Do ethnic minorities need ethnic police officers?

July 31st, 2009 by Dave Rich

Today’s Jewish Chronicle reports on a pilot scheme being run by the Metropolitan Police, whereby ethnic victims of crime can request a police officer from their own community to deal with their case. The scheme is currently being trialled with the Sikh and Punjabi community and has been supported by the Metropolitan Sikh Police Association. By contrast, the Jewish Police Association has questioned whether it would be useful for the Jewish community, as CST already provides a well-established third party reporting system.

CST has a great deal of experience of working with large numbers of police officers in many parts of the country, from the Met Commissioner and Chief Constables down to Safer Neighbourhood Teams and street-level policing. Our partnership with the police is more important than any other we have, and is at the heart of our work against antisemitic hate crime and the threat of terrorism against the Jewish community. In all this work, there has not been a single case when we have felt that it would have been advantageous to have been able to deal with a Jewish police officer, rather than one from any other background.

This is not to deny that different minority communities have specific cultural sensitivities, but CST’s approach has always been to try to educate the police about the particular needs of the Jewish community, rather than to request officers who already have that knowledge. To this end, CST wrote and produced A Police Officer’s Guide To Judaism, which is available to download from our website. Approximately 12,000 copies of this booklet have been distributed to police officers who work with Jewish communities around the country. Copies were even requested by the New York Police Department.

Another CST initiative, in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust, takes police officers on educational visits to Auschwitz concentration camp. This serves several purposes: it helps to educate officers about the impact that antisemitic hate crimes can have on Jewish people, while also teaching them about wider issues of racism, discrimination and the perception of vulnerability felt by all minorities. Many of the officers who have taken part were particularly struck by the role played by police in the deportation of Jews from European countries to the Nazi camps, and left with a deeper understanding of the responsibilities that come with their role in society. Over 150 officers from around Britain have benefitted from this programme in the past three years.

There are wider issues raised by the Met’s pilot scheme, which is a good example of how a well-meaning effort to be culturally sensitive, and deliver an improved service to communities, can actually be quite detrimental to community cohesion and damage the police’s relationship with the wider public. Miriam Shaviv’s column in today’s Jewish Chronicle puts the arguments well. Our experience is that most police officers want to learn more about the different communities they serve, and want to find new ways to help them. To give just one example: a few years ago CST became aware of significant under-reporting of antisemitic abuse and assaults suffered by strictly Orthodox Jews in north Manchester; many of these incidents take place on the Sabbath, when people are walking to or from synagogue, but as observant Jews they could not phone the police or write down details of the incident until some time after it had taken place. When we raised this problem with Greater Manchester Police, their response was to place temporary police stations – little more than portakabins – on street corners in the affected areas during the Sabbath, so that victims of antisemitic incidents could verbally report what had happened to the police as soon as possible. As a result, the reporting of antisemitic incidents to the police (and CST) improved dramatically from this community, their wider relationship with the police has benefitted, and the cultural and religious learning behind the scheme has been institutionalised within GMP.

The litmus test for this pilot scheme is that, presumably, no police service would accept a request from a white victim of crime to be dealt with by a white officer. Britain, in many ways, is far ahead of other countries in our understanding of policing diverse communities. Surely it is better for us all to learn about the specific needs and concerns of each other, and for all police officers to acquire the learning they need to give the same standard of service to all members of the public, whatever their background.

Jihadist measures to fool the police

July 31st, 2009 by Dave Rich

The Jamestown Foundation has an interesting report today, about an article from the online Jihadist magazine Sada al-Jihad (Echo of Jihad), which offers advice to its readers on “security precautions” to fool the police and security forces. The article discusses several examples of “un-Islamic” behaviour which jihadis, so the author says, are allowed to practice in pursuit of their activities. These include, according to the report:

• Shaving the beard. Unmistakable security necessity lifts the religious taboo on shaving the beard but this must not become a habit. This measure would throw off secret services only in cases where they are acting on an unconfirmed tip and/or have a wide range of suspects.

• The training recommends chewing gum and wearing gold jewelry (both forbidden for men in Islam) at border checkpoints or in any high risk security environment. In some underdeveloped countries, police patrols very often stop and screen people traveling after midnight. There are cases when the highway patrols’ suspicions led to the arrest of very dangerous terrorists, such as the case of three Hezbollah operatives caught in possession of Katyusha rockets in Jordan (Al Sharq al-Awsat, March 9, 2002). Bearded men usually attract the attention of regular police in countries hit by jihadi terror attacks.

• Holding a cigarette without lighting it or possessing a pornographic magazine without looking at it is also enough to disguise the jihadi’s religious identity, though the training urges jihadis to get rid of these items immediately after achieving the intended purpose.

• If the jihadi has to take alcohol, he must be careful not to drink too much. In this case, even the smallest amount of alcohol could expose the jihadi because jihadis have a very low tolerance for alcohol.

• Cursing religious figures or Islamic practices is allowed.  

• Preaching (da’wa) is not mandatory in Islam as long as others do it. It becomes religiously mandatory if no other Muslims are taking up the task, but in high risk security environments, jihadis are allowed to drop that religious duty.

• When in an internet café, the jihadis should listen to music while communicating through the internet for jihadi purposes (Salafi-Jihadis are often opposed to the playing of musical instruments).  

• It is prohibited to change a person’s God-given features using plastic surgery or wearing a wig unless it is necessary to escape capture.

• When communicating through email, jihadis must refrain from using Islamic greetings such as “Assalam Aleikum.” Instead, jihadis should open the emails with “Good day,” or “Hi.” At the same time, two email addresses should be used, one for sending emails and the other for receiving.

• Before leaving for jihad, the jihadi must leave behind fake love letters to mislead any investigation regarding his destination.

• To avoid physical torture in the prisons, jihadis are allowed to bribe the prison guards, but if bribing the guards with cigarettes does the job they should not give the guards a bottle of wine; meaning jihadis should commit the lesser sin when they can.  

Throughout this security training, the author reminds jihadis not to commit the sin of lying unless absolutely necessary (such as in cover stories), but security services have long known that jihadis follow a fatwa (religious ruling) that allows them to commit perjury under oath.

James von Brunn charged

July 30th, 2009 by Dave Rich

James von Brunn, the white supremacist who shot and killed security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. last month, has been indicted for murder and hate crimes:

James Von Brunn, an 89-year-old white supremacist, was indicted on murder and hate crimes charges by a grand jury in connection with his shooting attack at the US Holocaust Museum on June 10.

In a statement, the US Justice Department said the octogenarian, who killed a security guard when he opened fire at the Washington DC museum, would appear before a federal judge on Thursday.

He faces seven charges, including murder, gun law violations and hate crimes violations.

“If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Four of the counts in the indictment also are death penalty eligible,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The indictment accuses Von Brunn of “willfully, deliberately, maliciously and with premeditation and malice” committing first degree murder.

It also alleges that he carried out the shooting attack with “prejudice” based “on the actual or perceived race and religion of another” and that he violated gun laws.

On June 10, at 1:00 pm local time, Von Brunn entered the Holocaust Museum in downtown Washington DC’s central tourist zone near the White House and opened fire.

He seriously injured Stephen Tyrone Johns, 39, a black security guard who later died of his wounds.

As visitors panicked and ran for cover, other security guards at the museum returned fire and seriously wounded Von Brunn, who was taken to hospital in critical condition.

A resident of Maryland, which borders Washington DC, Von Brunn was an unapologetic racist, who described the United States on his blog as “a Third-World racial garbage-dump — stupid, ignorant, dead broke and terminal.”

He served time in prison after entering the US Federal Reserve in 1981 carrying a shotgun, saying he was going to carry out a citizen’s arrest.

According to his ex-wife, his hatred of Jews and blacks “ate him alive like a cancer.”

Experts on hate groups say they have seen a resurgence in their activities since the election in November 2008 of Barack Obama, the first black president in US history.

German far right leader charged with incitement

July 28th, 2009 by Dave Rich

Reuters reports:

A leading member of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) has been charged with inciting racial hatred for calling Germany a “Jews’ Republic” and attacking Turks in a speech earlier this year.

State prosecutors in the southwestern city of Saarbruecken said on Monday they had charged Udo Pastoers, NPD parliamentary leader in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where the party has held seats in the legislature since 2006.

The charge followed a decision by the state parliament to strip Pastoers of immunity after his speech at an NPD rally in Saarbruecken on February 25.

In an address that has been broadcast on television and the Internet, he attacked Germany as a “Judenrepublik” (Jews’ Republic) and described it as a tool of “USrael,” playing upon ties between the United States and Israel.

Bernd Meiners, a spokesman for state prosecutors in Saarbruecken, said on Monday that if convicted, the 56-year-old could face up to four years in prison.

Pastoers also described Turks — Germany’s biggest ethnic minority — as “semen cannons” who were overwhelming the country with their offspring, Meiners said.

It was likely that Pastoers would be in court to answer the charge before the end of the year, state prosecutors said.

Earlier this year, a court handed a suspended jail sentence to Udo Voigt, the head of the NPD, for inciting racial hatred.

Jewish conspiracy, Moldovan-style

July 28th, 2009 by Dave Rich

Moldova’s National Liberal Party has pulled out of tomorrow’s Parliamentary Elections, fearing that they will not pass the election threshold necessary to win seats. When announcing this decision, the NLP Chairwoman Vitalia Pavlicenco warned of dark forces trying to manipulate the vote:

At the same news conference, Vitalia Pavlicenco warned the electoral contenders and the society about the necessity of supervising the ballots. “It is said that a large number of ballots might be printed in a foreign country, probably Israel, and be then mixed with the ballots printed in Moldova. With the help of advanced technology, the voter’s stamp from ballots could be erased and put in front of another election runner,” Pavlicenco said. Members of the PNL call upon the security bodies of Moldova and the embassies to check the given information.

The anti-discrimination network I CARE (Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe) has more background about this unusual variant of a very old idea:

Vitalia Pavlicenco, the president of the National-Liberal Party of Moldova and vice-president of the US-based Romanian World Council, during the press-conference last week, stated that she is well aware that the next Parliamentary elections on 29 July, will be falsified by the Moldovan government with the help of Israel. Vitalia Pavlicenco stated on the Internet TV, that the election bulletins with a special stamp “Votat” (Voted) will be prepared and printed by the special high tech machines in Israel. Surprisingly, this antisemitic claim was not condemned by other politicians, journalists, NGOs or authorities, but, moreover, enthusiastically supported by some of them. On 23 July, the leaders of centre-right “Our Moldova” Alliance stated during the press-conference that hundreds of thousands of election bulletins will be fabricated and printed in Israel and transported to Moldova on election night. On the same date, one of the leading Moldovan news web-sites, which supports Moldova’s Liberal parties, explored the idea by publishing an antisemitic article stressing Jewish links with secret societies. In the words of its author, “Jews are involved in secret societies such as, for example, Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA), the Council în Foreign Relations (CFR), the Bilderbergers, Trilaterals, the Zionists, Freemasonry, Bolshevism-Rosicrucianism, the Order of St. John of, Jerusalem, Club of Rome, the German Marshall Fund, the Cini Foundation, the Round Table, the Fabianists, the Venetian Black Nobility, the Mont Pelerin Society, Hellfire Clubs”.

Antisemitic conspiracy theories come in all different shapes and sizes: there is usually one to fit the predicament of just about anybody needing to explain why events have not panned out how they expected, or to distract attention from their more mundane troubles. And it isn’t just American politics that Jews get accused of controlling.

11-year-old boy convicted of racially aggravated assault

July 27th, 2009 by Dave Rich

A boy of 11 has pleaded guilty to a charge of racially aggravated assault after leading a gang attack on a Jewish man in Gateshead:

A SCHOOLBOY aged just 11 beat-up a Jewish man because of his religion.

The school-aged attacker launched himself at the victim – in his late 20s – landing a punch on him outside the synagogue, on Bewick Road, Gateshead.
After spearheading the onslaught, the 11-year-old stepped to the side as a gang of older attackers “piled-on” the isolated man, leaving him bloodied.

The child-attacker is now at the start of a four month supervision order made by magistrates at Blaydon youth court, after pleading guilty to racially-aggravated assault by beating at an earlier hearing.

The court heard that the attacker, from the central area of Gateshead, was stood outside the Gateshead Hebrew Congregation, at the junction of Bewick Road and Rydal Street in Bensham, Gateshead, with a group of older males.

The youth squared up to a Jewish man after older lads urged him on in March this year.

Prosecutor Justin Gibson said: “He assaulted him. The other males at the location jumped on the injured person and assaulted him.

 The age of the defendant is shocking enough. Some of the other details in the report  suggest that antisemitism actually plays a relatively small role in the wider story:

The court heard that the youngster had been involved in drugs and alcohol.

 After reading reports, chairman Doug Howell said: “It says here you haven’t used cannabis for a while.

 “At your age, I can’t understand how you can get your hands on alcohol or drugs at all. Don’t do it.”

Defending, Kate Lewis, told the court her child client was genuinely sorry and planned to apologise in person to the victim. She added the 11-year-old had been suspended then expelled from a school in Gateshead. Since failing to make a trial period of attending two days a week, the family had moved to another part of Tyneside.

She added that her client had tested negative for attention deficit disorder, but psychologists were still working to get to the root of his problems.

“The defendant’s mother really has done all she can to control and address his behaviour,” Mrs Lewis said.

“She contacted social services and Barnados to get them involved,” the lawyer added.

The young attacker was also bound to a substance misuse intervention programme.

Hate crimes, discourse and extremism

July 24th, 2009 by Dave Rich

The antisemitic incident figures released by CST today, which show an unprecedented number of racist incidents against British Jews in the first half of this year, should make everybody concerned with fighting racism and antisemitism pause for thought. The figures are startling and show a worrying pattern of rising antisemitism. 

The incidents recorded by CST hold a particular message, though, for anti-Israel campaigners. The correlation between anti-Israel rage and antisemitic attacks, evident for some years, dominates the period covered by CST’s report. In January alone, 286 antisemitic incidents were reported to CST from around Britain. Over half of these made some reference to the fighting in Gaza, alongside the antisemitism. For comparison, during the Lebanon war of 2006, CST recorded 134 incidents in 34 days. 

Let’s be clear: every one of the incidents recorded by CST as antisemitic is just that. Every one involves antisemitic language, or motivation, or the targeting of Jews per se, rather than pro-Israel groups or activists. We received many reports during the first six months of the year, of anti-Israel activity that we did not record as antisemitic incidents. There are examples of this on page seven of the report. Nor do we record anti-Israel, and arguably antisemitic, placards, banners or chants on demonstrations as antisemitic incidents. In total, in addition to the 609 antisemitic incidents recorded by CST, we received reports of a further 236 potential incidents that did not show evidence of antisemitism and were not recorded as such. 

Let’s be clear about something else, too, before anyone makes the familiar accusation: this is not a call for anti-Israel campaigners to stop their activities, despite what some may claim. It would be wrong to tarnish all with a single brush. People are perfectly entitled to campaign against Israel and criticise its actions or policies, just as they are entitled to do so against the actions or policies of any other state. But that does not mean that they can disregard or contextualise any associated antisemitism in a manner that they would not dream of doing were it any other form of racism. 

The spike in incidents recorded during January differed significantly from those across the first half of the year as a whole. Generally, they were more likely to involve targeted hate mail or abusive phone calls, rather than spontaneous verbal abuse or assaults; more likely to target symbols of the Jewish community and communal leadership, rather than random Jews in the street; and more likely to involve political motivation or ideology, rather than crude street racism. In other words, they are the hard edge of an antisemitic politics: directed against British Jews, but triggered by feelings about Israel. 

It is worth remembering the extent of the rage against Israel during the fighting in Gaza. Anti-Israel demonstrations were peppered with banners and placards equating Israel with Nazi Germany:

PFB banner

Zionazi flag


  As the recent EISCA report, Understanding and Addressing the Nazi Card, argued, this equation is the most hurtful and extreme example of anti-Israel discourse. It is antisemitic in its impact, irrespective of the intentions of the purveyors of the imagery. And it has the effect of casting all Jews who do not actively disown Israel and Zionism, as being Nazis or Nazi sympathisers, in a cruel and wicked perversion of both history and trauma.

 The Star of David, stripped of its place in the Israeli flag and left standing as a purely Jewish symbol, was fair game:

 Sell Out

Other demonstrators expressed their feelings in ways that echoed, however unwittingly, more ancient antisemitic charges of infanticide and deicide:

 Baby eater

Collateral damage

  There was the now-ubiquitous support for terrorist organisations:

 Hizbollah flag

And the idea that Israel represents a global power, and a threat to the whole world.

 s front of Judea

If the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is inflated to hold totemic significance for the entire world, then British Zionists – in reality, the vast majority of ordinary Jews – become recast as local agents of a global conspiracy, and it becomes impossible to discuss the conflict in reasonable terms.

 In addition to this extreme discourse, the level of violence on display at some of the demonstrations, directed against the police and local shops, was shocking.

 Nothing of this sort was seen during the Lebanon war of 2006, or on the demonstrations against the Iraq war three years before that. Starbucks in particular was a favoured target of the protestors, due to the mistaken belief that it has strong economic connections to Israel.

 There is no way of knowing if any antisemitic incident perpetrators attended these demonstrations, or were influenced by them. However, it is hard to believe that there is no connection between the three simultaneous phenomena in January, of an unprecedented number of antisemitic incidents; an unprecedented level of extremist discourse around Israel; and an unprecedented level of visible anger and violence at anti-Israel demonstrations. It is possible that all three occurred in parallel with each other as responses to the same stimulus, but seems implausible that they had no relationship to, or impact on, each other. If the antisemitic incidents sparked by reactions to events in Gaza were of a predominantly political character, then these demonstrations, widely reported in the media, provided the environment and energy that all types of hate crimes feed off. If the level of anger these demonstrations could generate this kind of violence against Starbucks, then how much more likely is it that it also led to attacks against Jews?

 The point of this post is not to silence or gratuitously attack anti-Israel campaigners; nor is it to make over-simplistic comparisons between antisemitism and anti-Israel activity. It is simply, as stated in the first paragraph, to give food for thought about the dynamic between the two, which is often complex and unclear, but cannot be ignored. 

It should be possible to campaign against Israel’s policies and actions without using the most offensive and inflammatory discourse. For example, several anti-Israel campaigners have made the point that they compare Israel to Nazi Germany not because they think it is factually correct, but because they know it will elicit a reaction. They are right: it elicits many different reactions, in different audiences. It gets attention, certainly, which is often the main intention; it offends most Jews (which is often not the intention) while inducing a taboo-busting thrill in those who make it. In addition, it is possible that, unwittingly, it incites a smaller but significant audience to hate and attack Jews. Certainly, it brands ‘pro-Israelis’, however defined, as today’s Nazis, deserving of the same ostracism from decent society. 

There are several different ways to respond to this. One is to shrug your shoulders: the suffering of Gazans is much worse than that of British Jews; antisemitism will exist for as long as Israel behaves as it does, so the argument goes, and there is not much that can be done about it. For people who consider themselves anti-racists, though, this should not be the answer. Antisemitism, like all forms of racism, is not an acceptable by-product of political campaigning. Allowing antisemitism to become more acceptable than other forms of racism damages all of society, not just Jews.

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