Despair is sometimes the only possible response
THERE ARE times when the only appropriate response to events is despair. Yes, this week the European Court of Human Rights approved the extradition to the US of five terrorist suspects. But it’s mystifying how anyone can take cheer. The idea that as a free country we should have such decisions placed in the hands of foreign judges who make their rulings on the basis of a fundamentally flawed convention is so patently unsatisfactory that I cannot, I’m afraid, bring myself to react with anything other than anger to the whole farce.
This is the same court, of course, which has also ruled that Abu Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan. So when it comes to praise for the ECHR’S judgment over Abu Hamza and his colleagues, I say “thanks but no thanks”.
Indeed, any smidgeon of relief brought on by this week’s ECHR ruling is dwarfed by the immigration court victory of Raed Salah. Or, to be more precise, by the reasoning of the judge responsible for Salah’s win, Mr Justice Ockelton, and the outpouring of bile that followed the decision.
Central to Sheikh Salah’s case has been his outright denial that his words in a 2007 sermon about children’s blood being used to bake “holy bread” was a reference to the blood libel. The judge found that Salah’s claims were “wholly unpersuasive”. As the judgment put it “We do not find this comment could be taken to be anything other than a reference to the blood libel against Jews.”
And yet in the judge’s reasoning, this mattered not a jot. Salah is a welcome visitor to the country.
Decadent doesn’t even come close to describing a state of affairs in which an Islamic preacher can make reference to the blood libel but the judiciary tells him that such remarks are irrelevant to his fitness to be granted entry.
According to the judgment, such views are “not at the heart of the appellant’s message” and “it is not easy to see that any reasonable observer would associate the appellant with them in any general sense”. Clearly in Mr Justice Ockelton’s mind it’s unreasonable to associate a man who preaches a sermon based on the blood libel with, er, the blood libel. Go figure.
In the end, Salah himself is an irrelevance. Rabble rousers like him are ten a penny. The importance of his case is symbolic, because it is of a piece with so much else. When the hate preacher Yusuf al-qaradawi was invited to City Hall by Ken Livingstone, what was his party’s response? To reselect him as its mayoral candidate.
When anti-israel campaigners went on the rampage, destroying the property of a company they claimed has ties to Israel, what was the response of the criminal justice system? Judge Bathurst-norman did not merely acquit but praised the men.
And when Michael Gove earmarked extra funds to protect Jewish children from violent racist attacks, how did a supposedly progressive newspaper — the Guardian — react? By attacking, on entirely fabricated sleaze charges, the role of the Community Security Trust, the organisation responsible for protecting Jews.
As if in an unbroken thread, the CST is under fire again, this time on the back of the Salah appeal judgment, with Mr Justice Ockelton saying that the CST “misled” the Home Secretary.
His words have given free rein to a barrage of conspiracists, who are not merely implying but trumpeting the idea that CST — in other words, the Jews — pushed a deceitful agenda to get a perfectly upstanding citizen removed from the UK because he dared to criticise Israel.
Yet it wasn’t the CST that pushed the Home Office into anything. It was the Home Office that asked CST for information about Salah. And it was CST who provided the Home Office with the original copy of the disputed 2002 poem in Arabic and English translation. As CST says: “Nobody else provided this information either to the government or to the immigration tribunal, despite the fact that we obtained it all from public sources.”
But this is Jews we are talking about, so the default reaction of so many is to push the idea of a conspiracy, whatever the facts.
Despair is, initially at least, an impotent reaction. It doesn’t offer a plan of action. It doesn’t change anything. But until we react appropriately to what is going on around us, we don’t have a chance of changing anything.
And I challenge anyone not to despair about the events of this week.
Stephen Pollard is editor of the Jewish Chronicle