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).

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

[Electronic Intifada feature] Palestinian activist Sheikh Raed Salah’s court victory in his deportation case has implications for both the UK government’s relationships with pro-Israel groups and its anti-terrorism legislation.

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.”

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

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

[Electronic Intifada] 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. A final verdict is expected in the next two weeks.

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.

Continue reading “Raed Salah deportation case disintegrates in UK court, but verdict still to follow”

New Pappe book highlights plight of forgotten Palestinians

[Book review for EI] Historian Ilan Pappe addresses the plight of Palestinians who remained in the new State of Israel following the Nakba in The 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.

Free speech and Palestinian cause a test for UK courts

[The National, opinion] 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.

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

Revealed: UK government plotted with Israel lobby to ban Salah

[Report] The Electronic Intifada has obtained email correspondences between Israeli lobbyists and British governmental officials which prove a plot to ban Palestinian political leader Sheikh Raed Salah from the UK.

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.

 

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

[Court report for Electronic Intifada] Two days of testimonies in the trial of Sheikh Raed Salah reveals that the UK has named as a “principle source” in its deportation case against the Palestinian leader a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semitic.

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.


Palestine is Still the Issue: Why Britain should thank Sheikh Raed Salah

[Ceasefire column] By challenging the government’s attempt to deport him from Britain Sheikh Raed Salah is doing us a favour, argues Asa Winstanley

My fortnightly column in Ceasefire Magazine.

By Asa Winstanley

Sheikh Raed Salah is a Palestinian activist and religious leader famous in the Arab world for leading non-violent demonstrations against Israeli abuses and discrimination in Jerusalem. As leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, he politically represents a significant proportion of the 1948 Palestinians – i.e. the 1.5 million Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship.

Despite numerous attacks on Salah by the Israeli state, including political arrests on trumped-up charges and even – he alleges – an assassination attempt, the Islamic Movement has never been proscribed in Israel since it is a purely political movement. Salah refuses on principle to take part in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) but one faction of his movement does (usually referred to as the “southern branch” of the Islamic movement).

But you would not have known any of this from the hysterical reaction from the British press when he entered the country for a speaking tour last month. He has been demonised by most of the British press – led as usual by the Daily Mail in their never-ending quest for an Islamic immigrant bogeyman. They probably wish he had a hooked hand or an eye patch, but I guess the beard was enough for them.

Salah was arrested on the personal order of Home Secretary Theresa May, despite entering the country legally, with no problems at Heathrow.

Although Zionist bloggers such as Michael Weiss (of the Henry Jackson Society and the pro-Israel propaganda outfit “Just Journalism” – which was apparently named with a straight face) accused Salah of anti-Semitism, his accusations rested on Israeli sources such as discredited translations group MEMRI which was founded by Colonel Yigal Carmon, formerly a high-ranking member of Israeli intelligence. MEMRI refuses as a point of policy to translate from the Hebrew press, preferring instead to select clips that make Arabs and Muslims look bad.

Predictably enough considering the source of the anti-Semitism accusations were Israeli, most of the British press repeated them uncritically and seemingly without checks. Few even bothered to report that Salah denied having made the anti-Semitic statements attributed to him. Because who cares what Muslims say about themselves? Apparently.

But this week a High Court judge released Salah on bail. Not only did Mr Justice Stadlen comment that Salah had entered the country legally, since the Home Secretary’s told no one about her exclusion order until after Salah’s entry (although she now claims she signed it two days prior,) but the Home Office’s barrister admitted as much in court.

What I seemed to be witnessing in court while reporting on the case for Electronic Intifada was the government’s case falling apart. Their list of “unacceptable behaviour” seemed to be either based on anti-Semitic statements uncharacteristic of Salah (statements he strongly denied having made) or farcically lifted from half-hearted Israeli press releases. Indeed: I couldn’t help but suspect that Israel had encouraged the Home Secretary to arrest Salah, and provided material for the list, so flimsy were their “accusations” against him.

For example, they “accused” Salah of being linked to Turkish charity IHH. IHH is a totally legitimate Turkish aid group but it started to be attacked by a barrage of unfounded Zionist smear campaigns after it participated in the first Freedom Flotilla to Gaza last year. Another example of alleged “unacceptable behaviour” strong enough to bar Salah from the country which the government cited was an interview that the Middle East Monitor conducted with Salah in June in which he discussed the Palestinian right of return and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Unsurprisingly (or perhaps surprisingly for those of us who have no faith in the British justice system) the judge found this all unconvincing. He didn’t make a judgement either way on whether or not Salah had actually said the anti-Semitic statements which he denies, since that is for the full judicial review set to take place in September. But he did say he was satisfied Salah’s legal team has a good case.

Despite being unjustly imprisoned for three weeks, despite being wrongly accused of entering the country illegally, and despite being demonised by the British press, Salah is staying in the country to clear his name. He is now free on bail. There is nothing stopping him from returning to Palestine, except for principles. Instead he has chosen to stay in the country under bail restrictions that prevent him from speaking to the public, force him to wear an electric tag, observe a night time curfew and report daily to immigration authorities.

If in the end he manages to clear his name it will be a blow to the government’s claim to a right of political detention. Salah will have done us all a favour by landing a blow to both draconian government measures and media scare-mongering.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” will be published by Pluto Press in October. His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears in Ceasefire every other Saturday. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

 

UK court releases Raed Salah as government case flounders

[Electronic Intifada] After nearly three weeks in British jails, influential Palestinian activist and religious leader Sheikh Raed Salah was conditionally released today. He had been granted bail in the High Court on Friday, where The Electronic Intifada watched as the British government’s case against him floundered.

Originally published by The Electronic Intifada

 

After nearly three weeks in British jails, influential Palestinian activist and religious leader Sheikh Raed Salah was conditionally released today. He had been granted bail in the High Court on Friday, where The Electronic Intifada watched as the British government’s case against him floundered.

Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Salah had been on a speaking tour in the UK when he was abruptly arrested on the way back to his London hotel on the night of 28 June. The full legal case against a government order banning him from the country is likely to be heard in September.

“We will continue to fight the Home Secretary’s exclusion order,” said Salah’s British solicitor Tayab Ali, who described bail as “the first step towards justice.”

In a press release, Daud Abdullah, director of the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), who had invited Salah to Britain to give talks to politicians and academics, said: “We are confident that the release of Sheikh Raed will be the beginning of a successful attempt to exonerate him from the character slurs and allegations that have appeared in some sections of the media.”

Salah was not present at the High Court on Friday, but the small court room was filled with his supporters. Towards the end of a long day of debate, the judge, Mr Justice Stadlen granted bail. He then spent nearly two hours detailing his rationale. He also imposed several restrictive conditions the Home Office had asked for. Salah will have to wear an electronic tag, report daily to an immigration center and observe a 6pm to 9am nighttime curfew. Perhaps most onerously of all, Salah will be barred from speaking to the public. The Electronic Intifada understands that this particular condition will in effect bar Salah from speaking to the press as well.

Arrested during speaking tour

On the night of 28 June, arresting police officers had told Salah he was going to be deported because of immigration offenses. Stadlen noted in summarizing his reasons for granting bail that this point appeared on the police custody record. But a government lawyer admitted in court on Friday that when Salah had entered the country using his Israeli passport on 25 June he had done so legally.

Steven Kovats QC was the barrister presenting objections to Salah’s bail application on behalf of Home Secretary Theresa May. He said since no one had informed Salah of any banning order, he was actually entitled to get on the plane to the UK and “didn’t do anything wrong in doing that.” It was an admission of something his supporters have said all along. In his summary, Stadlen clarified Salah “was admitted lawfully” on a six-month visitor’s visa, and said it was accepted Salah’s entry was not in contravention of an exclusion order.

Some UK journalists and bloggers had falsely accused Salah of entering the country illegally. Salah had no problems with his Israeli passport at Heathrow airport, but anti-immigration sectors of the press used this point to paint a picture of supposedly lax British border controls.

At a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing one week after his arrest, Theresa May claimed she had personally signed an exclusion order on Salah two days before he entered. She said she deemed his presence “not conducive to the public good” since he engaged in “unacceptable behavior” — one of the legal grounds possible under the law on exclusions. May said there would be a “full inquiry” into why “something went wrong” – he was let into the country without even being questioned by the UK Border Agency (Home Affairs Select Committee: The Work of the Home Secretary, 5 July, Parliament TV).

But it became clearer on Friday that Salah had been in the UK on at least four previous occasions between 1997 and 2009, and there had been no objections then from the government. Kovats said the government could not confirm or deny this, saying “we have no record of his movements” in our databases, but did not deny it was true. As an Israeli citizen, Salah does not need to apply for a visa before arriving in the country. Also, said Kovats, his passport was issued in 2011, so contained none of the old arrival stamps.

BDS, refugee rights advocacy “unacceptable behavior”

Raza Husain QC presented a long and detailed argument for bail on behalf of Salah. As it unfolded throughout the morning, refuting the Home Office’s objections in some detail, it became clear that May’s “unacceptable behavior” rationale was indeed a reference to alleged anti-Semitism. Husain made detailed rebuttals of the specific accusations that formed part of the government’s objections to bail.

The British press had circulated accusations of an anti-Semitic “poem” they attributed to Salah. But under instruction from Salah, Husain emphasized he absolutely denies writing the poem and “finds it offensive” because of its anti-Semitic content.

Husain made a point-by-point rebuttal of several accusations of anti-Semitism on behalf of Salah. He categorically denied anti-Semitic statements attributed to him, and contested that several other statements the government had cited were actually examples of legitimate free speech.

The Home Office listed as another example of “unacceptable behavior” an interview with MEMO in which Salah advocated the Palestinian right of return and the boycott divestment and sanctions movement (“Raed Salah: Israel preparing to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,” MEMO interview, 14 June).

The government did not even attempt to contest Husain’s rebuttals. Kovats replied they were not currently in a position to do so. He even admitted there were “disputes of facts” on whether or not Salah had actually said the statements – statements their own objection to bail document seems to have attributed to him. In his summary, Stadlen said he had heard no evidence to support the alleged statements.

Israeli indictments made on same day as UK order

It was also revealed on Friday that on the very same day May now says she signed the exclusion order, 23 June, two indictments against Salah were issued in a Jerusalem court. These related to an allegation of incitement from 2007 and an allegation of “obstructing a Police Officer” from April 2011.

This coincidence, along with Israel-like rationales in the government’s case for objecting to the bail application, seem to back up Salah’s accusation that Israel bears responsibility for his arrest in the UK. For example, the government objection to bail also alleged that Salah has links with the Turkish charity IHH, which they said was alleged to have provided Hamas with aid – a claim rejected by IHH.

The government submissions also alleged Salah has links to Hamas. Husain, acting on instructions from Salah, absolutely denied this. The only evidence the government seemed to present on this point was a statement Hamas had issued on one of its website protesting his arrest.

As a well-known and important Palestinian leader of popular resistance against Israeli discrimination in Jerusalem, Salah’s arrest evoked condemnation from the the whole Palestinian political spectrum, including appointed, UK-recognized West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (“Salam Fayyad says Sheikh Raed’s arrest will harm the PA,” MEMO press release, 30 June).

The government’s case seemed almost farcical at times. At one point, an individual from the Home Office team sitting behind Kovats passed the barrister a note. Kovats then made the point that the continuation of multiple hearings for Salah’s case was attracting unwelcome attention. This seemed to be a reference to the media, but the judge was not impressed. “That’s not a very attractive argument, is it?” said Justice Stadlen, causing the court room to stifle a laugh.

Salah had said soon after his arrest that he “will not yield voluntarily to the deportation” and that his lawyers will fight the court case. He is now seems to be making good on that promise.

At one point, Justice Stadlen read out parts of a transcript in which immigration officials interviewed Salah, asking if he was willing to leave the country. “Where to?” he is said to have replied, “I plan to end this visit.” He was also recorded as laughing, and explaining: “I am happy to go back but I want to finish my visit.”

Friends of Al-Aqsa Chairperson Ismail Patel said in a press release bail was “a tremendous relief. It is worth remembering that this situation was wholly avoidable and the Home Secretary’s arrest of Sheikh Raed Salah and attempt to deport him were not backed up with any firm evidence.” Patel was one of two people putting up bail money totaling £30,000 ($48,000).

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” will be published by Pluto Press in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

UK deportation order against Palestinian leader to be appealed

[Electronic Intifada] After a furor in the British press, a political leader of Palestinian citizens in Israel remains in a British jail tonight. Authorities cut his speaking tour short by arresting him this week.

First published by Electronic Intifada.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 1 July 2011

After a furor in the British press, a political leader of Palestinian citizens in Israel remains in a British jail tonight. Authorities cut his speaking tour short by arresting him this week.

Sheikh Raed Salah said from prison that he “will not yield voluntarily to the deportation” and that his lawyers will challenge it in the courts. Tour organizers said Friday a formal appeal would be lodged by the end of the day.

Activists accuse Israel of putting pressure on the British government to harass Salah, and Salah himself said “Israel carries the full responsibility for his detention in the United Kingdom.”

Leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Salah was arrested and handcuffed by police as he returned to his London hotel from a talk Tuesday night. Yet the UK Border Agency had allowed him to enter the country through Heathrow airport on Saturday, giving no indication anything was wrong.

UK police treated Salah like “a criminal”

Dr. Ibrahim Hamami, a London-based Palestinian activist told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday that Salah had been given until 6 July to file an appeal against his deportation, and would also be able to seek release on bail. Salah had arrived legally on his Israeli passport without even being questioned, tour organizers said.

The police “treated us badly,” said Salah’s translator Hassan Sanalah, who was with him during the arrest. Sanalah told The Electronic Intifada on Thursday that one policeman “tried to push me [and said] ‘don’t interfere, I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the man,’ to Raed Salah. I told him he doesn’t speak English but he didn’t care.” They refused to let Sanalah accompany Salah to the station, and said they would use their own translator.

Tour organizers Lubna Marsawa and Samira Quraishy arrived at the hotel just in time to witness Salah being taken away in a police van.

“You felt for him,” Quraishy told The Electronic Intifada yesterday. “He’s such a lovely man, so humble and so polite and so sweet. I felt so angry.” Quraishy works for the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), a group that organized the tour.

Marsawa, also a Palestinian citizen of Israel, tried without success to accompany Salah in the police van. She described the situation as “very humiliating … arresting someone like him [as if] he was a criminal.”

Marsawa added that police seemed to have have been given information that she and the other organizers were violent people. She described how a police woman ran at her, apparently “scared that I may attack them or something.”

Libel proceedings filed

Salah has been in the UK speaking to the public and politicians about the Arab uprisings, and to help the Palestine Solidarity Campaign launch a new campaign on Jerusalem. Before the arrest he spoke at public meetings in London and Leicester, as well as a roundtable in Parliament with MPs and researchers organized by Liberal Democrat Baroness Jenny Tonge. Organizers were given no notice from authorities there was any problem, said Marsawa.

The arrest came after a campaign this week by pro-Israel bloggers and right-wing tabloids such as the Daily Mail accusing Salah of anti-Semitism, a charge he strongly denies. MEMO said the charges were an “absolute lie and a malicious fabrication” and that Salah’s lawyers had begun libel proceedings against journalists in three British newspapers, including Evening Standard London editor Andrew Gilligan.

Gilligan then claimed on his blog he had received no such legal papers, but the offices of Farooq Bajwa & Co countered Friday by releasing a copy of the letter they had written to to Gilligan on behalf of Salah demanding a retraction (“Who is lying?,” 1 July).

According to Adalah- the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Salah has never been charged with incitement or anti-Semitism in Israel. The accusations of anti-Semitism in the British press cited unreliable sources such as MEMRI, a discredited translation service run by a former member of Israeli intelligence.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting to launch the Jerusalem campaign at the House of Parliament’s Grand Committee Room went ahead in Salah’s absence on Wednesday evening, despite press reports it had been “banned” or moved to “an undisclosed location.”

Was Salah banned?

After the arrest, Home Secretary Theresa May issued a statement on the Home Office website on Wednesday saying Salah “was excluded and that he managed to enter the UK. He has now been detained and the UK Border Agency is now making arrangements to remove him [from the country]” (“Islamic movement leader detained,” 29 June).

Later that day, the Speaker of the House of Commons reported that “The Home Secretary informed me late last night that Sheikh Raed Salah has been arrested with a view to deportation on the ground that his presence is not conducive to the public good” (Hansard, Commons Debates, 29 June, column 978).

Some British journalists and pro-Israel bloggers are claiming he entered the UK in spite of a ban, and that the UK Border Agency had made a mistake. But Sanalah told The Electronic Intifada the police who actually made the arrest did not mention any ban or “exclusion.” They instead talked of “a deportation order against him.”

As late as Monday afternoon, one MP questioning Theresa May in the Commons seemed to think Salah had not yet been banned.

MP Mike Freer, a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “The Home Secretary will be aware that Mr Raed Salah has been invited to speak in the palace precincts [Parliament]. Given this man’s history of virulent anti-Semitism, will the Home Secretary ban him from entering the UK?”

May replied only in general terms about “excluding” visitors whose entry “is not conducive to the public good,” stating that the “Home Office does not routinely comment on individual cases.” There was no specific mention of a ban on Salah (Hansard, Commons Debates, 27 June, column 614).

Mail journalist warned of arrest

Meanwhile, Marsawa accused the Daily Mail of “strange” behavior, and both she and Sanalah spoke of the paper following them around the country. Sanalah said the Mail’s coverage was “politically motivated and racist.” The Mail is well-known in the UK for its anti-immigration editorial positions, and is often accused by critics of Islamophobia.

When Marsawa spoke to Mail journalist Nick Fagge in Leicester he seemed sure Sheikh Salah must have got into the country illegally, she said. Later that day, he said he wanted her to know police may visit Sheikh Salah that night. Marsawa told Salah about the journalist’s warning, but they did not take it seriously. However, when Salah returned to the London hotel with his translator that night he was in fact arrested.

Marsawa says Salah has spoken in Germany, France and Ireland in the past with no such trouble. He has also been in the UK on at least four previous occasions, but had then spoken to mostly Muslim and Arab audiences. “They [only] want the Muslims and the Arabs to make charity, to feed people and to be in the mosques,” Masarwa said.

Marsawa explained that Salah represents a large number of Palestinians in Israel, and was also an important leader for the wider Arab world. He is known as a defender of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and a leader of ongoing peaceful resistance against the occupation of East Jerusalem, Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes and evictions from Palestinian neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah.

Possible previous assassination attempt against Salah

The Islamic Movement is a legal political group in Israel that chooses not to participate in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), although a separate southern faction does stand candidates. Salah has three times been elected mayor of his hometown Umm al-Fahm, one of the largest Palestinian towns in Israel.

“Sheikh Raed was arrested so many times in his life. Israel was looking for a very single small reason to put him in jail … they would love to arrest him,” Masarwa explained.

In May 2010, Salah was on the Mavi Marmara when it was stormed in international waters by Israeli commandos who killed nine persons. Salah claimed at the time Israeli forces had tried to deliberately assassinate him. One of the victims, Ibrahim Bilgen, bore a likeness to Salah (“Did Israel try to assassinate Sheikh Raed Salah on Mavi Marmara but kill a Turkish engineer instead?,” Ali Abunimah’s blog, 2 June 2010).

In its September conclusions, a fact-finding mission dispatched by the UN Human Rights Council said Ibrahim Bilgen had been “one of the first passengers to be shot” by the Israelis “in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution” (“Report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law …,” UN Human Rights Council Fifteenth Session, A/HRC/15/21, p 29, 37 [PDF]).

UK changing law to accomodate Israeli war crimes suspects

British foreign policy in recent years has been generally regarded as less warm to Israel than in other European states. But the country is moving to change its law to accomodate Israeli war crimes suspects.

Activists and lawyers have tried to use British universal jurisdiction laws to hold accountable high-profile Israeli political and military figures accused of war crimes such as Tzipni Livni, Dan Meridor and Major General Doron Almog. All have had to cancel trips to the UK after judges issued warrants against them.

Both the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government and the previous Labor government under Gordon Brown moved to change the law so that the government will be able to stop such prosecutions. In April the changes passed in the House of Commons and the law has now gone to the House of Lords for final approval. Critics say the changes will make it far more difficult to bring anyone accused of serious human rights violations before British courts.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation will be published by Pluto Press in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.