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UK government's strange double-take on Palestinian activists

The UK  Minister for Middle East Alistair Burt (not to be confused with the actual Foreign Secretary, William Hague) has been visiting Israel and the West Bank last week. As part of his visit, he was taken to the hotspot of the fiercest clashes between Palestinians and the army in these post-Intifada days, Nabi Saleh. There, he offered the following statement:
“From what I have seen the IDF have acted extremely strongly against peaceful protesters including chasing children and, in one instance striking a woman. We entirely defend people’s rights to peacefully protest and the role of the international community in helping protect this. Ultimately it is in the interest of Israel and villages such as Nabi Saleh to address the issues I’ve seen here”.
Burt was actually walking in the footsteps of Foreign Secretary and one-time leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, who in November met with organizers of unarmed resistance from the village of Bilin. Hague has also been very pro-active in showing personal and political support for the Arab Spring revolutionaries, betting on on their success. His conduct then could not contrast more starkly with the waffling Obama Administration or the downright bizarre description of Hosni Mubarak as a “force for good” by Hague’s former dispatch box  opponent Tony Blair.
Which all merits the question of where Hague and Burt were when their Home Office counterpart, Theresa May, brought about the London arrest of probably the most important Palestinian-Israeli leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, last week. At the very least, it would seem to contradict Messrs Burt & Hague’s signals of greater openness and desire for engagement with players in the conflict who are not the Israeli diplomatic corps. I’d give a lot to be a fly-on-the-wall in any of May’s and Hague’s conversations this weekend.
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    1. Karen

      Couldn’t resist responding to this one.

      There’s no double-take: Alistair Burt also commented while he was here that he supports May’s decision, and she would have had the support of the rest of the Foreign Office – including William Hague.

      Decisions on excluding people from the UK are not taken lightly. The Home Office believes that Sheikh Salah has a history of what the government judges to be ‘unacceptable behaviour’.

      Yes, the British government supports the Palestinian right to peaceful protest. It also continues to fully support the Arab community in Israel through funding a variety of projects and lobbying the government against legislation that could discriminate against this community.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Dimi Reider

      Thanks for that : ) Did they detail what about Salah’s conduct was more or less acceptable than, say, Baruch Marzel, or Avigdor Lieberman, or former Chief-of-Staff Dan Halutz?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Karen

      Well, it’s policy not to go into the specifics of individual cases. But Sheikh Salah isn’t the first Israeli to be excluded from the UK. A number of right-wingers (from around the world) are on the exclusion list – and the last government even used to publish a list of ‘least wanted’. The use of exclusion powers is very serious and decisions really aren’t taken lightly.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Dimi Reider

      I never implied that they were -was just pointing out what from here seems a dissonance between the two ministries. I guess we’ll know the specifics of Salah’s case soon enough, once he is (inevitably) deported.

      Reply to Comment
    5. No Dissonance

      The UK has banned a whole range of sectarians and hate preachers. Many have been from Islamist groups, but that’s because they’re much more likely to say things like “Homosexuals should be killed” or “Hurrah for Osama Bin Laden”.

      The UK has banned Moshe Feiglin, for example.

      They have also banned a whole host of people who stir up hatred against Muslims, including Pastor Terry “Burn a Quran” Jones.

      The bottom line is that Salah is a wanker.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Abtalyon

      “…..probably the most important Palestinian-Israeli leader, Sheikh Raed Salah…”

      So this is what you think of that racist, antisemitic, homophobic, misogynist rabble rouser.

      Fortunately for all of us, most Israeli Arabs think differently.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Andrew

      Dimi. Kind of agree with Karen. I think it’s the same mistake to say that all Palestinians are equally good (because they are Palestinians) as it is too say they are equally bad (because they are Palestinians). IF Salah did call Jews monkeys and repeat the original blood libel then I’m not sure he has much in common with the decent folk of Nabi Salah. If he didn’t he’ll probably win his appeal currently going through the UK courts. The evidence may or may not be shaky but I don’t think the logic is inconsistent. I would happily defend the protests in Bilin, Nilin, Al Walaja, Nabi Salah etc. but would feel deeply uncomfortable if that meant in some way that I necessarily had to support what the Northern Islamic League had to say on any particular subject.

      Reply to Comment