CST denies it acted “on behalf of Israel” in Salah plot

My recent expose on how the British government colluded with the Community Security Trust (CST) to ban Palestinian activist Sheikh Raed Salah from the country seems to have annoyed the CST. They replied today with a long and rather defensive, anonymous post on their blog. It is full of telling comments. To me it reeks of a guilty conscience. It begins with an admission (my emphasis): 

As has been widely reported, CST provided information to the government to assist their efforts to exclude, and now deport, the radical Arab-Israeli preacher Sheikh Raed Salah from the United Kingdom.

However, despite the matter-of-fact way they own up to this, this is the first time I know of that they’ve publicly admitted doing so. There has been no such admission on the CST blog until now. But considering the emails sent between the government and the CST seen by the Guardian and myself, how could they deny the fact? The day after Salah’s arrest, Mark Gardner wrote: “CST welcomes the detention by UK Borders [sic.] Agency, late last night, of Sheikh Raed Salah.” You would have expected the CST to boast about its role in having Salah excluded and arrested, but they don’t mention their role at all. How modest! Why does the CST feel the need to issue secret reports on a respected Palestinian leader? The Islamic Movement that Salah heads is likely the most popular movement among Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Is Gardner willing to retract that welcome now that the High Court has ruled Salah is entitled to compensation for “wrongful detention”? The arresting officers had told Salah he was being arrested for immigration offenses. Yet the government later admitted Salah had entered the country legally. He had not been served with any banning order.

As I reported in July, the officers arresting Salah on 28 June refused to let Salah’s translator do his job. But in the course of the judicial review, a bizarre new detail has emerged: the police used an iPhone app to translate their reasons to Salah. But the legal problem arose from their faulty reasons, not from a technical glitch, as the High Court ruling makes clear:

In the car to the police station, the Claimant [Salah] was told the wrong reason for his arrest. He was told he was being arrested for immigration offences. But, as Mr Sheldon [the government’s barrister] accepted, that was incorrect. The Claimant had committed no offence and the officers had no reason to believe that he had. This was not a function of the limited translation facility available to Officer Church. His witness statement explained in English what he had entered into the application on his iPhone. It was the English expression which was wrong.

Does the CST stand by its statement that it welcomes Salah’s wrongful detention?

Why did CST send the government secret reports on Salah?

The CST blog has still not published any of the reports on Raed Salah the group provided to government departments. Why? Are they not proud of their work? A few hours ago on Twitter I publicly challenged the CST to publish the reports:

I’ve yet to receive a reply. But I repeat my call here. That way people can judge for themselves whether or not the CST used dishonest quotes that deliberately misrepresented Raed Salah’s words as anti-semitic. In my judgement they did: let people see the evidence. CST, what are you afraid of? The question must be asked: why do the CST and the British government feel the need to act in secret like this?

“We did not do this on behalf of Israel”

The anonymous CST blog post continues like this:

We did not do this on behalf of Israel or in pursuit of Israel’s policy objectives…

But by deliberately conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, the CST is using an old dirty trick Zionists are fond of: smearing critics of Israel as racists. This dangerous tactic is wearing thin – people have grown wise to it. In fact, the tactic  is anti-Semitic in itself. Muddying the waters between Israel and Jews as a whole is the very definition of anti-Semitism.

Perhaps the CST would like to write a list of permissible criticisms of Israel it allows Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims to say without being smeared as racists and potentially banned from the UK?

“Doctored” quotes

The CST’s annoyance over the issue of “doctored” quotes is pretty funny. I double-checked my notes from court to find where Salah’s barrister Raza Husain has said that, but I couldn’t find it. It’s certainly possible I missed it, but in fact, the only person I had a note as using that wording was the government’s barrister Neil Sheldon! As I reported:

In court on Monday, government barrister Neil Sheldon said, “There is no question of this being a doctored quote, or a cooked-up quote,” although he conceded that the words “Jews” did not appear in the original poem written by Salah. A Jerusalem Post report cited by the government against Salah “may well have got it wrong,” Sheldon stated (“Civil Liberties,” 20 June 2009).

In a similar way to the CST’s defensiveness, this is a pretty telling denial. 

The Israel factor

Of the many unanswered questions in this case, the central one is this: what was Israel’s role in this ban? Israel has a long-standing vendetta against Raed Salah. Salah has even alleged assassination attempts against him, and the Shin Bet is known to have encouraged a Zionist fanatic to kill Salah. This must be understood in the context of Israel’s campaign of killing, harassment and arrests against peaceful Palestinian popular resistance. While leaders such as Abdullah AbuRahme and Bassam Tamimi have been imprisoned for organizing protests in the West Bank, Salah is a key leader of popular resistance in the context of Jerusalem and the ‘48 territories.

Although they don’t tell the whole story, the emails I have seen do shed some light on the Israel factor. Stay tuned to Electronic Intifada for more details.


Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).