An answer to Anshel Pfeffer

Anshel Pfeffer, in Ha’aretz asks:

Since the tribunal’s decision, the trust has been busy defending the veracity of [the CST’s] report and from what I have read, it seems it was accurate and there is evidence of Salah’s less than friendly attitude toward Jews. What I don’t understand is why they compiled the report to begin with – even if, as they say, they were asked to do so by the Home Office.

Would it not have made more sense for them to say, “We think Raed Salah’s statements in the recent past have been anti-Semitic, but if the Israeli government allows him freedom of movement and freedom of speech, it would probably cause more harm and draw needless attention to his views to deport or prosecute him.”

Since Salah has visited Britain (and other European countries) a number of times in the past, and there was no corresponding rise in anti-Semitic attacks, such an approach would surely have made more sense that turning him into a cause celebre. If he had not been detained, few would have even been aware of his presence, aside from a small bunch of already committed Israel-haters.

Here is the answer.

In Britain, under successive Governments, those who encourage hatred against minority groups – not only Jews – and who support terrorism, are barred from entry. Most bans have been controversial among their respective supporters. All have been popular with the majority of the population.

In France, Mohammed Merah whipped himself into a frenzy on a diet of Islamist antisemitic propaganda, and shot a series of Jewish children in the head, murdered a rabbi, and slaughtered three French soldiers, two of whom were ‘the wrong sort of Muslim’.

This sort of thing is commonplace in Israel. Israel ‘deals’ with it by building a series of huge walls. It operates a policy of preventative detention. The population passes through checkpoints, daily, even internally: as people visit shopping malls.

All these are measures which Britain has taken too: in Northern Ireland, for example. The cost, in terms of civil liberties, and the results, in terms of the anger and frustration of the ordinary population, have been dismal. However, they were considered necessary by Government after Government, because a state must protect its population from acts of terrorism and violence.

Does banning people prevent them from peddling hatred? In these days of instant communication, the answer is: no. Al Qaeda’s Anwar Al Awlaki addressed several meetings in the United Kingdom by video link, for example. However, a country has a right to control who visits it, and who is excluded. Moreover, in this country, we are painfully aware that once a hate preacher has established himself here, it is close to impossible to persuade him to leave. Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza have taught us that.

Anshel Pfeffer should also know that Britain has offered safe haven to a series of Hamas figures, as well as fundraisers for other terrorist groups. As a result, the United Kingdom has become a centre for terrorist fundraising: some of which is policed, and some of which has been tolerated for decades. The cost – including the political cost – of tackling this problem is now legion.

If a hate preacher is banned from the United Kingdom, their network of hatred and terror is at least hobbled. More significantly, a ban is a symbolic statement against incitement to hatred. It is an official rejection of a bigot’s loathsome message. We ban neo Nazis from this country, notwithstanding the fact that it upsets fascists. In fact, the ban is a direct challenge to the views of those people. It says: “this country does not welcome guests who come here to encourage citizens to hate each other”.

A ban also serves another purpose. When a hate preacher is banned from the United Kingdom, a spotlight is focused on their words and deeds. Those who support the politics of hatred invariably rally to the cause.

As a result we know who would like to see the politics of Gaza – or Utoeya Island – brought to the streets of our cities. A ban separates the racists from the anti-racists.

Sorry Anshel Pfeifer: but we’re a peaceful, tolerant European country. We’re not prepared to see it infected with the sectarian hatred of the Middle East.

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