British gov’t’s failed effort to deport Palestinian sheikh ends with focus on ‘barrage of racist policies’ in only ME democracy

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Raed Salah writes at the Guardian about his long battle to resist deportation proceedings, initiated last June. His piece is powerful and moving– excerpt below. And look how many comments it has already attracted: 361. The first states the case appropriately:

How ironic, and fitting, that after his shameful arrest, imprisonment and restriction at the hands of a government we never elected, Sheikh Salah will now have a far larger audience than would have heard him had he been allowed to complete his scheduled UK speaking tour which his wrongful detention interrupted.
Journalist David Hearst (Guardian online, 9 April) argued that ‘the heart of the matter’ in the Home Secretary’s illegitimate attempt to exclude Sheikh Salah from the UK was her exclusive reliance on untrustworthy advice from the Community Security Trust. That advice, in the view of two expert witnesses, ‘failed to distinguish between anti-Semitism and criticism of the acts of the Israeli state and therefore gave an unbalanced perspective.’ This is indeed a crucial point. Their arguments are now so threadbare that apologists for Israeli apartheid, without a shred of credible evidence, routinely accuse its critics of anti-Semitism.

For background, here is Michael Weiss, one of the instigators of the smear campaign against Salah that resulted in the deportation case.

Now here is Salah:

After a 10-month legal battle, I have now been cleared on “all grounds” by a senior immigration tribunal judge, who ruled that May’s decision to deport me was “entirely unnecessary” and that she had been “misled”. The evidence she relied on (which included a poem of mine which had been doctored to make it appear anti-Jewish) was not, he concluded, a fair portrayal of my views. In reality, I reject any and every form of racism, including antisemitism.

I have no doubt that, despite this, Israel’s cheerleaders in Britain will continue to smear my character. This is the price every Palestinian leader and campaigner is forced to pay.

My people – the Palestinians – are the longstanding victims of Israeli racism. Victims of racism, anywhere, should never condone or support the maltreatment of another people, as Israel does.

The suffering of the Palestinian citizens of Israel has been ignored for decades. But there is today a growing awareness of it, which partially explains this smear campaign against me. In December 2011, EU ambassadors in Israel raised serious concerns about Israeli discrimination, noting that “not only has the situation of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel not improved, but it has further deteriorated”.

There are around 1.5 million Arabs in Israel. We make up 17% of the population, but we face a barrage of racist policies and discriminatory laws. We receive less than 5% of funds allocated by the government for development. Public spending on children in Arab municipalities is one-third lower than that of children in Jewish municipalities. The average hourly wage of Arab workers is about 70% of that of Jewish workers. Any Jew, from any country, is allowed under Israel’s law of return to migrate to Israel; Palestinian refugees are not allowed to exercise their right of return. While a Jew can live anywhere in Israel, a Palestinian citizen cannot. Jews can marry whoever they wish and live with them in Israel, Palestinian citizens cannot.

…Nowhere is the injustice more striking than in the Negev. Living in poverty in “unrecognised” villages, the Arab Bedouin are ineligible for basic services such as water, electricity, and healthcare. The Negev village of al-Araqib has been demolished 35 times by the Israeli government; on every occasion it was rebuilt by its inhabitants.

Despite the Israeli policy of “transfer” – another term for ethnic cleansing – the Palestinians will not go away. The Israeli state can occupy our lands, demolish our homes, drill tunnels under the old city of Jerusalem – but we will not disappear. Instead, we now aspire to a directly elected leadership for Palestinians in Israel; one that would truly represent our interests. We seek only the legal rights guaranteed to us by international conventions and laws.

Thanks to Elly Kilroy.

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