Up until now, the most egregious distortion, within the UK media’s coverage of the proposed ‘Jewish nation-state’ legislation, was represented by Times of London headlines suggesting that the law, if passed, would render Arab-Israelis “second-class citizens”.
Through communication with Times of London editors, they agreed to add quotes around the term “second-class citizens” to reflect the fact that that charge merely represents the hyperbole of a few political figures in expressing their opposition to the law. (See this good backgrounder on the proposed bill, which would not erode the individual rights of non-Jews in Israel, yet alone result in ‘transfer’.)
However, the British newspaper The Telegraph has published an even more inflammatory and misleading article on the possible ramifications of the proposed law (Meet the Arab-Israelis living in fear of expulsion, Dec. 1). The article, written by their Middle East correspondent Robert Tait, amplifies the ludicrous charge by some Arab extremists that the legislation would result in the forced expulsion of Arab-Israelis.
Tait introduces readers to the Arab protagonist in the first few passages.
Basil Amara was happy to pose under the large Palestinian flag outside his shop, thinking the chance might soon disappear.
“Today the law doesn’t prevent me from raising the Palestinian flag,” he said. “But if they pass this new law, I might not be allowed to do it any more. I might have to remove it and put it up inside my house instead. It will be painful.”
Mr Amara, 35, an Arab-Israeli, was referring to plans to enact one of the most bitterly controversial pieces of legislation in Israel’s 66-year history, which would officially classify the country as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”.
In Kafr Kana, Mr Amara – whose shop sits just yards from where Mr Hamdan was fatally shot on November 7 – said the law would pave the way for a crackdown on Arabs, culminating in many being expelled from Israel, the land of their birth.
A bit later, Amara is quoted expressing his fear that Arabs will be “transferred”.
“We fear it will lead to the withdrawal of citizenship and rights, the destruction of our towns and villages, and eventually, to transfer. It means they want to transfer us out of the country. But we will not leave. We were born here and will die here. The Palestinian refugees who live in Arab countries live under constant humiliation but we will not accept such a fate.”
Finally, the Telegraph’s Tait explains that Amara is a member of the Islamic Movement.
“After this law, you will see many Arabs [in Israel] filling the prisons because of their opposition. It’s a prelude to transfer,” said Mr Amara, a member of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a group Mr Netanyahu has accused of inciting violence and clamouring for the country’s destruction.
However, the suggestion by Tait that only Netanyahu has accused the Islamic Movement (whose ideology can be traced back to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood) of inciting violence is an egregious distortion, as evidence abounds attesting to the group’s extremism and promotion of violence.
CST, in a recent post condemning a planned speech – presumably by video link – by Raed Salah (head of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Division) at a Palestinian Forum in Britain event, provided background on the group’s leader.
In 2011 Salah visited the UK and the Home Secretary, having initially tried to prevent him from entering the country, then tried to have him deported. Salah overturned the deportation order but he remains excluded from the country and cannot return.
In 2007, Salah made a speech in Jerusalem at which he invoked the antisemitic blood libel. He was recently convicted of racist incitement in an Israeli court as a result, having previously also been convicted of inciting violence for the same speech. Even the immigration tribunal that overturned his deportation order found (paras 49-59) that Salah’s speech contained “a blood libel against Jews”.
Salah, then, is a convicted racist and inciter of violence who has previously used antisemitism to encourage his followers. He is one of the main proponents of the lie that Israel intends to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque. This is an incendiary and false claim that is fuelling the current violence in Jerusalem, as it has done before. It is a lie that was first used by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Nazi-supporting Mufti of Jerusalem, in the 1920s.
In addition to his endorsement of the “blood libel”, it also should be noted that Salah has promoted Nazi propaganda, and espoused antisemitic conspiracy theories about 9/11.
Shlomi Eldar, writing at Al-Monitor, provides additional background on the group’s role in promoting radicalism.
The northern faction of the Islamic movement – the more extreme of the two divisions – in Israel has been led by Sheikh Raed Salah since the 1990s.Over the course of years, he’s been arrested, tried and jailed several times, for such charges as collaborating with an enemy agent. The terminology Salah uses in all his speeches and declarations is not different from that used by the leaders of Hamas in Gaza, and is sometimes even more extreme. He’s called the Jews “murderers”; he’s praised suicide bombers and their families; and he’s used the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a symbol to stir rebellion and incite Muslims against the state. He’s even claimed that Israel has secret plans to take over the mosque and destroy it.
“The northern faction, which he still heads today,” explains Eldar, “became extreme not only within the Islamic movement; it also tore apart Umm al-Fahm, the largest Arab Muslim town in Israel”.
“If there was once a thin strand of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Umm al-Fahm,” added Eldar, “Salah is the man who has persistently broken it.”
The Telegraph effectively legitimized the risible charge that there’s a plan to transfer Arab-Israelis out of the country, thus transmitting the message of the group which has played a major role in promoting extremism and fomenting precisely the type of divisions between Arabs and Jews that journalists like Tait suggest the Israeli government is guilty of causing.
As Eldar suggested in his Al-Monitor article, as with the group’s conspiratorial charges about Israel’s “plan” to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque, agitprop concerning alleged racism against Arab-Israelis represents the propaganda which the Islamic Movement needs for growing, developing and disseminating their dangerous “anti-Jewish” messages.”
By uncritically reporting incendiary accusations by a member of the Islamic Movement on a supposed Zionist plan to expel Arab-Israelis, without any background on the ideology of the group leveling the charge, Robert Tait has allowed his newspaper to serve as a vehicle for the promotion of extremist agitation against the Jewish state.