Salah witness and the two texts

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By Marc Goldberg, November 17, 2011
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Sheikh Salah with the Neturei Karta

Sheikh Salah with the Neturei Karta

One of the expert witnesses who gave testimony at Palestinian activist Sheikh Raed Salah's immigration tribunal has now raised questions relating to his own evidence.

In October, an immigration tribunal found in favour of Home Secretary Theresa May's order that Sheikh Salah should be banned from Britain as "his presence would not be conducive to the public good."

Last week it emerged that the sheikh had been granted permission to appeal against the tribunal ruling. He appealed on six grounds and was successfully granted permission to go ahead with the appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

But this week, academic Professor Ilan Pappé, who gave evidence on Sheikh Salah's behalf, said that he had not based his evidence on the English text of one of Sheikh Salah's speeches that was before the Immigration Tribunal and quoted from in the Tribunal's subsequent ruling.

Professor Pappé claims he has never seen this English text and that he based his evidence on an entirely different Arabic text.

Who's who

● George Galloway, former Respect Party MP
● Daud Abdullah, of the Muslim Council of Britain, and Ismail Patel of the Friends of Al-Aqsa
● Lauren Booth, presenter with Iran's Press TV
● Neturei Karta, anti-Israel sect
● Stephen Sizer, anti-Zionist vicar
● Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamist Political Thought

The words that were put before and accepted by the Tribunal and described as as "racist and an incitement to violence" are as follows: "We have never allowed ourselves, and listen well, we have never allowed ourselves to knead the bread for the breaking of the fast during the blessed month of Ramadan with the blood of the children. And if someone wants a wider explanation, you should ask what used to happen to some of the children of Europe, whose blood would be mixed in the dough of the holy bread. God Almighty, is this religion? Is this what God wants? God will confront you for what you are doing."

The tribunal ruling, noting Sheikh Salah's claim "that he has never invoked the blood libel and would not do so," says that his evidence was supported by Professor Pappé, "who although describing the Appellant's address as at times incoherent and emotive, said the Appellant did not invoke the blood libel in this or any other speech, and made a clear distinction between Jews as a race and the actions of Israeli officials."

But Professor Pappé now says that when he made his comments to the court he was talking about a different text to the one quoted by the court.

In an email exchange with the JC, the historian, who heads the European Centre for Palestine Studies at Exeter University, said: "I was given an Arabic text that specifically talked about the use of the blood of Muslim children at the time of the Inquisition – as an example to the uses and abuses of religion."

Professor Pappé was unable to shed any light on how or why there seem to be two different texts but said that had he been convinced that the English text was an authentic quotation from Sheikh Salah's speech in 2007 he would not have provided the expert view that he did.

He summed up his views by saying: "Had I been convinced that the text is the old blood libel against Jews, I would have said so, and not lent my support.

"Finally, I was not asked, nor would this have been this relevant, to comment on the authenticity of such a libel. I also commented that the sheikh is one of the [most] popular and respected leaders of the Palestinians in Israel and is a head of a movement which is legally recognised by the state as a registered NGO." Sheikh Salah's legal team did not comment on the alleged differences between the texts.

Sheikh Salah can remain in Britain for as long as the appeal process takes. It is not known when the case will be heard.

Tayab Ali, Sheikh Salah's solicitor, said: "Being granted permission to appeal on all grounds is highly significant. It is clear that the Home Secretary has repeatedly exercised poor judgment.

"The Home Secretary has consistently failed to show what evidence of actual harm might exist that would justify a government preventing Sheikh Salah from addressing legislators, policy makers and the British people. She has also failed to present any evidence that Sheikh Salah's previous visits to Britain have caused any detriment to public order or community relations".

    Last updated: 4:42pm, November 17 2011