Don’t be fooled by Islamophobia

November 30th, 2009 by CST

A small Islamophobic group, called Stop Islamisation Of Europe (SIOE), has called for 1,000 Jews to attend its forthcoming demonstration at Harrow mosque; and for each Jew to bring an Israeli flag.

This is strikingly similar to appeals that have also been made in recent months by the English Defence League (EDL). It is also essentially the same as opportunistic attempts by British National Party leader Nick Griffin to ditch both his and his party’s antisemitic heritage, by stressing his supposed new-found support for Israel and Jews.

SIOE’s appeal for Jewish participation sits alongside this grotesque Islamophobic image on its website:

skul-mosque_bayonet

There have been many arguments as to what the word Islamophobia means; or indeed if such a word ought to even exist. Regardless of the philosophy, this image tells us everything we need to know about SIOE and Islamophobia. (Or, if you prefer, everything you need to know about anti-Muslim racism, or hatred, or bigotry).

If a Jew cannot understand why the image is racist, or hateful, or bigoted then they should try imagining it as a synagogue: with blood dripping from a Star of David; with blood dripping down the rabbi’s pulpit; and with blood dripping from the mouth of a skull that wears an Israeli army helmet.

A demonstration against Harrow mosque under the banner “Stop the Islamisation of Europe”, is as stupid and offensive as a demonstration against Harrow synagogue, under the banner “Stop the Zionisation of Europe”.

This has nothing to do with the necessary and legitimate work to counter extremism and antisemitism wherever and whenever it genuinely occurs. CST has raised awareness of the activities of extreme Islamist groups in the UK for many years. But to demonise an entire community, every Muslim and every mosque, in the way that SIOE does, shows exactly the kind of bigotry from which Jews have suffered so often in our history. For SIOE to appeal to Jews to support them shows a complete ignorance of the Jewish experience of being on the receiving end of exactly this type of politics.

It is ludicrous to imagine that one form of racism can be fought by employing another form of racism. Take, for example, the unprecedented wave of antisemitic incidents that British Jews experienced during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza and Southern Israel in January 2009. Here we had Israel being accused of racist bloodshed – by people who were themselves committing racist attacks against British Jews. Similarly, whatever differences of opinion British Jews and British Muslims may have over Israel/Palestine, and however alarmed Jews are – quite rightly – at the antisemitic agitation of groups like al-Muhajiroun or Hizb ut-Tahrir, nobody should be fooled into supporting SIOE’s incitement against all Muslims.

This is by no means the first occasion on which CST has stressed why Jews should not be fooled by anti-Muslim bigotry, even when it dresses itself up in pro-Jewish guise. As we stated previously:

…this is the politics of hatred and division, which has nothing positive to offer any part of society. The fact that Muslims are the current target simply means that it is Muslims who should be the recipients of anti-racist solidarity.

Hatred, division, cycles of inter-communal violence, intimidation and polarisation feed the extremists on every side. They encourage social division and leave all minorities vulnerable. Anti-Muslim bigotry is a vital recruiting sergeant for both the far right, and its Islamist extremist counterparts. It generates votes for the BNP and, at the furthest ends of this political spectrum, it even provides the fuel for terrorism. British Jews should have no part of it.

Alleged BNP member admits to terrorism charges

November 27th, 2009 by CST

Hope Not Hate reports on the case of Terence Gavan, who they claim held British National Party membership number 130757:

Terence Gavan, 38, made and stockpiled 54 nail and ball-bearing bombs between May 1999 and May this year.

He also manufactured shotguns, pen guns and pistols at his home in Batley, West Yorkshire.

Gavan was also found in possession of ammunition, a manual on boobytraps, an improvised munitions handbook and a copy of the Anarchists’ Cookbook.

He admitted 22 charges, including six under the Terrorism Act, when he appeared at Woolwich Crown Court on 26 November 2009.

The Judge, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith QC, adjourned sentence until 15 January and remanded Gavan in custody.

Gavan was arrested at his home in Colbeck Terrace on 21 May following a West Yorkshire police operation.

He admitted four counts of making explosives and four counts of possessing explosives over a ten-year period.

They consisted of four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) incorporating ball-bearings, 21 IEDs with nails, two “victim-operated” IEDs with nails and a further 28 explosives classified as IEDs.

He also pleaded guilty three counts of manufacturing prohibited weapons, four counts of possession of prohibited weapons and one count of possession of ammunition without a certificate. In all, police found nine homemade or converted firearms at the property.

These were a .22 ME9 para air-cartridge pistol, an 8mm blank-cartridge, pistol, a home-made .22 rimfire single shotgun, two homemade .22 rimfire pen gun, a .22 single shot pistol.

There were also two homemade pistols and one homemade shotgun, fitted with silencers or sound moderators.

Between 31 December 2005 and 22 February this year Gavan reactivated a British Service No 4 Mark I rifle. Also found in his home were two Brocock revolver gas guns.

Gavan further admitted six charges of possession of documents containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

These were books with the titles Boobytraps, Improvised Weapons Manual and Guerilla Warfare and Special Forces Operations 1961, and two electronic PDF files including the Anarchists’ Cookbook volume 4.

No doubt the BNP will say Gavan was not and never has been a BNP member. However Searchlight has been monitoring this case for some time and we can reveal that Gavan not only was a BNP member, he also held gold membership.

Just to help the BNP administration team find details of their latest villain, we are reliably informed Terry Gavan has the membership number 130757.

Racists desecrate Muslim graves, again

November 25th, 2009 by Dave Rich

From the Asian News:

RACIST vandals have targeted Muslim graves at a south Manchester cemetery for a third time.

Sometime between 4pm on Friday 20 November and 9am on Monday 23 November unknown offenders pushed over 20 headstones at the Southern Cemetery on Barlow Moor Road.

The vandalism is being treated as racially motivated as only a Muslim section of graves were targeted.

On 29 September 2009, 26 Muslim headstones were vandalised and on 2 November 2009, 27 were similarly targeted.

Police are now appealing to anyone who has information to come forward.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Eckersley said: “It is an absolute disgrace that whoever is responsible thinks it acceptable to repeatedly target the graves of loved ones.

“The repeated nature of these attacks and the fact the offenders are only targeting Muslim graves means we are treating this as a hate crime.

“This sort of mindless, racist behaviour must be utterly condemned and I’m sure the whole community will be outraged, that is why I want to reassure them, and in particular the families affected that we are doing all we can to catch the culprits.

“We have increased our patrols in the cemetery and surrounding area and I ask people using the cemetery to be vigilant and report anyone causing damage to the graves or acting suspiciously.

“To those who know who is responsible or have been told who is responsible I would like to ask how you would feel if someone damaged a grave of one of your loved ones and how hurt or upset that would make you.

“Please do the right thing, tell us what you know and help us put a stop to this.”

Anyone with information should call Greater Manchester Police on 0161 856 6151 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Images of Jews

November 25th, 2009 by Dave Rich

Google have issued adverts explaining why some internet searches, including searching for the word “Jew”, throw up offensive results:

Google is running advertisements to explain the appearance of racist and anti-Semitic material in search results, including a picture which depicts US First Lady Michelle Obama as a monkey.

“Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries,” the Mountain View, California-based search giant said in an ad signed “The Google Team.”

“We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google,” Google said.

The Google ad appears on a page of image search results for Michelle Obama which includes the offensive depiction of the wife of President Barack Obama.

[…]

A similar Google explanation appears on the page featuring search results for the word “Jew.”

This is not the first time that Google have taken such a step. The adverts referred to above appear to be based on a statement they first published in 2004 to explain why the antisemitic “Jewwatch” website ranked so highly in their searches at that time:

If you recently used Google to search for the word “Jew,” you may have seen results that were very disturbing. We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google. We’d like to explain why you’re seeing these results when you conduct this search.

A site’s ranking in Google’s search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query. Sometimes subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted. A search for “Jew” brings up one such unexpected result.

If you use Google to search for “Judaism,” “Jewish” or “Jewish people,” the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for “Jew” different? One reason is that the word “Jew” is often used in an anti-Semitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word “Jewish” when talking about members of their faith.

[…]

The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the comprehensiveness of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.

We apologize for the upsetting nature of the experience you had using Google and appreciate your taking the time to inform us about it.

 The results on the first page of a google image search for the word “Jew” are pretty representative of the internet in general. There is the descriptive:

jew

The educational:

Jew-insultingSIGN

The offensive:

Jewhands

And the downright bizarre:

jew-jitsu

There is a valid argument that Google should remove offensive content entirely from their search results. This is reflected in a long-standing internet petition which claims  – wrongly – that Google will remove Jewwatch from their searches if the petition reaches 500,000 names (we have not linked to the petition because its claims are not correct). There is also some evidence (although it is not clear whether Google has confirmed this) that Google has removed Jewwatch from their searches in Germany and France, where the site would be illegal. However, Google’s argument that they merely reflect what the internet contains has some merit, albeit filtered through the specific settings of their search algorithms. In addition, beyond those sites that are illegal in particular countries, it leaves the question of how would decide which sites to eliminate from their searches, and by what criteria. Whatever your position on this, Google should at least be commended for taking some responsibility for alerting users to the offensive nature of the sites, and distancing themselves from their content.

Dispatches: Where is the evidence?

November 23rd, 2009 by CST

David Henshaw, the Executive Producer of the Dispatches programme Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby and Managing Director of the company that produced it, Hardcash Productions, has written an article for the Guardian’s Comment Is Free website in which he says:

Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, made the point in last Monday’s Dispatches film that it would be astonishing if newspaper articles critical of Israel led directly to racist attacks. Where was the evidence?

It is not CST’s job to respond to the rest of the Dispatches programme, but recording and analysing antisemitic hate crimes in the UK is very much CST’s business, and there is plenty of evidence, going back several years, that the number of antisemitic incidents in Britain rises when the media is full of stories that are extremely hostile to Israel. In January this year, for example, when Israel and Hamas were at war in Gaza and there was a great deal of strong criticism of Israel in the British media, an unprecedented number of antisemitic incidents were reported to CST: 286 in the month of January, by far the highest number of incidents recorded by CST in a single month (CST has been recording antisemitic incidents in the UK since 1984). In total, CST recorded 609 antisemitic incidents in the first half of 2009, more than in the whole of 2008. Of these 609 antisemitic incidents, 201 included a reference to events in Gaza alongside the antisemitism. These do not include anti-Israel incidents that are not antisemitic, or even antisemitic placards or chants on political demonstrations. All of this is clearly explained in CST’s report on antisemitic incidents during this period, which is on the CST website.

There were also incidents of direct antisemitic abuse, like the one involving Foreign Office diplomat Rowan Laxton, where the abuse was triggered by a specific media report about Israel (CST does not publicise the details of most incidents reported to us, but Rowan Laxton was not the only antisemitic incident perpetrator, reported to CST, who made direct reference to a news report about Israel while abusing Jews). It is important to point out that this does not mean that the media reports actually cause the antisemitic attacks: they may be the trigger, or the proximate cause, but the underlying cause is the bigotry on the part of the incident perpetrator. It is also worth stressing that the media reports may be entirely fair and balanced, but can still trigger something in a would-be hate crime perpetrator. Hate crime analysts in the police, academia and minority communities have long recognised the interplay between trigger events, media reporting and hate crimes. Henshaw’s collaborator on Dispatches, Peter Oborne, even wrote a pamphlet about it three years ago to accompany another Dispatches episode about Islamophobia. Henshaw may be astonished by the idea that media reports can lead to racist attacks, but it is not a controversial idea to those of us who work in this field.

Perhaps you can forgive David Henshaw for being unaware of the extensive work that has been done to analyse the impact that overseas events – reported via the media – can have on antisemitic incident levels in the UK. Except that Henshaw wrote to CST during the making of Dispatches to ask us about “CST’s analysis that criticism of Israel in the media leads to anti-Semitic hate crimes.” We replied, explaining that his wording was far too simplistic, but that there is evidence of a connection:

This wording overly simplifies CST’s analysis of what is a complex and nuanced phenomenon. CST has no issue with criticism of Israel itself, nor is it part of CST’s function to rebut that criticism. However, antisemitic incident data recorded by CST and the police shows that the number of antisemitic incidents in the UK rises significantly during periods of extreme public and media hostility to Israel; and this includes hate crimes that contain direct reference to media coverage of Israel (such as the recently publicised case of the senior Foreign Office official, Rowan Laxton). This evidence suggests that extreme anti-Israel sentiment can sometimes have an antisemitic impact in Britain, but CST does not claim that media criticism of Israel leads directly to antisemitic hate crimes, much less that media reporting of Israel is itself antisemitic or to blame for antisemitic incidents in Britain. The only people to blame for antisemitic incidents are the antisemites who cary them out. In addition, CST’s Antisemitic Incidents Reports, which are available on CST’s website, make it clear that CST distinguishes between incidents that are antisemitic and those that are merely anti-Israel. The reports covering 2006 and the first half of 2009 have specific sections explaining this.

As anyone who watched Dispatches will recall, none of this was included in the programme, which merely broadcast Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s rejection of the possibility that media reports can play a role in the dynamics of hate crime, as if that was the final word on the matter. David Henshaw asks, “Where was the evidence?”, but CST supplied the evidence directly to him. It is up to Henshaw to include whatever he likes in his programme, but to infer that no evidence exists to show a relationship between media reporting and antisemitic hate crime is simply not accurate.

Pandering to antisemitism

November 23rd, 2009 by Dave Rich

Oliver Miles is a former British diplomat who, five years ago, wrote a letter protesting against then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Middle Eastern foreign policy and organised for 51 other former diplomats to sign it before releasing it to the media. The specific act which so enraged Miles that he felt moved to do this, was Blair’s support for a Middle East peace plan that had been put together by President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This act of public revolt against government policy by so many former diplomats was relatively unprecedented and became a major international news story.

Miles’ latest intervention on Middle East policy is unlikely to cause similar controversy, but only because it represents the kind of negative discourse about Jews that so often passes without comment nowadays. In his column in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday, commenting on the composition of the Iraq war inquiry panel which meets for the first time this week, Miles wrote:

The Prime Minister’s choice of the members of the committee has been criticised. None is a military man, Sir John Chilcot was a member of the Hutton inquiry and has been closely involved with the security services, Baroness Prashar has no relevant experience, Sir Roderic Lyne was a serving ambassador at the time of the war, and so on.
Rather less attention has been paid to the curious appointment of two historians (which seems a lot, out of a total of five), both strong supporters of Tony Blair and/or the Iraq war. In December 2004 Sir Martin Gilbert, while pointing out that the “war on terror” was not a third world war, wrote that Bush and Blair “may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill” – an eccentric opinion that would se em to rule him out as a member of the committee. Sir Lawrence Freedman is the reputed architect of the “Blair doctrine” of humanitarian intervention, which was invoked in Kosovo and Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
Both Gilbert and Freedman are Jewish, and Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism. Such facts are not usually mentioned in the mainstream British and American media, but The Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli media have no such inhibitions, and the Arabic media both in London and in the region are usually not far behind.
All five members have outstanding reputations and records, but it is a pity that, if and when the inquiry is accused of a whitewash, such handy ammunition will be available. Membership should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced.

The Prime Minister’s choice of the members of the committee has been criticised. None is a military man, Sir John Chilcot was a member of the Hutton inquiry and has been closely involved with the security services, Baroness Prashar has no relevant experience, Sir Roderic Lyne was a serving ambassador at the time of the war, and so on.

Rather less attention has been paid to the curious appointment of two historians (which seems a lot, out of a total of five), both strong supporters of Tony Blair and/or the Iraq war. In December 2004 Sir Martin Gilbert, while pointing out that the “war on terror” was not a third world war, wrote that Bush and Blair “may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill” – an eccentric opinion that would seem to rule him out as a member of the committee. Sir Lawrence Freedman is the reputed architect of the “Blair doctrine” of humanitarian intervention, which was invoked in Kosovo and Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

Both Gilbert and Freedman are Jewish, and Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism. Such facts are not usually mentioned in the mainstream British and American media, but The Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli media have no such inhibitions, and the Arabic media both in London and in the region are usually not far behind.

It is astonishing that Miles thinks that the Jewishness of two of the panel members should count against them in this way. The implication is that they will think the same way, because they are Jewish; and that their Jewishness – or, much worse, “a record of active support for Zionism” – would automatically colour their opinion of how the British government prosecuted the Iraq war. The alternative, implied but not spelled out by Miles, is that Jews should have been ruled out of participation in the inquiry, because they are Jews. I do not accuse Miles of being an antisemite, but he has arrived at a clearly antisemitic  position, which should have caused him to review the thought process that brought him there.

Miles compares the willingness of the Jewish and Arabic media to mention whether somebody is Jewish with the reticence of the British and American media to do so. There are obvious if contrasting reasons why the Jewish and Arabic media are quick to do this, as Normblog has pointed out. However, Miles does not have to look far to find examples within the British press: he shares the Independent stable with Richard Ingrams, who has already noticed the “Jewish historians” on the panel. That Ingrams and Miles both think that the Jewishness of Gilbert and Freedman is relevant to an inquiry about Iraq, not about Israel, begs a whole other set of questions.

Perhaps the most  craven part of Miles’ article comes in the next paragraph:

All five members have outstanding reputations and records, but it is a pity that, if and when the inquiry is accused of a whitewash, such handy ammunition will be available. Membership should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced.

Miles has spent many years  in the Middle East, both as a diplomat and, since retirement, as a businessman. Conspiracy theories about Jews are common enough in that part of the world, and Miles is probably right when he warns that they may be used to undermine the findings of the inquiry. I do not accuse Miles of sharing those conspiracy theories: they appear to be absent from his writings on Middle East politics for the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, for example, and there is evidence that he is sensitive to the existence of antisemitism even within the Foreign Office. But it should be the job of Britain’s diplomats abroad to challenge such prejudices when they encounter them, not to advise that British policy should bend over to accommodate them.

Alleged plot to assassinate Yemeni rabbi

November 20th, 2009 by Dave Rich

A suspected plot to assassinate a rabbi in Yemen has been uncovered by police:

Two people, believed to be of Houthi rebels, have been arrested in connection with plans to assassinate a Jewish Rabbi in Yemen, the News Yemen reported on Thursday.

The website quoting sources which asked not to be identified said the two came to the Tourist City in Sana’a early this week claiming their visit was aimed at touring the city and swimming.

But police suspected the two after they visited the residence of the Rabbi of Jews in Yemen Yahya Yousef and then held them.

Investigations with the arrestees revealed they planned to kill the Rabbi.

Police seized firearms with them.

According to the website, the Rabbi was not present at the time of his foiled assassination plot.

However, the website cited Yousef as saying that arriving at his home, the two told his family they wanted to meet him after his appearances in satellite channels.

The foiled assassination might come because the Rabbi’s criticize of the Houthi insurgents who have been fighting the army in the far north since 2004.

Earlier, he accused the Houthi rebels of displacing the Jews in Saada and Amran and stealing their properties including the book of Torah.

There are almost 250 Jews in Yemen, with some of them fleeing Yemen, some secretly, amid alleged harassment and persecution.

Amid the allegations, many Jewish families were transferred in recent years from Saada and Amran to the Tourist City in the capital.

The Yemeni Jewish community  has faced increasing threats and intimidation in recent years. In December 2008, Moshe al-Nahari, a Jewish teacher, was murdered by an assailant who demanded that he convert to Islam. The subsequent pattern of threats and attacks on Jewish homes led Amnesty International to protest to the Yemeni government. In a sadly familiar pattern, the remants of what was once a large community are left to decide whether to stay, or move overseas.

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