In arresting Mr Salah for remarks he denies he made, a British home secretary is being even more intolerant than Israel
Sheikh Raed Salah, an Israeli citizen who leads the Islamic Movement in Israel, is currently in the immigration removal centre at Heathrow airport. He was three days into a visit during which he addressed public meetings in London and Leicester and the House of Commons when he was arrested and informed that he was the subject of a deportation notice issued on the grounds that his presence in the country was not "conducive to the public good".
What has made our government so agitated by his presence? Is it the fact that the sheikh was accused in some British newspapers and one website of making antisemitic statements, which he says were fabricated, and for which he has started libel proceedings? If so, the home secretary is applying a higher threshold for the public good in Britain than Israel itself applies to a man it has not been shy of prosecuting on other issues. Repeated attempts to outlaw the Islamic Movement for incitement have failed in Israel's high court. Mr Salah has not been convicted of antisemitism, and spoke recently on a platform in Tel Aviv University.
This point was not lost on the far-right Israel Beiteinu party, which, on hearing of Mr Salah's arrest in London, proposed a bill that could prohibit anyone convicted of aiding terrorist organisations from entering government-funded educational institutions. In apparently arresting Mr Salah for remarks he denies he made and which it has yet to be proved in a court of law that he did make, a British home secretary is being even more intolerant to the representatives of Israel's Arab minority, 20% of the population, than the state of Israel itself.
Another Palestinian, Dr Ahmad Nofal, a professor of Islamic law at Jordan University who acquired a visa to visit Britain, was told at Amman airport that he would not be permitted entry. If the home secretary is unwise enough to start applying her "prevent" policy to all Palestinian activists Israel has a problem with, Britain will face a backlash in the Arab world. The prime minister Salam Fayyad – no Islamist himself – said Mr Salah's arrest would harm the Palestinian Authority. Both banned men are close to the Muslim Brotherhood, one of whose leaders, Rached Ghannouchi, lived peacefully in Britain for 22 years.
Both Mr Salah and Mr Nofal were due to speak at an annual Palestinian festival in London. In a separate celebration, Jerusalem Day, rightwing Israeli activists marched into the Arab Old City shouting slogans such as "Muhammad is dead", "May your village burn", and "Butcher the Arabs". This is racist incitement for which no action is being taken. Should Britain be taking lessons from Israel on incitement?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.