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Reporting Raed: The BBC and The Guardian

The BBC runs a story this morning, which considers the various reasons that may have contributed to the Government’s decision to exclude Raed Salah.

The analysis, written by Panorama reporter John Ware, sets out both the evidence of Raed Salah’s inflammatory, racist and sectarian statements, and the defence of the man by his supporters. Here is a snippet:

He is also reported to have made a speech in February 2007 during a protest in East Jerusalem in which he accused Jews of using children’s blood to bake bread.

The Israeli paper Haaretz said that while addressing a 1,000 strong crowd and assembled press, Sheikh Salah said: “We have never allowed ourselves to knead [the dough for] the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children’s blood.

“Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the [Jewish] holy bread.”

The “blood libel” that Jews murder children to use their blood during religious rituals has been a recurring theme of extremist rhetoric in the Middle East.

Sheikh Salah has been acquitted of charges in connection with rioting that followed the speech. However, sources say charges relating to incitement to racism are still outstanding and are due to be heard next spring.

One of his UK hosts, the London-based Middle East Monitor – a pro Hamas publication – says he “refutes” this. It says Sheikh Salah has told them that no charges were brought against him “in this regard”.

By contrast, the Guardian has now published four articles on the Raed Salah case. If their reporting was your only guide to the case, you’d have a hard time working out why the Coalition excluded this paragon of virtue.

The article by Alan Travis is almost entirely given over to reporting the overlapping views of Raed Salah’s various defenders. Initially, I believe, this is all the report contained. At a late stage, the article was amended to include a very high level reference to the nature of Raed Salah’s reported views on “Jewish involvement in the 9/11 plots”. These views were attributed to a Tory MP, [update: whose constituency "Golders Green" is explicitly mentioned, unlike the MPs who are defending Salah].

There then followed an article by Conal Urquhart, which reproduces the (false) conspiracy theory that Israel had a hand in the exclusion of Raed Salah. It did not. The article also contains a lengthy quote from Ben White, the man who “understands” why people are antisemitic, and who was to be a co-speaker with Salah.

Next, the Guardian published an article by Ian Black, the Middle East editor. Black cited none of the evidence against Salah, and appeared bemused as to why he was excluded. He concludes:

The real question about the episode is this: if Salah is tolerated in Israel, why did the UK government object to his presence?

The answer to that question is simple. Salah is an Israeli citizen. Britain is under no obligation to admit a hate preacher from another country. This answer does not occur to Black, of course. Black also observes:

But accusations of antisemitism and homophobia have largely emanated from the UK.

No they haven’t. They’ve been in the Israeli press for years. Why does Black say this, when it is clearly untrue?

Finally, Comment is Free publishes the shabbiest article of all: by the Israeli MK (and embarrassment to her family) Haneen Zoabi which contains the following gems:

It was an ugly kneejerk response to the growing hostility of the Israeli establishment and its supporters abroad towards anyone opposing its racist policies – and a rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe.

It appears that the charge of antisemitism is being used as a way of suppressing criticism of Israeli policies. Since when has the struggle for equality become a form of racism? Since when have states that boast of their democratic credentials acquired the right to arrest people for their political views?

Pro-Israel organisations in Britain and elsewhere are manipulating growing European Islamophobia to discredit us by falsely portraying the democratic Palestinian struggle against racism and discrimination in Israel as antisemitic.

The British authorities have fallen into an Israeli trap. Instead of supporting our leaders and their campaign for freedom and democracy, they are supporting Israeli persecution of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Until now, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been struggling for our political rights in our country, and confronting Zionist racism inside Israel. But now it seems we have to confront Zionist racism abroad as well.

The pro-Israeli lobby must not be allowed to determine politics in Britain. Palestinians in Israel see the arrest of Salah by the British authorities as backing Israeli policies against us. We ask the British people to reject this, not to allow Israeli racism to inform them and support instead our just demands for democracy in our own land.

What a fucking outrageous thing to do: to defend an outspoken racist, extremist and homophobe by accusing his critics of being racists and pawns of Israel!

This, incidentally, is the reason that the Guardian has a reputation for being part of this country’s Hamas support network.