01 July 2011

Shaikh Raed Salah and racism

Shaikh Raed Salah heads the Northern branch of The Islamic Movement in Israel. As a secularist, I am of course concerned about his party’s intended policy to create an Islamic state in the region. However, I am also concerned about the current Israeli Jewish state and its discrimination against Palestinian Arabs. As secularists, we should point out the advantages of supporting a secular state, one which would fairly represent and protect both groups.

Whether we dislike some of his views or not, the fact is that Salah is head of a legitimate political party, which has renounced terrorism. Simply disliking the man’s views should not automatically be a reason to bar him from entering the UK. One does not have to agree with someone to allow them the right to speak. The man himself appears to have spent much of his time standing up for the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who face daily discrimination. He has also spoken up for the millions of refugees, who wish to return to the land which was once theirs.

The allegations of anti-Semitism made against Salah are weak and ones he refutes. It should be noted that he has never been convicted of anti-Semitism in Israel, despite the original allegations having been made several years go. The group Jews for Justice has spoken up in his defence.

There are a lot of double standards in the media's coverage. Journalists who write column inches about Salah’s supposed racism, are often guilty of turning a blind eye to the well documented racist policies pursued by Israel's government. These policies work towards creating a purely Jewish state at the expense of other groups. When did you last read Daily Mail journalists getting angry about house demolitions in East Jerusalem? Perhaps journalistic double standards are to be expected, however. Journalists who cross the line and criticise Israel are frequently vilified and labelled as “anti-Semitic” - a standard way to silence critics.

The reality is that Palestinians face systematic discrimination. House evictions continue. Figures released by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) show that 304 adults and children have been displaced or affected by house demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year alone. A series of walls and apartheid style roads, checkpoints and roadblocks now exist, restricting movement and isolating areas. Whilst Palestinian Arabs continue to be deprived of their homes, land and basic human rights, Jewish settlement expansion continues. Thousands of new homes are expected to be built on occupied land in the coming years. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 38% of the West Bank is now taken up with Israeli infrastructure.

The British media have been busy criticising Salah, however, they have done far less to criticise the racist policies of apartheid which the Israeli government is pursuing. Unless the media expose Zionist racism for what it is, the Palestinian campaign for freedom and democracy will suffer.