Guardian red carpet treatment for Salah

This is a cross-post from Just Journalism.

Just Journalism Editorial Manager Carmel Gould reviews the British media’s handling of the arrest of Raed Salah in the UK.

He was billed by one of the groups bringing him to the UK as the ‘The Gandhi of Palestine’. Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, who was granted an inevitable spot in yesterday’s Guardian cast him as a leader in ‘the struggle for equality’ and ‘the democratic Palestinian struggle against racism and discrimination in Israel’ who is being forced to ‘confront Zionist racism abroad’.

Poor Raed Salah. Why would anyone find him objectionable enough to ban him from the UK? The Guardian certainly would if the views he espoused came out of the mouth of, for example, a non-Muslim with no connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On homosexuality: ‘It is a crime. A great crime. Such phenomena signal the start of the collapse of every society.’ On abortion: ‘It is forbidden to have an abortion. That is like murdering a soul whose murder is forbidden by God.’

He’s a true moral leader on the practice of killing girls and women in the name of ‘family honour’ too: ‘We have to ask those who talk about murder for the sake of the family honor – mainly feminist organizations – what they did to prevent the murder of family honor itself. Unfortunately, nothing at all has been done in this regard. On the contrary: Some of the people who invented this concept are encouraging anarchy in the society, because they don’t know how to handle the matter.’ Not such a surprise when you take account of the fact that he views the role of women as ‘the supplementary role to that of the man.’

What a nice man; so in tune with progressive social mores, a real pillar of democratic society. No wonder Britain’s leading liberal newspaper got its knickers in such a twist when the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel was arrested in the UK on Tuesday, having been determined as ‘unconducive to the public good’. They have even devoted an editorial to protesting the UK’s intolerance to ‘the representatives of Israel’s Arab minority’ in which long publicised accusations against Salah are treated with profound suspicion but allegations of racist right-wing Israeli chanting on Jerusalem Day are treated as fact.

There’s a code to this kind of hypocrisy; you have to couch it in the right terms for it to slip under the radar. Select a headline like, ‘Sheikh Raed Salah: Islamic Movement leader loathed by the Israeli right’. Ah, the Israeli right – they’re horrible, we don’t like them, this guy must definitely be Gandhi incarnate.

Middle East editor Ian Black, whose article appeared under that headline, must be unhappy because the organisation Salah leads, ‘campaigns for the rights of those citizens who refer to themselves as the “Arabs of 1948″ – those left behind while 700,000 others became refugees when Israel was founded.’ Furthermore, ‘It fights discrimination and campaigns for the right of Palestinian refugees to return, as well as against house demolitions and expulsions in Jerusalem.’ Never mind the gays and the women: these people are fighting against Israel and that’s what counts.

He does the reader the courtesy of acknowledging some of the charges on Salah’s rap sheet, namely fundraising for Hamas – ‘which is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel’ – and the five month sentence he served for assaulting a police officer. Crucially though, he notes: ‘But accusations of antisemitism and homophobia have largely emanated from the UK.’ I suppose he means the foreign Zionist racists Zoabi was talking about, although that surely can’t include former Haaretz correspondent Jalal Bana to whom Salah made the homophobic remarks cited above.

The BBC on the other hand, has opted to actually address the evidence against Raed Salah rather than whitewash him as the Martin Luther King of the Palestinians and blame British Zionists for blackening his name with lies. Reporter John Ware, unlike anyone writing for The Guardian, the Associated Press or Press Association, cited the Haaretz coverage from 2007, of the allegation that Salah told a crowd of fans in Jerusalem that Jews bake bread with the blood of gentiles.

Just Journalism Spokesperson Michael Weiss, who has covered the Raed Salah UK visit extensively on his blog for The Daily Telegraph, appeared on the corporation’s flagship evening news analysis programme, Newsnight, emphasising, ‘This is a man with a proven track record, he has been widely reported in the Israeli and international press for making a series of anti-semitic statements.’ The programme saw fit, unlike The Guardian or the wire services, to cite Salah’s anti-semitic comments made following the 9/11 attacks:

‘A suitable way was found to warn the 4,000 Jews who work every day at the Twin Towers to be absent from their work on September 11, 2001, and this is really what happened! Were 4,000 Jewish clerks absent [from their jobs] by chance, or was there another reason? At the same time, no such warning reached the 2,000 Muslims who worked every day in the Twin Towers, and therefore there were hundreds of Muslim victims.’

At some point The Guardian ought to start questioning whether it really is wise to render such a font of misogyny, homophobia and conspiratorial, anti-Jewish nonsense as a beacon of democratic and progressive values, just because he also happens to be anti-Israel.