.org.

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Free speech and Palestinian cause a test for UK courts

Published in The National.

Last month, a British immigration court decided that Sheikh Raed Salah, a popular Palestinian leader, could be deported. Sheikh Salah has lodged an appeal in a higher court, hoping to block his removal.

But he is no asylum seeker, and has no desire to live in Britain. Sheikh Salah is appealing in order to clear his name of anti-Semitism slurs. He also says deportation would be used by the Israeli authorities to continue a campaign of politically motivated arrests.

Described by supporters as “The Gandhi of Palestine”, Raed Salah is leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel. His group is one of the most popular political forces among Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinians. He is renowned in the Arab and Muslim worlds for a popular campaign in defence of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque against Israeli encroachment.

He was visiting the UK for a speaking tour, and entered legally using his Israeli passport on June 25. He spoke at public events in London and Leicester, as well as a roundtable in Parliament organised by the Liberal Democrat peer  Jenny Tonge.

But three days after his arrival, Sheikh Salah was abruptly arrested by officers from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for “immigration offences”. This stopped him attending a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting titled “Building Peace and Justice in Jerusalem” at Parliament’s Grand Committee room. He had been due to speak there on June 29.

How is it that an Israeli passport holder legally entering the UK – invited to speak to British lawmakers – can be arrested for immigration offences?

 

It turned out that Home Secretary Theresa May had on June  23 secretly banned the sheikh from the country. But the Home Office failed to inform either him or his people. In the 24 hours before his arrest, the notoriously raucous press got wind of the story and started putting out lurid stories of a “banned extremist” who had “waltzed” through Heathrow Airport border controls.

Sheikh Salah was detained for almost three weeks, released on conditional bail only after an appeal to the High Court. In September, a judicial review found his arrest and part of his imprisonment to have been unlawful (he had not actually committed immigration offences, as government lawyers were forced to admit).

But the case didn’t end there. Now the government is seeking to deport Sheikh Salah from the country “at the earliest opportunity”. What were they actually accusing him of?

The government has banned Sheikh Salah because his presence is deemed “unconducive to the public good” due to alleged “unacceptable behaviour”. This a part of the controversial “prevent” anti-terrorism strategy, brought in under a Labour government, but expanded by the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

This elastic term “unacceptable behaviour” is a reference to allegations of anti-Semitism circulated by right-wing and pro-Israel bloggers before the Sheikh’s arrival.

 

But these allegations were based on deeply flawed evidence at best, and outright fraud at worst.

In the exclusion order, the central justification for the ban is the accusation that he wrote a poem beginning with the line: “You Jews are criminal bombers of Mosques”.

But in fact, this line first appeared in a 2009 Jerusalem Post editorial which both the exclusion and deportation orders pointed to as their source. The Post cited an Islamic Movement periodical as the source of its quote, but a look at the original reveals that portions were altered and misrepresented.

An Arabic poem Sheikh Salah did write several years ago, called A message to the oppressors, was also grossly distorted and recast as a racist attack on Jews – when in fact it was no such thing.

The editors of the Jerusalem Post are not exactly known for their sympathy towards Palestinian political activism, so you’d think the Home Office would have checked the quote. But the UKBA case worker responsible admitted under cross- examination that the agency had not been aware of the original text.

After being presented with the evidence, the judges who made the First Tier Tribunal ruling in favour of deportation conceded that the original poem was not racist. They said they “must accept” expert evidence the poem was “not directed at the Jewish people as a whole but only at those among them who aim at Israeli territorial expansion and control at the expense of the Palestinians”.

The tribunal’s decision to allow the deportation is both deeply flawed and politically motivated.

Anticipating criticism, the judges defensively wrote: “It is not our task to rubber stamp” government decisions. Nevertheless, they write, it was “not our responsibility to find that the Secretary of State has proved each item of evidence upon which she relies”.

It seems that when it comes to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, the British government considers them guilty until proven innocent. Or in this case, guilty when proven innocent.

The UKBA has insisted the case was purely about “protecting the public”. But the judges expressed “concern that apparently the Secretary of State did not consult with any Muslim or Palestinian organisations”. They did not consult Jewish groups critical of Israel either.

Should this ruling be upheld in higher courts it would set a deeply worrying precedent for the British justice system. It means visitors accused by politicians of “unacceptable behaviour” can be expelled from the country, even when accusations against them are proven wrong in a court of law.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London. He edited the newly-released book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation

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Revealed: UK government plotted with Israel lobby to ban Salah

Exclusive to Electronic Intifada.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | Birmingham | 6 October 2011

As Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah’s appeal against deportation concluded in a Birmingham court this week, new details of the UK government’s deep links to the Israel lobby have emerged.

This follows a separate High Court ruling in London on 30 September, when a judicial review into the government’s June imprisonment of Salah ruled he was entitled to damages for “wrongful detention.”

While a panel of two immigration judges is expected to deliver a verdict within 10 days of the hearing, internal government emails obtained by The Electronic Intifada show Home Secretary Theresa May moved quickly to ban Salah not long after the pro-Israel group Community Security Trust (CST) sent a secret report on him. The report contained quotes ascribed to Salah with the word “Jews” inserted into his rhetorical attacks on Israeli occupation forces, in an attempt to paint him as an anti-Semite.

In court on Monday, government barrister Neil Sheldon said, “There is no question of this being a doctored quote, or a cooked-up quote,” although he conceded that the words “Jews” did not appear in the original poem written by Salah. AJerusalem Post report cited by the government against Salah “may well have got it wrong,” Sheldon stated (“Civil Liberties,” 20 June 2009).

But Sheldon seemed to argue that this fact did not matter because that is how the poem was reported in a “respectable media outlet in Israel.”

This and other similar misquotes were then used by May as a principle source for her banning order against Salah. Salah entered the UK legally on 23 June. Neither he nor his organizers were aware of the ban, because the government had not managed to serve it on him in time.

Conservative Party funder on board of group that pushed for Salah to be banned

The Electronic Intifada can reveal that Poju Zabludowicz, a billionaire real estate magnate who bankrolls the ruling Conservative Party (to which May belongs), is named as a CST board member in a report by an expert witnesses called by Salah’s lawyers. The emails obtained by The Electronic Intifada appear to show that CST played a key role in the banning of Salah.

As well as personally funding UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, Zabludowicz’s family used to own Israeli arms company Soltam (now part of Elbit). And he has owned a minority holding in British Israel, a company with several malls — including one in the illegal West Bank settlement Maaleh Adumim.

David Miller, a sociology professor from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, was called by Salah’s lawyers to testify as an expert witness in the case. His report on the CST was entered into evidence. It includes a list names of the CST advisory board from June 2010. In court, he said the list was available in the public domain, and later showed The Electronic Intifada where it could be viewed publicly.

A spokesperson for the CST refused to comment when asked by The Electronic Intifada if Zabludowicz or several other members of the list were still board members. Sheldon said Miller’s conclusions that the CST is not a reliable source on the matter belied the list, which includes several members of parliament, lords and former and current senior police officers.

Pro-Israel group CST pushed privately for Salah to be banned

In a 17 June email to the deputy director of the Special Cases Directorate (SCD) of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), Michael Whine, a CST director, said he was writing following the request of an official from another government department. Whine attached a CST report on Salah “who plans a speaking tour of the UK from the end of next week.”

The report claimed that Salah’s “record of provocative acts and statements carry a risk that his presence in the UK could well have a radicalizing impact on his audiences.”

Only 17 minutes after this report was sent, Faye Johnson, Theresa May’s private secretary, emailed SCD Director Andrew Jackson about “a parliamentary event on 29 June” at which Salah was due to speak. Johnson then asked if there was “anything that we can do to prevent him from attending (e.g. could we exclude him on the grounds of unacceptable behavior?).” It is not clear where May had first heard about Salah.

A few hours later, Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng at the SCD sent an email askingUKBA colleagues for more information on Salah that could be used to exclude him. But it seems this request was a token, as Rosenorn-Lanng insisted he would be “going with what I’ve got in any event” — seemingly a reference to the CSTreport on Salah.

Pro-Israel lobby group asked for court sources

The previous Monday, Rosenorn-Lanng was the only witness called by the government lawyers in their response to the appeal. Under cross-examination, he had said that, although he was “not expected to be an expert on the actual issues I’m dealing with,” the recommendations he presented to the Home Secretary on exclusions from the UK were checked by people who were experts.

In court, Sheldon also named pro-Israel lobby group the Board of Deputies of British Jews as a further source for the document put together by Rosenorn-Lanng. This document led to May personally signing the order for Salah’s exclusion from the UK.

But it’s likely this is a confusion borne of out of Michael Whine’s dual roles at both the CST and the Board of Deputies. As well as being director of “Government and International Affairs” at the CST, Whine also holds a director’s position at the Board of Deputies and has written a journal article for the CST on European governmental responsibility toward “combating anti-Semitism” (“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Diplomatic Progress in Combating Antisemitism,” 2010 [PDF]).

Although Whine sent the report on Salah from a CST email address on 17 June, and with the CST mentioned in his signature, the deputy director of the SCDreferred to him as “Mike Whine at the Board of Deputies.”

Although CST predecessor, the Community Security Organization, used to be part of the Board of Deputies, the CST established itself as a charity independent of the Board in 1994 following certain changes in charity law. The CST was granted a special dispensation by the Charity Commission allowing it to withhold public release of the names of its trustees.

Goverment’s only source was anti-Palestinian group

Salah’s barrister Raza Husain had asked why Salah’s hosts in the country had not been consulted by the government or their advice sought on Salah. He also asked why they had not consulted a group like Jews For Justice For Palestinians, who issued a statement in favor of Salah’s right to speak in the country.

Pressed by Husain on this point over the whole three days of hearings, the government was unable to point to a single outside group whose advice it had drawn on, apart from the CST and the Board of Deputies (taken in the context of the emails, it seems both were via Whine).

Husain told the court he was not aware of any primary document in the report to Theresa May compiled by Rosenorn-Lanng that was not from the CST (apart from a “communities impact assessment” from the another government department). Sheldon’s reply was that, if that was the state of the evidence, “that’s the evidence.”

He later said it was “simply not the case” that everything from the CST was “taken at face value,” and he gave the example that a CST report referred to Salah’s presence on the Mavi Marmara as part of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Rosenorn-Lanng had said the government discounted an accusation used in a CSTsubmission that Salah might have been involved in indoctrination that led to an attack on Israeli naval commandos as a “rumor.”

But it also emerges from the emails that even May recognized that the case was “very finely balanced.” May’s private secretary Faye Johnson said as much in an email dated 23 June, 4:26pm, to SCD Deputy Director Rod McLean, thanking him for his submission. This submission is seemingly the documents assembled by Rosenorn-Lanng, who had in court described the CST as a “principal source.” But once Salah had been arrested on 28 June, some civil servants advised May against deportation because he had a ticket to leave the country on 5 July anyway, and arrest would only attract more attention to the case.

Husain’s argument was: if the case was so finely balanced even when only a report from a group biased against Salah had been received, how did the scales tip now that Salah’s side of the story had been heard in court?

Salah’s exclusion order an an affront to free speech

Sheldon’s argument was that the exclusion decision taken by May was something she is democratically accountable for, and that the Tribunal should be “very slow” to substitute its own view for hers, because it had an incomplete jurisdiction. He argued that the accusations against Salah in the document assembled by Rosenorn-Lanng were not counts of an indictment that had to be proved, and that the question for the Tribunal was, was there sufficient evidence for May to base her decision on. He characterized the evidence as disputed.

Husain took exception to that, saying the judges had to deal with the material on its own terms. He argued that the true aim of the exclusion order was to block free speech, pointing to Faye Johnson’s emailed reference to Salah’s scheduled meeting in the Houses of Parliament.

Sheldon argued that Salah’s presence in the country would have the effect of radicalizing “elements of the Muslim community.” Sheldon said Salah had been convicted in Israel of funding charities linked to Hamas and that it was a misrepresentation of a revised indictment to say this related only to charitable work.

Asked by The Electronic Intifada for a response to the accusations heard in court, Mark Gardner of the CST wrote, “It is a disgraceful slur to claim that CST’s attitudes to antisemitism are based upon the assumed religion or ethnicity of those concerned. We completely reject any insinuation that CST used ‘doctored’ quotes. You should note that there was a Guardian article which carried similar accusations to those you are making. They changed it following our legal intervention.”

This last comment seems to be a reference to a Guardian article by David Hearst, who also had access to some of the government emails, to which an amendment notice is appended (“May warned of weak case against Sheikh Raed Salah,” 26 September 2011).

Should Salah win his appeal, the government is likely to challenge the ruling. Since he is a well-known leader of peaceful popular resistance against the Israeli occupation, UK government collusion with Israeli authorities has already caused a great deal of damage to Britain’s reputation in the Arab world. A deportation would only increase such damage.

When the law has just been changed to allow Israel’s former foreign minister and war crimes suspect Tzipi Livni to freely visit Britain even while Salah remains on restrictive bail, one can accuse the UK of rank hypocrisy.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation,” out in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

 

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UK government conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in Salah trial

Published by Electronic Intifada.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | Birmingham | 30 September 2011

Renowned Palestinian activist and religious leader Sheikh Raed Salah was at theUK’s Sheldon immigration court in Birmingham this week. His appeal against the government’s decision in June to ban him from the country is now being heard in earnest, with testimonies from Salah and several expert witnesses on Monday and Tuesday. In a related development, the High Court in London today ruled that part of Salah’s dention in June was unlawful.

For the first time, the government named as a “principle source” in its case against Salah the Community Security Trust (CST), a registered British charity with a record of smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semitic, and the only non-government source named in court. A day-one promise to check on further sources was not fulfilled on the second day.

Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Salah entered the UK legally on 25 June for a speaking tour that included the Houses of Parliament. While Home Secretary Theresa May later said she banned him on 23 June, the Home Office now admits it had not told anyone about the exclusion order — least of all Salah or his tour organizers.

Salah was arrested on 28 June and detained for almost three weeks until released by a High Court judge on restrictive bail conditions. The Home Office is seeking to deport him, but were initially blocked from doing so when Salah launched an appeal.

The Electronic Intifada was in Birmingham, closely following the two-day proceedings. A panel consisting of Senior Immigration Judge N.W. Renton and Immigration Judge C.J. Lloyd listened quietly as witnesses were called by the legal teams of Salah and the Home Office.

Day one: Government witness cross-examined at length

Acting for the government, barrister Neil Sheldon called a single witness: Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng, a senior case worker with the UK Border Agency (orUKBA, a part of the Home Office). Acting for Salah, Raza Husain then spent almost the entire day Monday cross-examining Rosenorn-Lanng.

Rosenorn-Lanng was the case worker from the UKBA’s Special Cases Directorate who prepared the secret document presented to the Home Secretary used as the basis for the exclusion order against Salah. Although he repeatedly emphasized under cross-examination that he was just a case worker and “would not pretend to be an expert at all” on Israel and the Palestinians, he said evidence he presents to the Home Secretary in such cases is always checked by experts in the relevant country or by “community experts.”

Husain pressed him to reveal precisely who had first asked for Salah to be banned from the UK, and who were the sources. Rosenorn-Lanng said he didn’t know how the case first came to the attention of the Home Secretary, but he claimed “the Jewish community” had felt threatened by Salah’s presence. Husain asked who exactly he meant by “the Jewish community,” pointing to several passages from the document. Rosenorn-Lanng confirmed four specific portions were obtained either directly from the CST, or from the CST via the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government.

Husain then questioned the credibility of the CST, citing the testimony of their witness Dr. Robert Lambert, retired head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit. Dr. Lambert testified that the CST “often tends to be biased” when it comes to Muslim criticisms of Israel, regularly conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Rosenorn-Lanng said the UK government considers the group to be “fair and balanced.” At one point he commented that “we haven’t used every single thing the CST sent to us” and also pointed to a “small [UKBA] research team that has access to a number of websites.”

Salah’s attorney pressed Rosenorn-Lanng on places the CST (and hence also theUKBA) had misquoted, misrepresented and taken out of context Salah’s words to make it appear as if he was an anti-Semite. The UKBA document even has quotes from Salah in which the word “Jews” is inserted, it was said in court. Husain asked if the witnesses considered it misleading that in one version of a quote he had rendered the words “you Jews” outside of quote marks whereas in another version it was inside quote marks. Rosenorn-Lanng said it wasn’t misleading, characterizing it as a different presentation based on updated evidence.

Husain said the actual target of Salah’s condemnation was not Jews in general but the Israeli state, saying he was clearly not referring to notable Jewish critics of Israel such as Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe or Geoffrey Bindman (a British lawyer who put up some bail money for Salah).

Rosenorn-Lanng attempted to defend the credibility of the CST, at one point making the Freudian slip of describing it as a “eminent Israeli organization” before correcting himself that he meant to say “eminent Jewish organization.”

Salah accuses his critics of deliberately misquoting him

On Tuesday, proceedings accelerated as Salah’s team squeezed three DVDs of video evidence and all four of its witnesses in before the end of the two-day slot allocated by the court system. Dr. Stefan Sperl, an expert in Arabic poetry from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, gave an analysis of the original text of a poem by Salah called “A Message to the Oppressors” saying it was addressed to all “perpetrators of injustice,” whether Jews or not. He said aJerusalem Post article characterizing it as anti-Semitic was deliberately misleading. A version with the words “you Jews” inserted into the poem seems to have been used in the UKBA document.

Dr. Lambert, the retired head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit, testified in person that while the CST had a good record in the realm of public safety in terms of its role in providing security for Jewish communities, it was difficult for it to understand that legitimate political grievances with Israel and anti-Zionism were quite distinct from anti-Semitism.

David Miller, a sociology professor from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, submitted his report on the CST as part of the evidence, and provided a copy of that report to The Electronic Intifada. It gives a short history of the CST and its “controversial monitoring of pro-Palestinian activists,” summarizing that it has a “tendency to treat denunciation of Israel or Zionism as evidence of anti-Semitism.”

Although perhaps most famous for its role in recording anti-Semitic incidents, and providing security for the UK Jewish community, the CST has been accused by some in that community of having a deeply pro-Israel agenda. Tony Greenstein, an anti-Zionist activist and blogger with a strong record of criticizing anti-Semites, has written about occasions when CST security have removed or barred Jewish anti-Zionists from public meetings. Greenstein also says the CST refused to record an anti-Semitic attack left on his blog because the commenter was a Zionist (see “CST Thugs Violently Eject 2 Jewish People from Zionist ‘Environmental’ Meeting”, “Community Security Thugs Bar Jewish Opponents of Gaza War from Liberal Judaism Meeting” and “When is an anti-semitic attack not anti-semitic? When it’s a Zionist who is being anti-Jewish,” Tony Greenstein’s blog).

But the centerpiece of the second day was the testimony of Raed Salah himself. Confidently speaking through a court translator, Salah assertively challenged Sheldon’s cross-examination and the government evidence for misrepresenting his words. On several occasions, he challenged Sheldon to quote him more fully and in context, questioning why he stopped some quotationss short.

For example, the words “you Jews” had been inserted into the original text of Salah’s poem (without even square brackets), seemingly by the Israeli press (“Civil liberties, The Jerusalem Post,” 20 June 2009).

That Jerusalem Post article was cited by UK bloggers who campaigned against Salah, such as Michael Weiss, to misleadingly portray him as an anti-Semite. Rosenorn-Lanng had earlier admitted that the UKBA had not sought the original text of the poem, relying instead on Internet sources (“PSC comes to Parliament …,” The Telegraph politics blog, 29 June 2011).

But Salah was clear that the poem was addressed to all perpetrators of injustice, regardless of religion, race or group. He pointed out that his poem also addressed Arab oppressors with certain references to the Quran, and also addresses Pharaoh as an oppressor. Salah said according to a certain historical interpretation of the Biblical and Quranic stories, Pharaoh was an Arab. And that he had oppressed the followers of Moses. “God is not a racist,” Salah said.

Aside from the mangled version of his poem, the other main citation the government gave was a speech Salah gave in Jerusalem in 2007, in which he had talked about Israeli soldiers shedding the blood of Palestinians. The citation had reportedly included the line: “Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the holy bread.”

Hostile press coverage in Israel inserted the word “Jewish” in square brackets before the words “holy bread” (“Islamic Movement head charged with incitement to racism, violence,” Haaretz, 29 January 2008).

But Salah’s legal team argued that he was actually referring to the Spanish Inquisition.

When Sheldon accused Salah of invoking the classically anti-Semitic blood libel, Salah countered: “this interpretation is out of bounds, and has no origin in fact.” He then went into some detail, saying that his purpose had been to liken the Israeli occupation forces to the inquisitions in Europe that used to shed the blood of children, and which used religion to perpetuate injustice.

Another government accusation against Salah was that he had encouraged Palestinians to become “shahids” (martyrs) in defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Rosenorn-Lanng had repeatedly used the Arabic word instead of the obvious translation. Salah again patiently went into some detail to explain the meaning of the word martyr. He clearly stated that, should the Israelis ever demolish al-Aqsa Mosque, he and other Muslims would refuse to leave the mosque, even it it meant their martyrdom at the hands of the Israelis.

There was a similar government attempt to misrepresent the word “intifada,” which Sheldon classified as dangerous language. Salah explained he was referring to a civic uprising against injustice, and as proof of this pointed to his call in the relevant speech to lawyers, heads of state, scholars and political parties to join the intifada.

At the end of the second day, the hearing was adjourned until Monday, 3 October, when the two attorneys will sum up their cases. After that, a judgment is expected within ten days.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Raed Salah is still living in London on bail, and must regularly report to the authorities, wear an electronic tag, refrain from addressing the public and observe a night-time curfew. Salah could return to Palestine if he chooses, but is staying in order to clear his name, and challenge the government ban.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation”, out in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.


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