UK government conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in Salah trial
Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada
Birmingham – Renowned Palestinian activist and religious leader Sheikh Raed Salah was at the UK’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 detention 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 (or UKBA, 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 the UKBA) 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 an “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 a Jerusalem 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 center-piece 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 quotations 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 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.
Statement from Jews for Justice for Palestinians on behalf of Sheikh Raed Salah
20 September 2011
Jews for Justice for Palestinians would like to submit a statement on behalf of Sheikh Raed Salah, who we understand is appealing the decision of the Home Secretary to ban and then to deport him.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians is an organization of 1600 signatories, the largest Jewish peace and justice organization in Europe. Among our signatories are university professors, serving and retired, teachers, doctors, human rights activists, lawyers, business people, retired people, students, media workers and people from all walks of life. We are religious and secular, Zionist, and not. We believe we represent the full spectrum of Jewish life in the United Kingdom. We share a commitment to the values of universal human rights, which, in our view, remain the best protection for all minorities, including Jewish people.
When we heard that Sheikh Salah was arrested and threatened with deportation, we were most concerned and made a public statement as follows
Jews for Justice for Palestinians wish to make the strongest possible objection to the arrest and possible deportation of Sheikh Raed Salah. Over the last three days, Sheikh Salah has been addressing public meetings and has even appeared in the Houses of Parliament. It is difficult to understand how the Government could suddenly have become so agitated by his presence.
We note the reason for his arrest is that ‘his presence is not conducive to the public good’. We say on the contrary, his arrest and deportation would certainly not be conducive to the public good. We note that the press has been making scurrilous accusations against him, which are subject to a libel action. This would be difficult to pursue, were he to be deported, thus undermining the judicial process. We have been unable to find any substance to the allegations of anti-Semitism made against him. He appeared recently on a platform in Tel Aviv University which upheld his right to speak there. One does not have to agree with someone to allow them the right to speak. We believe the decision of the Home Secretary sends exactly the wrong message to the people of this country, namely that Free Speech is a moveable feast, once those with certain interests make a decision as to entitlement. Furthermore, we believe this decision will have most unfortunate consequences for community cohesion in this country, targeting as it does someone with a strong following in the Muslim community.
It is our understanding that the reason the Home Office decided to ban Sheikh Raed Salah and subsequently to deport him, was that representations were made to Her Majesty’s Government by the Community Security Trust. We understand that they submitted evidence that his presence would not be conducive to the public good, because of anti-Semitic statements he is alleged to have made.
As we said at the time, we ourselves are unable to find any substance to the allegations of anti-Semitism made against him and fear that this accusation is being used to silence views that some people do not want to hear. We repeat: one does not have to agree with someone to allow them the right to speak.
We note that currently there is a tendency for supporters of Israeli state policies to talk about ‘the new anti-Semitism’. By this they seem to mean ‘singling Israel out for unfair criticism’. But very often any criticism is deemed unfair and is liable to be tarnished with the label ‘anti-Semitism’.
It is our view that Israel, like every other country, has a responsibility to International Law and International Humanitarian Law. When it contravenes these principles, as Israel does so blatantly with its ongoing occupation and discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, it is our responsibility, particularly as a Jewish organization, to bring this to public attention. Israel calls itself ‘the Jewish state’ and its politicians have publicly stated that they act in the name of all Jews. Therefore as Jews we feel a particular onus to challenge Israel’s policies, which in our view contravene Jewish ethical precepts. Thus we would strongly challenge any submission made by organizations which use the canard of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of Israel. We share this position with many Jewish organizations and Jewish individuals who are committed to human rights and to international law. It is our view that to pretend that all Jews have one opinion with respect to Israel itself smacks of racism.
We understand that one of the reasons for the Home Office to act against Sheikh Salah is that the Community Security Trust has made representations to the Government to assert that Sheikh Salah is an anti-Semite.
We believe that the Community Security Trust does good work in protecting Jewish communal groups from attack and in documenting instances of anti-Semitism. But we also feel that it exaggerates the danger of anti-Semitism when it comes to dealing with criticism of Israeli policy and thus reinforces a sense that Jews are under constant threat, which we feel is misplaced and makes people more frightened than they need be. Seeing anti-Semitism so widely in relation to criticism of Israel devalues the very concept; and makes the fight against genuine anti-Semitism harder not easier.
We are concerned to discover that while the Community Security Trust made strong representations to the Government against Sheikh Salah, who is on record as a very strong critic of Israel, the organisation, to the best of our knowledge, said nothing about the arrival of Pastor John Hagee, a man who is on record as welcoming the Holocaust, as God’s will. His views about Jews are so extreme that John McCain, the Presidential contender, distanced himself from the man. We can only assume that the double standards here in evidence were the result of the fact that Hagee is a strong supporter of the Israeli state.
It is our belief that it is wrong to allow any one group to have privileged access to the Government and thus to represent all Jewish voices, when it is obvious that there is a wide spectrum of views within the community which needs to be considered.
Community Security Trust supplies False Information to Deport Sheikh Raed Salah
CST – Funded by Richard Desmond – Supporter of the Fascist EDL
Tony Greenstein, the gabber.org
When this blog was first established in January 2008 it was in the middle of the battle against a few anti-Semites on Indymedia who were determined to post the ravings of Gilad Atzmon. The blog described itself unashamedly as ‘Socialist, anti-Zionist and anti-racist’.
My targets have been racism, with a special and particular interest on the Apartheid State of Israel and even more so on the rabid racism of its ultra nationalist Nazi Rabbis like Dov Lior and Yitzhak Shapira.
But I also sought to ensure that articles were well researched. That is why the blog has been quoted numerous times by the press – in this country and abroad. The Jewish Chronicle seems to make it a weekly source of reference but also by papers like the Guardian, Independent & Sunday Telegraph as well as the Israeli Press and elsewhere. We were responsible for exposing the joint counter-demonstration outside Ahava by the fascist EDL and the Zionist Federation in the form of Jonathan Hoffman. Hoffman was unwise enough to describe a photograph of him dancing down the street with ‘Jewish Division’ leader Roberta Moore as ‘photoshopped’ and had to make a grovelling apology to avoid a libel action.
I have also undertaken considerable research into a particularly shadowy organisation, the Community Security Trust, which is funded and controlled by Gerald Ronson, owner of Britain’s largest private company, The Heron Group and himself an extreme right-wing Zionist. It would appear that Ronson is being displaced by the owner of the Express and Star, Richard Desmond.
The CST describes its mission as to defend British Jews from anti-Semitism, but has no record of involvement in opposition to neo-Nazi groups in Britain such as the BNP, NF or EDL. On the contrary its stewards looked benignly on as the EDL joined a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in August 2010 to celebrate the murder of 9 unarmed activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.
We have therefore run a number of stories on the CST and how it operates to ensure that the Jewish community is kept free of radical elements. Our most recent story CST Gets Too Big for its Boots as Jewish Critics Multiply shows how the CST, with the support of the Metropolitan Police, is trying to take over and monopolise the activities of Jewish community organisations citing articles from figures as different as Tony Lerman and Geoffrey Alderman. Other stories include how the CST violently removed peaceful questioners from a Zionist ‘envirnmental meeting’ which was supposed to feature David Bellamy (who didn’t turn up), how the CST in Jews, Lies, Damned Lies and CST statistics manipulates its statistics to cause artificial panic amongst the Jewish community, Community Security Thugs Bar Jewish Opponents of Gaza War from Liberal Judaism Meeting
And what do you know? Richard Desmond, whose papers have supported the fascist EDL have also donated in the last financial year £11,000 to the Community Security Trust, which is apparently supposed to oppose groups like the EDL. But in fact the CST has never lifted its little finger to oppose any anti-Semitic organisation. It is a wholly pro-Israeli group, it shares the racist anti-Muslim politics of the Zionist leadership, has vigorously opposed the boycott of Israel and has acted in effect as a wing of the security of the Israeli embassy in London. Many of its volunteers are ex-Israeli military. See Daily Express’s porn baron owner donated thousands to anti-Palestinian group CST/
We exposed in particular how the CST uses the threat of ‘anti-Semitism’ to raise funds from nearly half the Jewish charities in Britain and how it has multi-million pounds of reserves whilst paying its 3 leading officers, including Mark Gardiner, over £100,000 salaries.
We have learnt more recently about how the owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star, the largest porn magnate in Britain, Richard Desmond, has also been funding the CST at the same time as his newspapers have been giving favourable coverage to the EDL. Even the Jewish Chronicle has picked up on the Star’s support for the fascist EDL. As have a number of other papers Roy Greenslade of the Guardian Media then claimed that the Star had withdrawn that support because of Desmond’s embarrassment, though he fails to understand that whether or not it formally has done so, it has continued with its stablemate to promote the EDL’s racist agenda. The EDL’s own website was positively gloating.
It is therefore even more pleasing that at the immigration hearing into the arrest of Sheik Raed Salah in Birmingham last week, it emerged that much of the information supplied came from the politically dishonest and corrupt EDL, whose anti-Muslim agenda is a matter of record. The close links between the CST, the Police forces are also a matter of record. When I appeared on Richard Littlejohn’s ‘documentary’ on Channel 4 on the War Against Jews considerable evidence was broadcast of these links, including joint patrols between Manchester and the Metropolitan Police and the CST.
I also pointed out the hypocrisy of the CST. When a poster to my blog said that he wished I had perished with my family in Auschwitz that was not anti-Semitic. Why? Because he was a Zionist. When someone posted that there was no holocaust, they recorded it as an anti-Semitic incident!
It is therefore gratifying and pleasing that at the hearing for Sheikh Saleh, this blog was quoted extensively in the evidence by the Defence as showing that the CST was not a neutral body when it came to Israel and Palestine.
“Doctored quotes” and CST
Statement by CST
As has been widely reported, CST provided information to the government to assist their efforts to exclude, and now deport, the radical Arab-Israeli preacher Sheikh Raed Salah from the United Kingdom. We did this because we believe Salah to have made antisemitic and extremist statements in the past; and because Salah has a criminal conviction for funding Hamas-linked charities which are proscribed in Israel.
Salah’s lawyers have claimed that some of the statements made by Salah included quotes which had been “doctored” to falsely show him to be antisemitic, by inserting the words “Jew” or “Jewish” when Salah did not say those words. This claim has been repeated by the Guardian, and now by the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada.
We are concerned by any implication that CST may have doctored the relevant quotes, or passed on false quotes by Salah in order to mislead the government.
CST completely rejects the claim that any of the quotes by Salah which we provided to government were “doctored”, by CST or anyone else. After our intervention, the Guardian altered their story to clarify that their article was only relaying claims by Salah’s lawyers, and not reporting them as fact. They also inserted a line stating that “There is no suggestion that CST doctored the quotes”, and removed a line suggesting we had not checked the quotes for accuracy.
For the record, and because Salah’s supporters appear to be spreading false and misleading information about CST, we feel it is important to clarify what these quotes were, and how CST used them.
The ‘blood libel’ speech
The first relates to a speech made by Salah in Jerusalem in February 2007, known as the ‘blood libel’ speech, in which he said:
We have never allowed ourselves, and listen well, we have never allowed ourselves to knead the bread for the breaking of the fast during the blessed month of Ramadan with the blood of the children. And if someone wants a wider explanation, you should ask what used to happen to some of the children of Europe, whose blood would be mixed in the dough of the holy bread.
This section of the speech was reported as follows in the Israeli newspaper Haaretzin 2008:
“We have never allowed ourselves to knead [the dough for] the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children’s blood,” he said. “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 [Jewish] holy bread.”
CST included this newspaper article in the material we sent to the government about Salah. The medieval antisemitic trope of a ‘blood libel’, where Jews were accused of killing Christian children and using their blood for religious rituals (including making Matzot), is well known and we considered, and still consider, Salah’s speech to be a contemporary example of an antisemitic blood libel.
Salah’s supporters have focused on the fact that Haaretz put the word “Jewish” in square brackets immediately before the words “holy bread”. This is their basis for claiming that this quote is “doctored”. The use of square brackets to indicate a speaker’s meaning, in order to clarify or explain the actual words they used, is a universal journalistic convention. We took the Haaretz article to mean exactly this: that Salah did not actually say the word “Jewish”, but that he was talking about Jews. Putting a word in square brackets into a quote does not mean that the quote has been “doctored”, because the square brackets are there precisely to indicate that the speaker did not actually use the word they contain.
However, because the accuracy and reliability of our information is so important to CST, we continued to search for a primary source for Salah’s speech rather than relying on a newspaper article. We eventually found just such a source: an Israeli court indictment, in which Salah was charged with inciting antisemitism for making this speech (he still faces this charge in Israel). This included an extended transcript of Salah’s speech, which confirmed that Salah did not use the word “Jewish”. We translated it into English and published it on the CST Blog, with the full Hebrew indictment available to download. We were the first people to obtain, translate and publish this indictment and transcript, which can be read in full here. We sent the transcript and translation to the government, and specifically pointed out that the word “Jewish”, in square brackets in the Haaretz article, did not appear in the transcript.
It is clearly absurd to claim that CST “doctored” this quote by inserting the word “Jewish”, or tried to pass off someone else’s “doctored quote”, when we were the first people to publish definitive proof that Salah did not use the word “Jewish”.
In contrast, Salah initially denied having made these comments at all, but now admits making the comments while offering an alternative meaning for them. He also initially denied having been charged in Israel for making the comments, but thenadmitted that he had been charged but claimed that the charges failed due to lack of evidence. This is still not true: he still faces charges in Israel relating to this speech.
Salah claims that his reference to the use of children’s blood in holy bread was in fact a reference to Christian persecution of Muslims and Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. We completely reject this explanation, which makes no sense. Firstly, there is no such ‘blood libel’ accusation against Christians, whereas it is a common antisemitic accusation against Jews, initially in Europe and in more recent times in the Middle East. Secondly, immediately before the ‘blood libel’ section of the speech, Salah identifies Christians and Muslims together as victims of Israeli/Jewish persecution, and immediately after it he says “G-d all mighty, is this religion? Is this what G-d wants? G-d will confront you for what you are doing…”. This line makes perfect sense if “religion” refers to Judaism, and very little sense for it to mean Christianity.
Looking back at what was happening in Israel in February 2007, a major public controversy was raging in the Israeli media at the time over a book by Israeli Professor Ariel Toaff, Pasque di Sangue, which claimed that some medieval blood libel allegations were based on credible evidence (a claim Toaff later withdrew). The subject was already circulating in public debate when Salah made his speech. For all these reasons, it remains our assessment that Salah’s claim that children’s blood was used for holy bread was about Jews, and that it was an antisemitic reference; and that this is how it would have been received by its audience.
The second claim of “doctored quotes” relates to a poem written by Salah in the Islamic Movement publication Sawt al-Haqq wa-al-Huriyya, dated 4th January 2002. CST initially came across parts of this poem in an article by Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which erroneously claimed that they were from a speech. We passed this to government as follows, with the Cooper article referenced in a footnote:
At an undated event, Salah made several anti-Jewish assertions. He firstly claimed that the Jews are “butchers of pregnant women and babies,” and followed this up by maintaining that the Jews are “thieves, you [Jews] are the bacteria of all times… The Creator meant for you to be monkeys and losers… Victory is with the Muslims, from the Nile to the Euphrates.”
Again, we used the word “Jews” in square brackets in the quote to indicate meaning, not to claim that Salah actually used the word, according to the universal convention. And once again, because we did not want to rely solely on media reporting, we searched for the primary source for these quotes. These eventually were found in the form of the poem, and we passed this Arabic poem, with a full English translation and some textual analysis, to the government. We pointed out in this analysis that the poem does not use the word “Jews”. The claim by the Guardianthat this involved an “admission that a reference to Jews was inserted” in our initial report is completely wrong, because we never claimed that Salah had used the word “Jews”. The Guardian itself often uses square brackets around a word or words in a quote to indicate meaning, not usage, as do all other newspapers.
Again, had we wanted to fool the government or anyone else into thinking that the poem contained the word “Jews”, we would hardly have tried to find evidence to the contrary and then pointed it out to government.
Salah claims that this poem (which he initially denied having written) is about the Israeli state, but not about Jews. It is our opinion that through lines such as “The sly apostates”; “you are the germs of all times”; “The Creator had deemed you to be monkeys (and) losers”; and “The victory is the ‘crown’ of all good tidings to the faithful Muslims”; the poem uses religious terminology and theological references to blur any distinction between the Israeli state and Jews in general, and between a political conflict and a religious one. Given this, it is our opinion that this poem demonstrates the potential to radicalise attitudes amongst British Muslims towards British Jews.
CST, antisemitism and Israel
Some of Salah’s supporters appear to misconstrue, perhaps deliberately, CST’s mission and purpose. We work to combat antisemitism, terrorism and extremism in the UK. We provided the UK government with information about Salah because we consider him to have a record of propagating antisemitic and extremist views, and because he was due to visit this country. We take all forms of antisemitism seriously and we expressed our concerns to government on this basis. We did not do this on behalf of Israel or in pursuit of Israel’s policy objectives, but to combat antisemitism and extremism in Britain. There is a difference between combating antisemitism and Israel advocacy; a distinction that Salah’s supporters appear incapable of recognising.
So, for example, for Electronic Intifada to describe CST as an “anti-Palestinian group” is not only grossly insulting but is also nonsensical. It suggests that our work combating antisemitism in the UK is intrinsically anti-Palestinian, which in turn suggests that Palestinians are intrinsically antisemitic. This is a disgraceful slur on both Jews and Palestinians. In fact we work with British Muslims and other minorities to combat Islamophobia and other forms of racism and extremism in Britain.
We say repeatedly in CST publications and on this blog that we do not deny anybody the right to criticise Israel or to campaign against it. All we ask is that when doing so, people take care not to use antisemitic language or to make common cause with antisemites. These requests – which on the surface should not be too demanding for any anti-racist – repeatedly fall on deaf ears, or even worse are mocked by those who should know better. It has now reached the stage that, when we point out that Raed Salah has made antisemitic statements, his supporters accuse us of lying. This does not just excuse antisemitism; it encourages its growth.