De­spair is some­times the only pos­si­ble re­sponse

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment - Stephen Pol­lard

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

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