Human rights campaigners and community leaders have condemned the late-night arrest of Sheikh Raed Salah by the UK Border Agency on 28th June.
The arrest appears to be the result of an orchestrated libellous campaign in the right-wing, pro-Israel media and bears all the marks of a political rather than a legal measure to curb freedom of speech. The arrest of such a high-profile and well-respected Palestinian leader will, inevitably, damage relations between the Muslim community and other sections of British society.
Sheikh Salah is renowned for his non-violent approach to the protection of Palestinian rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Home Secretary Theresa May has clearly succumbed to pressure from the pro-Israel Lobby in Britain to prevent Sh. Salah from being able to give a first-hand account of the discrimination faced by the so-called “Israeli-Arab” community; Israel’s Palestinian citizens who constitute 20% of the total population in the state. Sh. Salah's visit was trailed three weeks in advance by MEMO and his talks have been advertised widely, prompting an aggressive media campaign to have him stopped from entering the country.As a result of the accusations against him, legal steps are being taken by lawyers acting on behalf of Sh. Salah in respect of some of the allegations made against him in at least two national newspapers. It is astonishing that neither the Home Office nor the Metropolitan Police sought clarification and further information from any of the organisations involved; nor, indeed, did either express their concerns that his presence in the UK might be a threat to public order. Raed Salah is an Israeli citizen who is, presumably, free to travel as far as his own government is concerned, and has never been held by the Israeli authorities on any of the charges levelled at him by the Israel Lobby in Britain. It is astonishing, therefore, that the British government, which espouses democracy and freedom to the extent of going to war to uphold those values, is now denying freedom to someone on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations and media hype. The deportation order should be rescinded immediately. Without solid evidence this entire saga makes a fiasco of the British legal system. Signatories: Middle East MonitorFriends of Al AqsaBritish Muslim InitiativeInterpalPalestine Solidarity CampaignPalestine Return CentreLindsey German, Stop the WarBen White, writer and activistMohamed Ali, CEO, Islam ChannelGlobal Peace and UnityMohammed Asif, EngageAmos Trust