A new low for Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

October 29th, 2010 by Mark Gardner

There was a time, not so long ago, when Holocaust denial was considered too toxic for secular leftist anti-Israel activists to touch. Not any more, because the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) is now using the winning entry from Iran’s notorious Holocaust cartoon competition of 2006. (See here, on SPSC website, inserted by SPSC to accompany a press release by the Israeli group, Gush Shalom. The story appears here in the Jewish Telegraph, including condemnations by local politicians.)

This is not to accuse the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign of indulging in Holocaust denial. Far from it. Rather, they have repeatedly utilised Holocaust imagery and abused Holocaust memory to launch the most repugnant attacks upon Israel and its supporters. (The logic is simple and seductive, as subverting the Holocaust undermines the most resonant moral and historical pillar for Israel’s existence.) 

Overall, the leftist anti-Israel slide into Nazi-themed filth has been gradual but persistent. (For detail, see this article, “Holocaust Denial as an Anti-Zionist and Anti-Imperialist Tool for the European Far Left” by CST’s Dave Rich.) 

It began with absurdly overblown accusations of Zionist complicity with the Nazi Holocaust, epitomised by the play “Perdition”.

It regressed into accusing Israel of being the new Nazi Germany, as seen throughout last year’s Gaza war demonstrations.

It debased Holocaust Memorial Day, using it for anti-Israel campaigning.

Now, it is now lifting cartoons from the world’s foremost pushers of Holocaust denial and antisemitism.   

Every stage of this moral collapse has been led by some individual activist or group. Opposing voices have occasionally been heard from within the anti-Israel camp, but largely there was silence, followed by creeping support: until each stage of the narrative reached its tipping point and became embedded as part of accepted anti-Israel wisdom. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the widespread tolerance and subsequent promotion of the Israel equals Nazi Germany libel.

As shown in CST’s Antisemitic Discourse Report (lengthy pdf download here), Nazi-themed anti-Israel propaganda is a grotesque abuse of Jewish history and memory that causes direct and significant hurt to Jews; trivialises and essentially denies the enormity of the Holocaust; and attempts to displace Jews as victims of the Holocaust and supersede them with Palestinians.

The anti-Israel left must know the pain that all of this Nazi-themed filth causes to the overwhelming majority of Jews: but history would strongly suggest that Jews should not expect any comfort or sentimentality from this supposedly anti-racist element of our society.

This was the winning cartoon, used by SPSC. It shows the railway tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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These cartoons were from the same competition as the one used by SPSC, and were amongst those winning “special awards”. The first implicitly denies the Holocaust. The second is a riot of antisemitic caricature and racism, with Holocaust denial thrown in for ugly measure. 

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Diplomatic Progress in Combating Antisemitism

October 27th, 2010 by Mark Gardner

The Autumn 2010 edition of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, features a detailed article by CST’s Mike Whine on recent and contemporary international diplomatic efforts against antisemitism.

 The extensively footnoted article is entitled, “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Diplomatic Progress in Combating Antisemitism” and a full pdf of it may be accessed here via the CST website.

 It begins as follows

 During the late 1990s and forty years after the end of World War II, international organizations became aware of the recrudescence of antisemitism on a major scale. This was combined with a growing awareness that anti-Jewish sentiments were now emerging from new and different directions, although the traditional sources had not disappeared.

 For Jewish organizations, this phenomenon was vividly highlighted by the events at the UN World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2000, where a noxious combination of states, mostly Middle Eastern and led by Iran, and many so-called human rights organizations, conspired to demonize Israel and Zionism, and to intimidate Jewish and Israeli delegates.

Whether this is “new” antisemitism or whether it is just the old anti-Jewish myths and tropes dressed in new garb is immaterial. Their increasing acceptance by new audiences, who have no memory of the Holocaust or the events that led to the creation of the State of Israel, as well as an increasing opposition to the USA and to globalization, pose significant dangers to Jews.

Against this background, governments themselves, spurred by some Jewish oganizations, came to realize that there was a need for action at the international level. Their interest was quickened in the aftermath of the intifada, and al-Qa’ida’s attacks on the USA, when antisemitic incidents around the world rose alarmingly.

These developments led certain Jewish organizations to seek redress at the international level, and the resultant diplomatic offensive against antisemitism has therefore been carried out through the medium of intergovernmental organizations. Some organizations have played a greater and more effective role than others, but the initiatives have been more than declaratory. They involve programs at the grassroots level and within locales that have historically provided fertile territory for antisemitism.

 The article then details the roles, successes and failures of numerous international organisations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), its human right’s affiliate, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the key conferences in Copenhagen, Vienna and Berlin (in 1990, 2003 and 2004 respectively).

 Parallel initiatives by the European Union and its associated bodies are also explained. Successes and failures are again noted, especially around the reports comprising Manifestations of Antisemitism in the European Union 2002–2003, published by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC, but now renamed the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency). The mixed success of the EU’s RAXEN (Racism and Xenophobia) network of national focal points is also shown; as are the origins and purpose of the EUMC’s working guide definition of antisemitism. (The guide has often been a focus for those critical of international efforts to define and combat antisemitism.)

 The EU’s Common Framework Decision, scheduled for November 2010 will require all member states to legislate against the promotion of hatred (including antisemitism); and every four years, the Council of Europe’s monitoring body, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) reviews member states’ compliance with European and national legal instruments.

 The United Nations is yet another international body with a mixed record on antisemitism, and its 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva attempted to move on from the ill-fated 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

 Twenty-seven states have, thus far, signed the Stockholm Declaration (2009), described as “among the most practical and long-lasting outcomes of international diplomacy, and one that stemmed from the concerns of statesmen rather than as a result of Jewish urging”. This established an international taskforce to ensure that states recognize the magnitude of the Holocaust and its lasting impacts upon the Jews and others.

 The article concludes with this assessment

 It might be argued that ten years of diplomatic effort to counter antisemitism have been of little avail, given the dramatic increase in [antisemitic race hate] incidents and the deterioration in discourse, particularly following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead.

This would, however, miss the point. At the turn of the millennium, governments were reluctant to even recognize that antisemitism was once again growing. They could see antisemitism only through the prism of the far right, which was in retreat politically, and not through that of Islamism and the left, which were ascendant. They also underestimated the phenomenal power of information and communication technologies and the viral nature of internet social networking sites.

Since then, states have recognized the dangers to societies’ health by not combating the phenomenon, have agreed upon a common yardstick by which antisemitism can be defined and measured, and have recognized that it now also comes from new and different directions. Many states have also legislated against incitement of antisemitism in its various forms, including Holocaust denial. Those that have not yet done so, in Europe, at least, will have to do so by the end of 2010.

…Concern over growing antisemitism in Europe has been overtaken by concern for the mounting violence against Roma and Sinti, the massively under-researched violence against the disabled, and violence against Muslim communities. Progress in monitoring and combating antisemitism may therefore slow down as governments, their criminal justice agencies, and educational systems are put under pressure to adapt, innovate, and enlarge their work in a recessionary climate. However, the campaign against antisemitism should also progress as an element in the broader initiative of combating hate crime.

… The progress made in confronting and combating antisemitism since the 1990s has been neither continuous nor consistent, but without the determination of some governments, international agencies, and a handful of Jewish NGOs, the progress made thus far would not have been possible.

Given the manner in which the diplomatic initiatives have evolved, the onus remains on the Jewish (and other leading human rights) NGOs to ensure that progress continues to be made. In this task, they must work ever closer with governments, parliamentarians and international agencies. 

Building bridges between British Jews and Muslims

October 25th, 2010 by Mark Gardner

The September 2010 edition of Government Gazette contains an article by CST’s Mark Gardner, entitled “Building bridges between Britain’s Jews and Muslims to build community cohesion”. It is closely based upon the below piece and is especially timely given current and recent attempts by the English Defence League and the British National Party to recruit Jews on the back of Islamophobia.   

——-   

Discussing the relationship between British Muslims and British Jews is a delicate task, requiring nuance, context and linguistic precision. The absence of these factors facilitates a one dimensional, and ultimately racist, mindset, towards either or both communities.

Regrettably, the discussion risks reinforcing the notion that both communities are homogenous, and should be treated by politicians and media as if they were opposing images of one another. In reality, both communities are far more politically and socially diverse than is normally portrayed. Furthermore, representative bodies of both communities have complex internal dynamics, that go largely unseen and are therefore inadequately considered by external observers.

When discussing communities, our attention is drawn to the noisy extremes and the silent majority is overlooked. Most Jews and most Muslims appear content to keep their heads down and get on with their lives. Dig a little and you may well discover fear, prejudice, or even outright contempt and hatred for ‘the Muslims’ or ‘the Jews’: but if there was significant conflict between the two communities then it would be perfectly obvious to all of society.

There is, however, a very real and enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians over which British Jews and Muslims have three choices: they can ignore it, they can import it here, or they can mutually set an example of how Jews and Muslims can live in peace and harmony.

Good news stories seldom get make headlines. Typically, there was little coverage when a large range of British Muslim leaders and scholars issued a condemnation of attacks on British Jews during the unprecedented surge of antisemitism in January 2009, at the time of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Many other groups and individuals in both communities are constantly working to break through the negativity that surrounds perceptions of Jews and Muslims within their respective communities. Some mosques and synagogues have purposefully made links between their leaders and congregations, meaning they pull together rather than apart at times of overseas tension.

The Co-Existence Trust and Aliph-Aleph are two joint Jewish-Muslim organisations dedicated to bridge-building; but there are many representative bodies and campaigning groups from both communities on the lookout for collaborative opportunities.  

For example, my own organisation, CST is regularly cited by police and politicians as Britain’s leading example of responsible community self-defence and security. The Muslim community faces both far right terrorism and Islamophobic street demonstrations, and lacks a unified internal system for the reporting of anti-Muslim attacks and threats. My colleagues and I have therefore participated in many meetings and conferences with Muslim groups and representatives, advising how they can develop the necessary infrastructures. We have also strenuously advised Jews not to fall for the Islamophobic scapegoating of the BNP and others.

All these activities humanise and normalise the perceptions that Jews and Muslims hold towards one another. It is vital and urgent work, as both communities have become polarised since the 9/11 attacks, and with subsequent rounds of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the invasions and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the 7/7 bombings.

Judaism predates Islam and therefore has no particular religious instruction about it. (The story of Isaac and Ishmael is invoked to portray the origin of Jews and Arabs respectively, but not specifically regarding Muslims.) Politically, however, the ongoing Middle East conflict has led too many Jews to regard and fear Muslims as being an antisemitic and pro-terrorist monolith.

Islamic religious discourse concerning Jews is mixed, with the negatives being rooted in the Jewish rejection of Mohammed and the modern establishment – and perceived actions – of a Jewish state in what is regarded by Muslims as their land. Politically, belief in Jewish conspiracy theory (often expressed as Zionist conspiracy, and ironically of European origin) appears to be worryingly widespread, with “Zionists” being sincerely blamed for the 9/11 attacks; anti-Muslim media scrutiny; the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; and dozens more local and global political, economic, diplomatic and media phenomena.

This rhetoric is often pushed by British and UK-based followers of pan-Islamist groups, including the influential Muslim Brotherhood. It is bad, stupid politics that blames everything upon a fictitious, infinitely malleable and invisible enemy. To the extreme concern of British Jews, such propaganda can now be heard within the Palace of Westminster itself, where it is tolerated – and occasionally even echoed – by a small number of vocal MPs and Peers.

It is desperately sad that in modern Britain we still have to stress that there is no such thing as a Jewish conspiracy, not even a “Zionist” one. Fulminating against a non-existent “Zionist” target only deepens frustration and incites hatred: which suits extremist goals of fostering anger against Israel and “the West”, but represents a dead end for British Muslims and Jews alike.

The sooner these lessons are learnt, the quicker we can get on with building a better Britain for all of its citizens.

Successful prosecution for online hate

October 22nd, 2010 by Dave Rich

The Jewish Chronicle reports on an important case in the efforts to combat online antisemitism and other forms of hatred on blogs and message boards.

In March 2008, Mohammed Sandia posted the following comment, amongst others, on the online forum of The Scotsman newspaper:

jews are not fit to breathe our air. They must be attacked wherever you see them; throw rocks at their ugly, hooked-nosed women and mentally ill children, and light up the REAL ovens.

This and more comments were brought to the attention of the Press Complaints Commission, MSPs and the police by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. Sandia was prosecuted for this comment under the Public Order Act 1986 and, at a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, pleaded guilty to distributing threatening and insulting antisemitic material. According to the JC:

In a statement, the Scottish Crown Office pledged: “There is no place in Scotland for those who commit crimes motivated by prejudice and intolerance. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service takes offences of this kind extremely seriously and will continue to work closely with other criminal justice agencies to ensure that offenders are brought to justice.”

At the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, public affairs officer Leah Granat welcomed “the diligence with which the police and Crown Office followed up our original report about these appalling comments.

“The success of their prosecution underlines the importance of reporting all incidents to the police.”

The problem of antisemitism and other forms of hatred on internet message boards, blogs and discussion forums is something that CST and others have raised many times in recent years. This case at least shows that it is both technically and legally possible to identify, and prosecute, the people who post inciteful messages on the internet.

Four convicted of plotting to bomb New York synagogues

October 19th, 2010 by Dave Rich

Four men have been convicted in New York of plotting to bomb two synagogues and shoot down  military aircraft. Their plot was monitored throughout by the FBI, who supplied them with fake explosives:

Four men have today been found guilty of 30 out of 32 counts stemming from the May 2009 plot to bomb two Bronx synagogues and shoot down military aircraft at a National Guard airbase in Newburgh, New York.

James Cromitie had been accused of scheming with a government informant he met at a mosque in Newburgh but the plot was foiled by a perfectly executed FBI sting.

Prosecutors said Cromitie recruited the three co-defendants David Williams, 29, Onta Williams,29, and Laguerre Payen,28, to fire heat-seeking missiles at cargo planes and blow them out of the sky.

In what was was called a terrorism version of Big Brother, the accused architects of the bomb plot were followed and listened to by law enforcement officials at all times.

The Muslim converts were under constant surveillance from early on in their plans until they were busted by cops last year.

The sting apparently never put New Yorkers at risk but the defendants ‘thought this was real – real bombs, real missiles – every step of the way’, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin.

[...]

The trial featured 13 days of testimony by undercover mole, Shahed Hussain who met Cromitie at a mosque north of New York City.

The paid FBI informant helped make hundreds of hours of audio and video tapes between the terrorists which were given to officials and used as evidence.
The defence had argued that the government entrapped their clients but the prosecution were determined to avoid the complication that has derailed previous terror cases and took necessary steps to avoid that.

[...]

The Feds had assigned Hussain in 2008 to infiltrate a mosque in Newburgh. After meeting Cromitie, the 53-year-old Pakistani immigrant told him he was a representative of a Pakistani terror organisation that was eager to finance a holy war on U.S. soil.

Prosecutors alleged that in meetings with Hussain, 44-year-old Cromitie hatched the scheme to blow up the synagogues in the Bronx with remote-controlled bombs.

They also recruited Williams, Williams and Payen to help him shoot down cargo planes at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, 60 miles north of New York City, with heat-seeking missiles.

Agents arrested the men in 2009 after they planted the devices – fakes supplied by the FBI – in the Riverdale section of the Bronx while under heavy surveillance.

In one of several videos played at trial, the men could be seen practicing with a shoulder missile launcher and praying together in a bugged warehouse in Connecticut two weeks before the planned attack.

Other tapes showed Cromitie ranting against Jews and expressing his desire to retaliate against U.S. military aggression in the Middle East saying, ‘I’m ready to do this dam thing. Anything for the cause’.

[...]

Government informant Hussain testified that Cromitie was a man that ‘hated Jews and Jewish people’.

He said Cromitie also ‘hated American soldiers and the American government. He was full of hateful against those subjects’.

Authorities listened as Cromitie talked at a mosque about doing ‘something to America’ and ‘doing Jihad’ as well as deciding on targets but saying that ‘the best target was hit already’ – referring to the World Trade Center.

The reality of the EDL

October 15th, 2010 by Dave Rich

Today’s Jewish Chronicle has excellent coverage of the English Defence League, in which CST is prominently quoted:

Mark Gardner, Community Security Trust communications director, said: “The EDL’s Jewish branch is a tiny part of a far larger movement, dominated by white males who would previously have made up National Front marches and English football hooligan gangs.

“EDL actions are violent and intimidatory, attacking police and random Asians. Any Jews thinking that they can shape such dangerous forces and find shelter there are utterly deluded.”

CST has made its view of the EDL very clear over the past year, for instance here, here, here or here.

The JC also features an opinion piece by Searchlight’s Nick Lowles, which hits the nail on the head. It is reproduced here in full:

Last weekend 2,000 supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) invaded Leicester. They claimed to stand up for Englishness against Islamic extremism, but in truth they came for trouble. Almost as soon as they arrived they began fighting with police, putting four in hospital, and in the process throwing army issue smoke grenades, fire crackers and ball bearings at police horses and dogs

During one charge, which resulted in a police officer being repeatedly stamped on, others in the crowd chanted “let him die”. As the event finished hundreds of EDL supporters rampaged through local streets indiscriminately attacking local Asians.

These were not acts of patriotism but the destructive efforts of racist thugs and football hooligans.

On October 24 the EDL plan to hold a solidarity demonstration outside the Israeli embassy to which they have invited a little-known American rabbi, in a cynical ploy aimed at cultivating hatred between Jews and Muslims.

While many in the Jewish community have understandable concerns about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, it is important to remember that the EDL are not our friends.

Searchlight has been running local campaigns against the EDL, in the same way that we work to defeat the politics of hate espoused by the BNP. We seek to mobilise communities to stand together around common values which unite us. In Leicester this meant over 6,000 local residents standing together against the hatred of the EDL. One Leicester, United Together. Next week it is the turn of the Jewish community to stand united against this hatred.

Extremism is extremism, whatever form it comes in, and the EDL is a genuine threat to social cohesion and peaceful communities. And extremism only breeds extremism. The EDL set out to whip up trouble and tensions, hoping to provoke a violent reaction from young Muslims. In the short term this divides communities, in the longer term it only pushes people to more extreme groups.

But with the threat comes an opportunity and we must use the concern over the EDL to bring people together. One of the most moving movements of our peace vigil in Leicester last weekend was when the leader of the Muslim community read out a message of support from the local Jewish community. “A rock thrown at a mosque is a rock thrown at a synagogue,” the message read. This produced a massive cheer and highlights what is possible when we stand together against hatred.

The EDL’s demonstration in Leicester last week really showed them in their true colours: attacking the police, fighting in the streets and smashing up random shops and restaurants, presumably because the patrons looked like Muslims. There are plenty of videos of their violent behaviour available to watch on the internet: see, for instance, this sample, which is fairly representative. Is this really something that helps anyone, other than extremists of all types?

Abe Foxman: speak out against anti-Muslim bigotry

October 12th, 2010 by Dave Rich

Below is an opinion piece by Abe Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, which is based on a speech he gave at the ADL’s Annual Meeting in Boston on 7th October. It is written for the American context, but its central warning of the dangers posed by a growing, generalised bigotry against all Muslims is one that is worth heeding.

In recent months our society has devolved into one more and more characterized by polarization, rage, stridency and partisanship.

We find ourselves in a time where people are put to loyalty tests, where one’s motivation in disagreeing is interpreted in the most cynical way no matter the record of the individual. And it opens one up to hyperbolic charges of one kind of another. People can’t just have different legitimate opinions anymore — they are charged with being guilty of betrayals, of conspiracies, of abandonment of principles, of endangering all our values.

Most symptomatic is the tendency to exploit issues associated with an ethnic, racial or religious group by reviving or updating stereotypes about a particular community.

Unfortunately, this is not new to America. The classic case study is the treatment of African Americans.

As American Jews we have been subjected to virulent anti-Semitism, often with the acquiescence of government or its apathy. Catholics, too, were victims of religious prejudice. As recent as 50 years ago, some questioned whether a Catholic should be president: Would John F. Kennedy be directed by the pope rather than the American people? Mormons continue to be ridiculed for their religious beliefs.

Now, as a result of the debate surrounding the mosque near Ground Zero, we are witnessing a surge in anti-Muslim bigotry. It is evident that this surge is taking place with greater force now than at a time when one might have expected it, immediately after 9/11.

At that time we were worried about an explosion of hatred against American Muslims, particularly after there were a few serious incidents following the terrorist tragedy. As things turned out, anti-Muslim bigotry did not explode. Yes, there were incidents, and even one is too many, but dire predictions did not materialize.

But now, nine years later, we are seeing a surge of incidents. I believe it is related to the broader trends in America — the lack of civility, the tendency to see enemies all around and the reinforcement of prejudicial views rather than diverse views.

Islam is one of the world’s great religions. But like Judaism and Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism and others, if it isn’t your religion you most likely have little knowledge, if any, of its beliefs and practices. Ignorance has always been one of the common denominators of those who are bigoted against “the others.” And ignorance can breed fear, which too easily can become hatred.

The Muslim community in America is being confronted by ugly, in-your-face religious bigotry and we must speak out against it, educate against it and label it anti-American.

Therefore, despite the fact that there is a serious enmity between the Children of Ishmael and the Children of Isaac; despite the fact that the greatest conveyer belt for anti-Semitic incitement in the world today comes from the Muslim world — in the Middle East, in North Africa, in Europe and even in Latin America; and despite the fact that Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Iranian regime purport to speak in the name of Islam, and commit to end Israel’s existence and to the destruction of the Jewish people — when religious bigotry rears its ugly head against Muslims, we must speak out.

We must differentiate between extreme theology and ideology in Islam, and condemn it and challenge it, while at the same time define and separate it from the non-extremist ideology and theology. We must condemn the brand of Islam that venerates violence and intolerance, and welcome into the modern world the rest of Islam that rejects violence and intolerance.

We must speak out when there are threats to burn the Muslim holy book, the Koran. ADL condemned the threat to burn the Koran on “Burn a Koran Day” in Gainesville, Fla., and spearheaded a coalition of interfaith leaders to speak out with the message of “we will not remain silent in the face of religious Intolerance.”

We must speak out when Muslims face opposition to the legal building, expansion or relocation of their houses of worship — their mosques, which is why we established an interfaith task force. We must speak out when Muslims are denied religious accommodation.

We believe you fight hatred — be it because of one’s religion, race, ethnicity — with legitimate action and civil discourse.

By standing up, speaking out, saying no to religious bigotry, gaining understanding and respect through education and working together, we can — to borrow an ADL catchphrase — make a world of difference and at the same time strengthen the fabric of our democratic and diverse society. We can do no less. We can help restore respect and civility.

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