Salah ban: Theresa May’s serious problem with the truth

The UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May seems to have a problem telling the truth. At this week’s Conservative Party conference, she announced her intention to actually abolish the Human Rights Act. Shame for her then, that the example she chose to illustrate her point was complete nonsense:

The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – I am not making this up – he had a pet cat.

Turns out she was indeed making it up, and even seems to have stolen the wording of this nasty little myth from the even more right wing Ukip party (who even Prime Minister David Cameron has described as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly”).

No: I am not making this up.

Hypocrisy, perception and lies

This is of course the same Theresa May who in June personally signed the order to exclude respected Palestinian political activist Sheikh Raed Salah from the country. Attempting to justify her ongoing attempts to deport Salah, May said the following at a recent speech in Washingtonm where she argued in favour of banning people from the UK based not just on actions, but on “radical” opinions (my emphasis):

we believe that the issue of words that are said – what people actually say and how they are able to encourage others through the words that they say – is an important issue for us to address

This is just unbelievable hypocrisy on May’s part. In court during Salah’s appeal, the barrister acting for May to block his appeal against deportation took quite a different approach. The thrust of Neil Sheldon QC’s argument was that the truth was not particularly relevant, rather that perception was the important thing. As I reported:

Sheldon seemed to argue that this fact did not matter because that is how the poem was reported in a “respectable media outlet in Israel.”

What did Raed Salah actually say?

This is despite the fact that the allegedly “respectable” Jerusalem Post (in a 2009 editorial called “Civil liberties”) had twisted a poem by Salah by (amoungst other alterations) inserting (without even using square brackets) the words “You Jews” where he had not used them in the original Arabic, and where, in context, they very much did not belong. In court, Salah went to a lot of trouble to explain that his poem was addressed to all perpetrators of injustice, regardless of race or religion (including explicit references to Arab oppressors).

This has left May in some trouble, because the UK Border Agency (part of the Home Office) had cited the exact same Jerusalem Post article as to why Salah should be banned from the country.

It seems that to Theresa May “what people actually say” is not really important after all.


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).