By Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem
The arrest by the British authorities last week of Sheikh Rae'd Salah, one of the prominent leaders of Israel's 1.7 million-strong Palestinian community, is a real affront to the most elementary considerations of justice. It is also an indelible shame that should continue to haunt the British justice system for a long time to come.
Far from being motivated by any real violations of the law, the arrest seemed to have been prompted by a vindictive complaint by pro-Israeli Zionist circles in the British capital. Ultimately, the real motive behind the arrest is to silence one of the most outspoken defendants of Palestinian rights, the very man the Israeli intelligence has been persecuting, vilifying and even trying to assassinate.
I am not talking about someone I don't know. Since the late 1980s, I have met Ra'ed Salah many times. I visited him at his home in Um al-Fahm and I attended his lectures. And from my acquaintance with the man, I can solemnly attest to his honesty, religiosity, rectitude and clean credentials. He is a man who would rather be morally straight than politically correct, he wouldn't flinch from telling the truth (as he sees it) for fear of undesirable public reaction.
Sheikh Ra'ed Salah is therefore a man of sublime principles. He feels he is morally obliged to speak up against oppression, especially Israel's pornographic oppression that is meted out to his own people on both sides of the Green Line, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as Israel.
He does belong to that special category of people, which encompasses great men and women, who stand up in the face of power, throwing their moral weight on the side of the weak, the persecuted and the helpless.
Hence, ascribing racism to this man is an insult to truth, which can only be made by irredeemable ignoramuses or malicious liars.
Needless to say, the Israeli intelligence made every conceivable effort to vilify and incriminate, even criminalize, Sheikh Salah.
In October 2000, Shin Beth agents tried to insert a few grams of hashish into his pocket in the hope of besmirching his image among the Arab citizens in Israel. A few years later, he was accused of encouraging terror and endangering the security of Israel.
Interestingly, the "terror" charges came from a state that continues to embody and practice terror, even 63 years after its misbegotten birth which wouldn't have occurred had it been for the mass terror, ethnic cleansing and expulsion of the bulk of the true natives of the land of Palestine.
In the past decade, the Shin Beth became exasperated with Salah's focal and effective activism which centered around one main theme, saving Jerusalem 's Aqsa Mosque from Israeli conspiracies and hostile designs.
All sorts of charges were concocted against the man, ranging from contacts with a terrorist organization to giving flours, food and clothing to the children of "terrorists." Israel classifies all Palestinians into two categories: "terrorists" who oppose the nefarious Israeli occupation, even through peaceful means, who ought to be annihilated; and collaborators (or quislings) who either say nothing and do nothing, or agree to become informers on their own people.
Sheikh Salah and a few of his colleagues in the Islamic movement in Israel had to spend long prison terms on mainly frivolous charges that had very little substance. In any other country with a credible justice system, the charges would have been dismissed as fabricated and lacking in credibility.
However, we are talking about Israel, a country that calls itself the only democracy in the Middle East while in reality it commits adultery with the most elementary aspects of justice, such as the timeless judicial principle that the accused is innocent until he or she is proven guilty.
In Israel, especially when non-Jews, e.g. Palestinians, are involved, the principle is brashly reversed and the accused becomes guilty until proven innocent.
In recent years, the administration of justice in Israel, a country that is based on rampant injustice and oppression, has undergone a Kafkaesque metamorphosis. A Palestinian, even a man or woman who has never hurled a stone on or even toward an Israeli armored personnel carrier rampaging through his town or village, is treated as guilty even if proven innocent.
This is the reason why thousands of innocent Palestinians, including political leaders, elected lawmakers, college professors and professionals of all sorts, are languishing in Israeli dungeons and concentration camps on no other accounts than their thoughts, views and feelings.
To conclude this article, I want to address the collective conscience of the British people: By what standard of morality are people who never hurt anyone in their lives, like Ra'ed Salah, are arrested and persecuted for their views, while real war criminals like Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya'alon and Ariel Sharon, who bear on their hands so much innocent blood, are accorded stately treatment at the hands of the British authorities?
Britain which seized Palestine from the Islamic Ottoman state and gave it Zionist Jews on a silver platter is historically responsible from the enduring Palestinian plight. However, far from seeking atonement for its unforgivable sins, which wreaked disaster, death and pain on millions, Britain seems to be still faithful to the same evil mentality that motivated Lord Balfour 94 years ago to issue his infamous promise to give Palestine to Zionist Jews.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|