Sheikh Raed Salah, a political leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel and three times elected mayor of the Palestinian city of Umm al-Fahm, was arrested last week from a London hotel. Normally, you would think one would have to commit a crime, or at least be suspected of committing a crime, to be arrested. This was not the case. Sheikh Salah, had entered the country with his Israeli passport, began his speaking tour of the UK, and even spoken in the House of Commons before the arrest. If he was really, as Home Secretary Theresa May seems to be suggesting, ‘not conducive to the public good’, then Parliamentary security must have been somewhat lax over the last few days.
From Arthur Balfour to William Hague, British Foreign Ministers have never hid their loyalties when it comes to the question of the Palestine; even from before the creation of the Zionist state in 1948. Over the week-end, Home Secretary Theresa May decided to join the party. On his third day in the UK, Salah was arrested from his hotel room, after right-wing newspaper commentators had denounced his visit. The BBC reported that an investigation would take place into how Salah had managed to enter the country, despite an exclusion order against him. A very strange type of exclusion order that neither Salah, his lawyers or the MEMO organisation who were hosting him here had been informed of. In regards to how he entered the country, the answer is quite simple; openly and freely.
As Dr. Hanan Chehata reported in the New Statesman, “The double standards operating here are chilling. While the government is doing its utmost to change the British laws on Universal Jurisdiction to make it easier for suspected Israeli war criminals to visit the UK without the fear of arrest warrants being issued against them, at the same time they are happy to arrest Palestinian leaders who have committed no [actual] crime…”
I wonder if we have got to a point in society where people can be arrested not on the basis of their actions, but on the basis of media hearsay? Salah was initially held in a detention centre, as people that are due to be deported are, but has since been moved to a prison. Why is a person that is not suspected of any tangible crime being held in a prison? Furthermore, Salah is not even being afforded the rights of a person actually being charged with a crime; for the first few days in prison he was denied access to a lawyer.
Yesterday, Theresa May stumbled through Home Affairs Committee questions in Parliament over Salah’s arrest. As Home Secretary, May is personally responsible for signing any exclusion orders of this kind, but when questioned, seemed to have forgotten the date. Several questions later, she confirmed that it was signed on Thursday 23rd June.
But most interesting was Theresa May’s response to David Winnick MP, who asked why exactly the exclusion order had been made. The crime Salah is guilty of, according to the Home Secretary, is “unreasonable behaviour”. The British government have, once again, bowed down to the demands of the pro-Israeli lobby. According to the evidence, it is clear who is guilty of behaving unreasonably.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.