Michael Weiss, that insufferable, braying pro-Israel zealot, has his knickers in a knot over Sheikh Salah’s visit to England. The Telegraph blogger began his crusade before Salah arrived, with a shot across the bow on June 22nd, in which he crowed about alleged anti-Semitic statements made by Salah. Though a number of Weiss’ claims are based on the notoriously unreliable MEMRI and Jerusalem Post, at least one is based on a Haaretz report. That paper is by no means universally reliable, it is surely a more serious source. So let’s get this out of the way, since it will surely be Weiss’ first shot when he reads I’ve had the temerity to cross him yet again after his purported Syrian government memo claiming the intelligence services led the Naksa Day protests which led to 15 dead at the hands of the IDF.
If Salah has said the things he’s alleged to have said by Haaretz then he is a truly dim figure and anti-Semite to boot. But I would note that there are laws against incitement in Israel and though Salah has been charged with violating those laws he’s never been convicted. I would think if he did say any of these things it should’ve been fairly easy to convict him. Though again, I’m not making any claims regarding whether or not he said what MEMRI and the others allege.
Further, the Israeli government has attempted to ban the Sheikh’s Islamic movement, but the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the effort. As Ian Black asks in The Guardian:
The real question about the episode is this: if Salah is tolerated in Israel, why did the UK government object to his presence?
Further, there are several anomalies in Weiss’ coverage and in his omissions from the record. First, he neglects to mention that Salah was nearly killed by an Israeli Border Police bullet to the head in the first Intifada in 2000. Second, he neglects to mention that Israeli media reports there are recordings of the Shin Bet asking accused Jewish terrorist Chaim Pearlman to assassinate Salah. Third, in Weiss’ first Telegraph post he also neglects to mention an important claim that he does make in later ones, that Salah was banned from entering Britain. This is important because later Weiss and other pro-Israel supporters claimed that he had been banned a week before his entry into England. This would make it appear that Salah was up to no good, possibly used fraudulent documents to gain entry, etc. The Israeli Palestinian leader’s own attorneys claim he was never aware of such a ban and that he entered England using his Israeli passport.
Now, it’s clear that immigrations officials do stupid things all the time in the U.S., Britain and Israel. But to allow a wanted man to enter Britain, especially an allegedly wanted Islamist—this strains credulity. Not to mention that Heathrow immigration authorities would’ve had the plane’s passenger manifest and would’ve had early warning that he was planning to land. Of course, Weiss and others might insinuate that he traveled under a false name or whatever. But there is no indication this is true.
What appears to have happened was that Weiss’ report spooked the Home Office and they immediately banned Salah, who may already have entered Britain. When he writes on June 28th that Salah “somehow” entered Britain a few days earlier, he makes it appear that his entry was based on fraud on the Sheikh’s part or incompetence on the government’s. When in truth it was likely based on fear of being beaten over the head by Weiss and his Islamophobic cronies.
But now let’s talk a bit about Michael Weiss’ hypocrisy. No matter how shady Salah’s alleged views about Jews may be, I bet the pro-Israel blogger never uttered a peep when Moshe Feiglin tried to enter Britain (did you, Michael?). Then the Home Office (under a more liberal Labor government) banned Feiglin for his undesirable racist views of Arabs. Has Weiss ever said that any Israeli racist such as Avigdor Lieberman should be banned from England? I could list twenty or thirty of his more disgusting comments made in the Israeli Knesset and on television about his fellow Palestinian citizens. But the former Moldovan bar bouncer and Kach party member is OK, isn’t he?
And if we want to talk about flaming racists, has Weiss ever uttered a word about Israeli Orthodox rabbis who urge that Palestinian citizens be put in concentration camps or that it’s just to murder their children lest they grow up to kill Jews. Yes, rabbis have said those things. Would you support their banning, Michael? And if so, will you write to the Home Office encouraging them to do so? I can provide the names and sources for their comments (and they’re not from the Palestinian version of MEMRI, but from mainstream Israeli press).
Even more importantly, Weiss’ Henry Jackson Society arranged for that handsome, dashing IDF officer Doron Almog to speak via video conference to a gathering of the pro-Israel flock eager to hear the good general opine on the topic, Ending Impunity or Decreasing Accountability?: Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction. There would appear to be more than a little bit of self-interest in Almog’s appearance at such a gathering. Almog couldn’t speak in person because there was a little matter of a warrant for his arrest for ordering the deaths of 18 Palestinian civilians including women and children when the IDF assassinated Salah Shehadeh in 2003. And lest Weiss blame British law for the ‘nonsense’ of holding potential Israeli war criminals responsible for their actions, we should remember that it is Israeli NGOs like Yesh Gvul and Anglo-Israeli human rights lawyers like Daniel Machover, who have spearheaded these efforts.
No matter what you wish to say about Sheikh Salah, he’s never murdered a soul. You can’t say that about Doron Almog. What’s more, Weiss surely thinks it an outrage that such a man who ordered a bombing that killed Palestinian woman and children should be banned from Britain. What irks me about the pro-Israel flack is that he likes to play the morality card, as if his are universal values based on justice and morality, while Arab or Muslim values are based on racism and hate. He’ll never admit to you that there are just as many Israeli Jewish racists as Palestinian, and that many of them are welcome to visit England whenever they wish. In fact, I’d venture to say Weiss has broken bread in his adopted country with a few of them in his role as one of Israel’s chief apologists.
He’d do a lot better if he calmed down and wrote as many posts about the audacity of Doron Almog and Moshe Feiglin entering England, as he has in the three posts which he’s filled with the spew of yellow journalism regarding Sheikh Salah.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.