UK media is reporting on the online apology issued to Hamas/UK Muslim Brotherhood activist Mohammad Sawalha by Melanie Phillips, a UK-based journalist who wrote an article citing what were believed at the time to be anti-Semitic comments by Sawalha. According to a report in the Guardian newspaper:
The Spectator and contributor Melanie Phillips today published an online apology to a prominent British Muslim they falsely accused of antisemitism. Today’s apology, published on the Spectator website, follows an out of court settlement in which the magazine and Phillips agreed to pay Mohammad Sawalha “substantial” compensation and his legal costs. Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative, took legal action over a blog post by Phillips published in July 2008 in which she accused him of calling British Jews “evil/noxious”. The apology stated: “On 2 July 2008 we published an article entitled ‘Just look what came crawling out’ which alleged that at a protest at the celebration in London of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, Mohammad Sawalha had referred to Jews in Britian as ‘evil/noxious’. “We now accept that Mr Sawalha made no such antisemitic statement and that the article was based on a mistranslation elsewhere of an earlier report. We and Melanie Phillips apologise for the error.” Solicitors acting for Sawalha said he was “delighted” to be cleared of the false allegation. Sawalha, a long-time campaigner for community cohesion in Britain, took the dispute to the high court after the Spectator initially refused to correct Phillips blog post, which alleged that he had referred to Jews in Britain as “evil/noxious” at a protest in London of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Instead, the Spectator published a second story by Phillips, titled “Taking the airbrush to evil”, repeating the false allegation and casting doubt on the suggestion that the “evil/noxious” quote was the result of a mistranslation of the transcript of an interview. They continued to defend the claim even after an independent expert commissioned by both sides had confirmed that the phrase in the original transcript could not be translated as referring to Jews as “evil/noxious”, before finally settling shortly before the case was due in court. In October, the Spectator paid substantial damages and legal costs to the campaign group IslamExpo, of which Sawalha is a director, for an article it also published in July 2008. Matthew d’Ancona was editor at the time, replaced by Fraser Nelson in August last year.
The Guardian, a left-leaning UK newspaper, failed to identify the Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood ties of Mr. Sawalha as reported by the The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) which published the following profile of Mr. Sawalha describing him as follows:
Muhammad Kazem Sawalha is a senior Hamas activist who publicly supports jihad and was formerly involved in both political and operational Hamas activities in Judea and Samaria, including running the terrorist operative infrastructure. He was wanted by the Israeli security services but in October 1990 used forced documents to escape to Jordan, and from there went to Britain. In Britain he has been involved in intensive anti-Israeli activities within the Islamic community, with the Muslim Brotherhood and with British organizations providing support for the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip.
The ITIC profiles also details Sawalha’s ties to the U.K. Muslim Brotherhood:
In recent years his status as a senior Hamas activist has diminished, although he has continued his intensive pro-Hamas anti-Israeli activities. He has arranged rallies and demonstrations, sermons in mosques, Muslim Brotherhood activities (Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), and sent aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and to the de facto Hamas administration. Gaza Strip residents demonstrate in Rafah (Palestine-info, December 22) Muhammad Sawalha at a British Muslim Initiative demonstration. He carries a sign reading “Freedom for Palestine.” To his left is a demonstrator holding a sign reading “Stop the holocaust in Gaza” (The picture was apparently taken during Operation Cast Lead.)2 7. Some examples of his activities in recent years are the following: A. On March 19, 2004, the Muslim Brotherhood website referred to him as “UK official [mas’ul] of the Political Committee of the International Muslim Brotherhood Organisation in the UK.”3 B. He was one of the founders of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and headed it from 1999 to 2007. He later became chairman of the British Muslim Initiative.4 C. On July 21, 2007, he appeared on Hamas’ Palestine-info website as head of an organization called the International Committee to Lift the Siege on the Gaza Strip.5 D. In July 2009 he was reported appointed as deputy chairman of the Popular Committee in Support of the Palestinian People, which describes itself as coordinating between organizations and institutions all over the globe to promote a “Palestinian victory” and “lift the [so-called] siege of the Gaza Strip.” (The organization’s website gave broad coverage to the Viva Palestina humanitarian assistance convoy which reached the Gaza Strip at the beginning of January 2010.6)