Give Antisemitism the Boot

November 21st, 2014 by Mark Gardner

Reported remarks about Jews and money by Wigan football club’s respected owner, Dave Whelan, reflect the persistence of dinosaur attitudes in football on issues of racism and sexism. They show how far the people’s game still has to go in order to catch up with its global audience. Whelan’s remarks are perhaps best explained by his age and background, but the Football Association must now deal with this case, just as they would any other. This is why CST has stated:

Dave Whelan’s comments invoked antisemitic stereotypes about Jews and money and his apology suggests that he still doesn’t understand why his comments were offensive. It is an indication of how widespread such outdated attitudes still are within football, and how much work needs to be done to eradicate this way of thinking.

Whelan claims not to understand why his reported comment that “Jewish people chase money more than anybody else” has caused offence. Being a multimillionaire himself, he may even consider it to be a compliment. His quick apology (view it here) appears sincere, but reinforces his claim not to understand the offence: because even here, his reference to Jews as “a great race of people” will still leave many people feeling that he simply doesn’t get how to talk about these issues in the modern day:

If there are Jewish people offended by what I have said then I would apologise immediately and say I am sorry and did not mean offence to them. All my Jewish friends realise that I would never insult a Jewish person, I have no reason to – they are a great race of people. I do a lot of business with them, they are very honest people, hard-working people and I would never insult a Jewish person.

The controversy around Whelan’s remarks is understandable. Football is big business and a core subject of modern day 24 hour news, and this is another sad example of the game’s continuing struggle to think and talk in the modern manner that is rightly demanded of it. It is easy to take a kick at Dave Whelan and football for what are commonly referred to as “unreconstructed” attitudes, but this is really not the most serious example of antisemitism in recent public discourse. The association of Jews with money is a very old antisemitic trope, which is exactly why Whelan’s blunt old-fashioned remarks caused the controversy: but the same thing, delivered in a much more sophisticated manner, underpins far more insidious and dangerous discourse that alleges Jewish and / or pro-Israeli lobbies control politicians, the media, global capitalism and much else, besides. It is those deeper comments, made in Parliament and elsewhere, that also need called out at every turn, and booted into touch.    

Raed Salah’s incitement is not welcome here

November 20th, 2014 by Dave Rich

The horrific murder of four Rabbis and a policeman at a synagogue in Jerusalem on Tuesday was a shocking reminder that the rising tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank is taking on an increasingly religious dimension. This should be of concern to the many British Jews and British Muslims who care deeply about Israel, Palestine and especially Jerusalem, because they do so largely on the basis of religious identities and affiliations. The record number of antisemitic incidents in the UK this summer shows how easily overseas conflicts can be imported into the UK. As Wednesday’s Guardian editorial explained, a religious conflict cannot be limited to the territorial boundaries of Israel and the Palestinian territories:

The fear, then, is that what has long been a bitter and bloody territorial conflict will escalate into something even more intractable: a holy war. By attacking men as they pray – not, it is worth stressing, in the occupied West Bank or in annexed East Jerusalem but inside the boundaries of pre-1967 Israel proper – Tuesday’s killers risk turning the conflict of Palestinian against Israeli into a battle of Muslim against Jew.

This poses particular risks for communal tensions in the UK, and it is important that everybody in this country who wants to campaign for one side or the other does so responsibly. An example of a group doing the opposite – seeking out the most inflammatory and extreme voices, and amplifying them to a British audience – comes at a meeting this Saturday organised by the Palestinian Forum in Britain, at which Sheikh Raed Salah is the guest speaker.

PFB Salah

We presume Salah will be speaking by video link, because he is banned from entering the UK.  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. It is also a claim that carries the greatest risk of importing these tensions into the UK, precisely because it pinpoints the conflict as one of religious claims rather than national or territorial ones.

Salah repeatedly expresses his opposition to Israel in religious terms. For example, in his 2007 ‘blood libel’ speech, he said:

…the Israeli establishment wants to build a temple that will be used as a prayer house to G-d. How insolent and what a liar he is. He who wants to build a prayer house for G-d; it is inconceivable that he should build a house for G-d when our blood is still on his clothes, and our blood is still on his doors, and our blood is in his food, and our blood in his drink, and our blood passes from one terrorist general to another terrorist general.

And thus we proceed in our path and are not fearful except of G-d blessed is His name. We are not afraid, only of G-d… The most beautiful moments in our destiny will be when we meet G-d as shahids [martyrs] in the premises of the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Just this month, in response to the rising tension, he has glorified “the blood of our martyrs” and has called on Muslims all over the world to lend their support, saying:

The issue of Al-Aqsa Mosque is not just an issue for individual Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims; it is the issue of the Islamic nation, Arab world, and all of Palestine. It is a matter of our civilizational and historical right and a matter of our present and future.

Salah’s message is one of incitement, hatred and religious conflict. He is the last person whose voice is needed in the UK at this moment. If he plans to attend the Palestinian Forum in Britain event in person, we expect him to be stopped at the border. If he is due to speak by video link, then this is a loophole in the law that needs to be closed. And we call on the Palestinian Forum in Britain to think again about its choice of speaker.

Jerusalem terrorist attack and ongoing tensions

November 18th, 2014 by CST

CST has today sent a security notice for display in communal buildings:

This morning’s terrorist attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem is the latest incident causing rising tension in
the area. In light of this ongoing tension, and also following the stabbing of a Jewish man on his way to
synagogue in Antwerp on Saturday, CST asks that staff and visitors at communal buildings comply with all
security measures and give security personnel their full cooperation.

CST is not aware of any specific threat to the Jewish community in the UK. However, we urge everyone to
remain vigilant and to report and challenge suspicious activity immediately to Police and CST.

All communal buildings and organisers of communal events should review their security arrangements and
ensure they are fully implemented.

If you have any questions concerning this notice, or require security advice, please contact CST.

SECURITY REMINDERS

CST continues to ask members of the community to:
• Be alert for suspicious people and activities including parked cars and unattended items
• Challenge (if it is safe to do so) and report suspicious people
• Where possible, make a report of any suspicious activity including photographs or descriptions
• Be aware of your surroundings when arriving at or leaving communal buildings or travelling through
Jewish neighbourhoods
• Ensure visible external security patrols take place to deter and detect hostile activity
• Prevent members of the community congregating outside communal buildings and events
• Prevent ‘tailgating’ – someone following close behind and attempting to gain access to the building
when gates or doors are opened
• Volunteer for security rotas at communal buildings – security is everybody’s responsibility
• Report any security concerns or antisemitic incidents to Police and CST as soon as possible

Ed Miliband and antisemitism “in all its forms”

November 11th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

Last week, Ed Miliband MP used his Facebook page to issue a personal warning against antisemitism. CST thanks the Leader of the Opposition for this, and especially for his continuing support of CST’s work, but recent media coverage of Jewish communal relations with the Labour Party risks worsening the problem. It highlights the difficulty of achieving Ed Miliband’s appeal:

We need a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism in the UK and to reaffirm our revulsion to it in all its forms.

For British Jews, the warning came as we reflected upon a very difficult summer that CST has described as thepressure-cooker: combining various factors, some obviously against Jews, others obviously against Israel, and many wide open to personal interpretation. It is entirely correct that Ed Miliband wants “zero-tolerance” and “revulsion to it [antisemitism] in all its forms”, but “all its forms” means very different things to different people. For example, polling shows that most British Jews accept criticism of Israel as not being antisemitic: but they regard Israel boycotts as the tipping point into antisemitism.

There is, of course, no argument of antisemitic intention, heritage or impact when it comes to neo-Nazism, such as the current campaign of appalling neo-Nazi abuse, via Twitter, against Luciana Berger MP. It is naked antisemitism, red in tooth and claw. Clearly there can only be zero-tolerance and criminal charges against such filth.

The pressures of the summer months (and the entire post 2000 period) are far more complex than Nazism; and are far harder to build understandings and alliances against. The hostile conflation of Jew with Israel is fundamental to this problem. Ed Miliband explicitly warned against it, as have many other senior public figures in recent months, but the depth of the problem is revealed by recent media coverage of Jews and the Labour Party, showing that these judicial constructs are so deeply ingrained as to be almost taken for granted.

Firstly, there was a largely unnoticed article in the Observer on 2 November. This discussed Jim Murphy MP’s suitability to become the new leader of the Scottish Labour Party, including:

…The left of the party has always been suspicious of him [Jim Murphy MP] though, owing to his devotion to the New Labour project and the manner in which he courts and sustains the crucial Jewish vote in his constituency. This, though, ought not to be held against him. Though small, Glasgow’s 5,000-strong Jewish community is a dynamic one that has contributed greatly to the city’s charm and success over many decades.

This literally states (no doubt correctly) that the left of the Scottish Labour Party has two main problems with Murphy. The first, an association with New Labour, is understandable: but why should his relationship with his Jewish constituents be the second major concern for “the left of the party”?

The article’s author Kevin McKenna does not explain the concern to Observer readers. On the contrary, he appears to assume that his intelligent left-leaning readers will understand such suspicions about Jewish electorates. There is no way of telling if the subsequent ‘these are actually 5,000 good Jews’ warning is meant to imply that it is unusual for a Jewish community to – shock, horror! – make a positive contribution to their host city: but it certainly risks implying that.

Such casual mentions of leftist attitudes help reveal the nature of contemporary hostile conflations of Jews with Zionists with Israel in ostensibly anti-racist spaces. Glasgow’s rapidly shrinking and ageing Jewish community faces significant religious, welfare and educational challenges. It needs close engagement with its MP, but there is no suggestion of this alarming “the left of the [Scottish Labour] party”. If this is what is assumed of Glaswegian Jews, then what is being thought of actual large and influential Jewish communities elsewhere? (See also the cartoon here of Jim Murphy MP as a Frankenstein monster, wearing an “I love Israel” badge.)

The answer is revealed by the Independent on Sunday’s front page article of 9 November, entitled “Jewish donors drop ‘toxic’ Ed Miliband“. This was not an explicitly or intentionally antisemitic piece, as indeed many Jewish Labour supporters (voters, party members and party donors) are deeply troubled by Ed Miliband’s role in Labour’s recent stance on Israel, but the BBC News newspaper review of 8 November pre-emptively revealed how it would be understood.

Jewish donors” seamlessly became “the Jewish lobby“, and BBC guest Jo Phillips bemoaned, “when he’s [Ed Miliband] being brave and principled and standing up and saying, you know, ‘this time Israel has gone too far’, people take their money away, so he can’t win, can he?”.

The BBC host Tim Wilcox then went a bit further, suggesting that “a lot of these prominent Jewish faces will be very much against the mansion tax”. His two guests responded that non-Jews oppose the mansion tax also: but, as with the original article, the stench of toxic assumptions about Jews and money / influence for Israel was now out there.

There is no widespread revulsion at this, because such slurs are seldom directed at Jewish individuals, made at Jews qua Jews: simply for being Jewish. So, they lack the ugly obvious racism spewed by neo-Nazis at Luciana Berger MP. It is still, however, a very slippery slope, liberally oiled with deep seated antisemitic toxins about Jews acting in concert with other Jews: whether that is in Glasgow, Westminster or Washington.

Of course, individual Jews have long supported Labour, as voters, activists and donors because they believe in the Party: but when they are troubled by its policy towards Israel this immediately risks pushing antisemitic buttons. Instead of being genuine Labour supporters with a certain vision for UK society, they now risk being perceived as Jewish puppets of a Zionist lobby, definitively alleged to be subverting and corrupting the body politic.

The same problem lies in each of the parliamentary parties. (See for example, CST analysis of recent comments by the Conservative Party’s Alan Duncan MP.) Moving forward, this situation has significant potential to turn toxic for Jews who are active in politics, as politicians, donors, lobbyists or in any capacity.

None of this is antisemitic in the manner of the hatred directed against Luciana Berger MP, but is its allegation really so different to this antisemitic Nazi flyer from 1962? free britain crop

CST and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles joint letter on removing antisemitic graffiti

November 10th, 2014 by CST

CST Chief Executive David Delew and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, have sent a joint letter to council leaders reminding them of the importance of removing antisemitic and racist graffiti and reporting it to the Police.

The letter, which can be downloaded in full here (pdf), states:

We must all continue to stand unified against all forms of hatred be it antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, racism or homophobia, whatever its manifestation, whether it is expressed on social media, as a physical attack, as a verbal threat, or in any other manner.

A particularly pernicious expression of antisemitism and other forms of hatred is the daubing of slogans or symbols, via graffiti or the fixing of stickers and posters, onto both public and private property. In these instances, a visible display of hate can increase tensions between communities, as well as providing a physical reminder to the victim of the abuse they have suffered.

The letter sets out local authorities’ legal powers to remove offensive graffiti and gives contact details for antisemitic hate crime to be reported to the Police and to CST.

This initiative is another sign of our joint determination, with our partners in Government and the Police, to reduce antisemitic hate crime and to see perpetrators of antisemitic hate crime identified and prosecuted. We are grateful to Secretary of State Pickles for his continuing support in tackling antisemitism.

 

Jewish Community Meeting With Home Secretary

November 5th, 2014 by CST

Jewish community leaders met with Home Secretary Theresa May MP to express communal concerns about antisemitism and extremism. The continuing spread of terrorist threats against the Jewish Community was also a matter of particular focus.

The group was led by Gerald Ronson CBE (Chairman of Community Security Trust) and included Mick Davis (Chairman of JLC), Vivian Wineman (President, Board of Deputies of British Jews), David Delew (Chief Executive of CST), Simon Johnson (Chief Executive of JLC), and Gillian Merron (Chief Executive of BoD).

The Home Secretary was told of the record number of antisemitic incidents that occurred during the summer (314 in July alone); and that the community had never before expressed such a widespread feeling of being under severe pressure, with attendant fears for the future wellbeing of the community.

These pressures and fears combined experiences and perceptions of open antisemitism, but also deep concerns about the worsening nature of anti-Israel rhetoric and protest, especially pro-boycott actions that have included violence, criminal damage and intimidation of members of the public and shop workers. Where possible, actions should be taken against those who break the law. Furthermore, intimidation or harassment by pro-boycott activists should be publicly condemned, and retailers ought to contact police when protests involve criminality.

The problems faced by British Jews contradict British values and should concern not only Jews, but society as a whole. It was noted that senior Government figures, including the Prime Minister David Cameron MP, Chief Whip Michael Gove MP, and the Home Secretary herself have publicly expressed a keen awareness of all the factors impacting upon the Jewish Community this summer. Their strong opposition, combined with that from other senior figures including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband MP, is extremely important to the Jewish Community.

One particular aim of the meeting was to reinforce the message that the community needs to be reassured that the law is properly enforced in regard to all of the issues that arose so forcefully this summer. This had also been one of the core messages in the previous day’s meeting of the Cross-Government Working Group on Antisemitism, which included Parliamentary Under-Secretary Stephen Williams MP and was addressed by CST, BoD, JLC, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. The Working Group is the core of the joint long-term efforts between Government and the Jewish Community to discuss and tackle antisemitism.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

I am absolutely clear that everyone in this country, including members of Britain’s Jewish community, should be able to live their lives free from racial and religious hatred and harassment. No one should live in fear because of their beliefs or who they are. Recent reports from the Community Security Trust, which have indicated a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United Kingdom, are deeply worrying.

Since we published our hate crime action plan in 2012, the government has made significant progress in preventing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving the operational response. We are committed to engaging closely with Jewish communal leaders on this issue.

Book review: ‘Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism’

November 4th, 2014 by CST

CST’s Dave Rich has  reviewed Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism, by Ben Cohen, for the journal Fathom. The book is a collection of essays and articles by Cohen, written between 2004 and 2013, on an array of subjects related to contemporary antisemitism and anti-Zionism. As Rich explains:

In truth, the range of subjects covered in this book is an accurate reflection of the confusing, and at times chaotic, debate that surrounds antisemitism. It is apt that the section of the book on ‘Antisemitism and Anti-Judaism’ begins with an article titled ‘What antisemitism is (and isn’t)’. The academic and political arguments over precisely this question have at times left damaging scars, such as during the misguided and largely unnecessary battles over the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) Working Definition of Antisemitism, or the short life and sudden demise of the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). The central article of this section and of the entire book (‘The Big Lie Returns’) contains Cohen’s original formulation of ‘bierkeller and bistro antisemitism.’ Bierkeller antisemitism, he explains, ‘employs such means as violence, verbal abuse, commercial harassment, and advocacy of anti-Jewish legal measures.’ Its name associates it with the antisemitic thuggery of 1920s and 1930s Nazism, and therefore with an ‘old’ antisemitism that, in theory at least, has been discredited by history. Bistro antisemitism, on the other hand, ‘sits in a higher and outwardly more civilised realm, providing what left-wing activists would call a “safe space” to critically assess the global impact of Jewish cabals from Washington D.C., to Jerusalem.’ The themes of this intellectual, left-wing antisemitism ‘include the depiction of Palestinians as the victims of a second Holocaust, the breaking of the silence supposedly imposed upon honest discussions of Jewish political and economic power, and the contention … that American Jewish government officials are more suspect than others because of a potential second loyalty to Israel.’

The difference between bierkeller and bistro antisemitism is illustrated by the striking juxtaposition, early in the book, of tributes to Vidal Sassoon and Ronnie Fraser (29-35). Sassoon, best known as a celebrity hairdresser, spent his youth fighting fascist gangs in the East End of London in the immediate post-war years. He and his friends in the 43 Group would set out ‘armed with knives, coshes and knuckledusters’, and often return home with bruises. This was antisemitism red in tooth and claw, and Jewish self-defence was both direct and brutal. Immediately following Cohen’s obituary for Sassoon are two articles about Ronnie Fraser, a Jewish further education lecturer who unsuccessfully sued the University and College Union (UCU) in 2012, on the grounds that UCU’s activities in support of the boycott of Israeli academics constituted discrimination against its Jewish members. The contrast between these two episodes is stark, and not only because the 43 Group achieved its goals while Fraser lost his case. Rather, it is the idea that both belong in a book about antisemitism, and that Sassoon and Fraser are both heroes in the defence of Jews against the prejudice they face, that draws attention.

Since Cohen’s ‘The Big Lie Returns’ was first published in Commentary magazine in January 2012, jihadists have murdered French Jews in Toulouse and Belgian Jews in Brussels; rioting mobs, made up primarily of French Muslims, have burned synagogues and Jewish shops in Paris and Sarcelles. Even in Britain, where the antisemitism is less violent than elsewhere, the summer of 2014 saw a record rise in antisemitic incidents fuelled largely by antisemitism from sections of British Muslim communities, while supermarkets were invaded by mobs determined to prevent them from selling Israeli-sourced goods. Meanwhile, Jewish religious rituals are under threat as much from human rights advocates of the left as they are from the xenophobic right. It is true that European fascism has made a recent return via Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, but insofar as Jews in Western Europe currently face ‘violence, verbal abuse, commercial harassment, and advocacy of anti-Jewish legal measures,’ these assaults on Jewish life do not come from the bierkeller. In these countries, Cohen’s dichotomy of bierkeller and bistro antisemitism requires a third category: banlieue antisemitism, perhaps, named after the deprived suburbs of French cities from which much Muslim and jihadist antisemitism now emanates.

You can read the rest of the review on the Fathom website here, and you can order the book here.

Ben cohen book

 

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