Communities Secretary Calls For Equalities Investigation Into UCU

June 30th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

Today’s Jewish Chronicle carries a strong article by Communities and Local Govt Secretary, Eric Pickles, in which he denounces the current and past behaviour of the University and College Union (UCU). It ends with this declaration

When seen in this context, the latest resolution [in which UCU rejected the ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’] is in fact sending out a chilling message. It says that Jewish academics and students who perceive that they are being harassed or bullied should understand that they will be held to a different standard. It says that they should expect to be fair game for invective, and learn to live with feeling more vulnerable. Little wonder that the UCU has already seen many members of the Jewish faith, other faiths and none, vote with their feet and leave.

No-one’s education should come at the cost of intimidation. I am calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as the national champion for equality and good relations, to investigate.

This is an extremely important Governmental intervention that should boost the morale of all those who fear antisemitism. It proves, (as did yesterday’s detention of Sheikh Salah), that Jews are by no means alone in recognising what is happening and in standing against it.

It is by no means certain that the Equality Commission will indeed investigate UCU; and the outcome of any such investigation remains to be seen. Nevertheless, this is a potentially crucial moment in the struggle against the institutional antisemitism of UCU and similar bastions of far Left anti-Zionism.

Sheikh Raed Salah Detention

June 29th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

CST welcomes the detention by UK Borders Agency, late last night, of Sheikh Raed Salah.

Salah is leader of the Northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He had entered the UK despite having been reportedly banned from coming into the country, and is now very likely to face deportation charges. Salah and his hosts strongly deny allegations of antisemitism that have been made against him, most of which concern alleged remarks in Jerusalem that have been widely reported since 2007/2008.  They also question if his name was on a UK travel ban list.

Salah’s visit was scheduled to include a number of public speaking events, two of which, at Conway Hall, London and Leicester had occured prior to his arrest. 

Most of the publicity regarding his visit had concentrated upon his speaking in the House of Commons tonight, alongside various pro-Palestinian activists and Jeremy Corbyn MP, Yasmin Qureshi MP and Richard Burden MP. 

Salah’s Islamist ideology is reflected by those organising the events, most of whom are leading lights in Britain’s pro-Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood type circles, such as the MEMO group. These groups and activists seek to dominate the ideological and political leadership of Britain’s highly diverse Muslim communities. Many on the secular far Left have made common cause with these Islamist ideologues: not because they believe that British society will be a better place for having such groups dominate Muslim communities, but rather because both ideological streams are would-be revolutionaries with many enemies in common.

The fiasco over how Salah actually entered the UK, should not distract attention from the crucial fact that the Government has shown the meaningfulness and intent of its recent review of Prevent counter-extremism strategy. Salah’s banning and subsequent detention demonstrates that Government has now moved beyond only seriously challenging those who are explicitly pro Al Qaeda, or otherwise in favour of terrorism against Britain and British overseas forces and facilities.

Now, Government is also facing up to the enormous challenge of how to reverse the influence of those pan-Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood (including Hamas) and Jamaat-i-Islami, both of which make common cause and have significant control over British Muslims’ physical and political infrastructure; including an extensive network of lobbying groups, umbrella bodies, charities and mosques. Prior Governments have attempted to work with such groups (largely out of perceived necessity), but have repeatedly found them to be, ultimately, not conducive to the public good and social cohesion. 

The Labour Party may also have shifted its position. Some Labour MPs have long mixed in the Islamist and secular pro-Palestinian circles demonstrated by Salah’s visit, and exemplified by the past behaviour of Ken Livingstone. The Shadow Home Secretary has criticised the Government’s handling of border controls, but such criticism risks rebounding unless Labour is able to rein in those MPs and Lords who move in such circles.

These issues go to the heart of Government policy towards counter-extremism, and towards its understanding of the well-resourced ideologues who are attempting to turn Britain’s diverse Muslim communities into a single politicised mass. It is not, as Salah’s supporters have inevitably alleged, evidence of some pro-Israeli or Zionist or Jewish plot at the heart of media and politics. For example, this statement by the Islamic Movement in Israel mixes all three:

Since Salah received the invitation to come to Britain, the Jewish lobby went crazy and did everything in its power to prevent the visit, so that the Zionist narrative remains the only narrative

This statement shows exactly why Jewish communities have every right to fear the antisemitism that permeates pan-Islamist politics. It should (but will not) shame those supposed anti-racists who offer unconditional support to Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat types here in the UK and around the world, and who consistently lie that Jewish concerns about antisemitism are a fake cover for Israel.

Ultimately, this case is all about the Government’s understanding of pan-Islamist circles in the UK. These movements have every democratic right to operate here (so long as they stick to the law), but that does not oblige the rest of society to pander to them, to give them tax payers money and to uncritically appear upon their platforms. Of course, any serious attempt to engage in overseas dialogue and diplomacy in Muslim majority nations needs to properly include these elements: but engagement merely increases the importance of critically understanding who these people are and what world it is that they wish to create. The Government, therefore, is to be congratulated on its Prevent strategy and its efforts to better control those who would import and promote such politics (with its attendant hatreds) into the UK.

Antisemitism: Norwich to Westminster & 800 years.

June 23rd, 2011 by Mark Gardner

Tonight, BBC 2 will show a documentary entitled, “History Cold Case: The Bodies in the Well”. It concerns the remains of 17 skeletons found at the bottom of a medieval well in Norwich.

The skeletons date from the 12th or 13th centuries and were found in 2004 during construction works. 11 of the 17 skeletons are of children aged two to 15. Five of seven skeletons subjected to detailed testing show they are likely to be members of a single Jewish family.  

The exact reason for the deaths of these medieval Norwich Jews is unknown, but the broken child skeletons were found on top of the broken adult ones. This would suggest that they were forcibly thrown in, rather than committed suicide.

Why were they thrown in?

We have no way of knowing. The BBC news website page timeline includes this:

1066: The Norman Conquests open the way to Jewish immigation. The monarchy needs to borrow money and Christians are forbidden to lend money at interest. London, Lincoln and York become centres for substantial Jewish populations.

1100s: Resentment against the Jewish community grows over their perceived wealth and belief they killed Jesus. The “blood libels” – Jews are accused of the ritual murder of Christian children.

1190: Many Jewish people massacred in York. In Norwich they flee to the city’s castle for refuge. Those who stay in their homes are butchered.

1230s: Executions in Norwich after an allegation a Christian child was kidnapped.

So, there are basically three suggestions: Jews are rich, Jews killed Jesus, Jews kidnap and kill Christian children for “ritual murder” (particularly The Blood Libel, killing Christians to use their blood, or organs, for religious purpose).

Of course, these suggestions do not exist separate from one another. Instead, each myth and each hatred fuels, feeds and legitimises the other. It is not as if 12th century secular anti-capitalists were declaring the Jews to be innocent of having killed Jesus, but guilty of leeching off everyone from the lowliest peasant to the King.

Then again, not everything is myth. Jews did indeed collect taxes, and they were amongst the financiers to the King. Yes, we can explain this by reference to the historical and religious circumstances by which Jews were led to play the role of tax collectors, or could guarantee cross-national trade and finance: but an antisemite would most probably discern the history as exposing the underlying anti-social, inauthentic and parasitical nature of Jews and Jewishness.

And so, how are we to categorise these tragic Jewish victims in Norwich? Are we, for example, to assume that if they were murdered for being rich, that they may, indeed have been rich: and that this makes their death less antisemitic, or at least more understandable than if they had been murdered for the entirely fake charge of Blood Libel?

At the very least, some serious contextualisation is required. These murders sit within a medieval anti-Jewish European Christian world that sporadically reached genocidal proportions over the time of the Crusades. (No need to shlep to the Holy Land when you can murder Christ-killers and the Devil’s servants right here in Europe.) 

With the passage of centuries, all of the above is, I hope, easy to agree upon. The murders are easy to recoil against and to condemn. Nobody will stop to quibble over just how many of the victims were indeed filthy rich Jews exploiting the sweat of the peasantry and the authentic English wealth of the King. 

From all of this, what lessons can be learnt for the current day? 

On one simple level, we have an obvious sobering reminder that when the fictional antisemitic Borat character sings, “Throw the Jew down the well”, he does so based upon a brutal reality that is well known to his astute creator, Sacha Baron Cohen.

On a deeper level, there may be details here for Jews to learn about medieval Jewish victims of antisemitism, but it is surely the anti-Israel brigade that has most to learn: if, that is, their opposition to antisemitism amounts to anything more than lighting candles at Holocaust memorials. They may come wielding copies of the Guardian rather than a pitchfork, but they would do well to understand antisemitism and, in particular, to show some respect for why Jews fear antisemitism within (or arising from) the current anti-Israel mood.

For example, the playwright Caryl Churchill, would do well to understand what the Blood Libel is and why Jews felt it was evoked by her play Seven Jewish Children. (As explained here by me and my colleague Dave Rich at Comment is Free, with reference to the Guardian’s promotion and illustration of the play.)

Likewise, the cartoonist Dave Brown, and his publishers at the Independent would do well to understand what the Blood Libel is and why Jews felt it was evoked by his cartoon of Ariel Sharon biting the head off a child.  

(Iranian state) Press TV’s website has featured charges startlingly reminiscent of the Blood Libel.

And, Jenny Tonge did herself no favours when saying that there should be an inquiry to clear Israel of stealing organs from Haiti earthquake victims.    

And then, there is this week’s Blood Libel controversy, concerning the planned UK visit of Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He is accused of having made a speech referencing the Blood Libel, in East Jerusalem in 2007. The case has been widely publicised, but when raised in the UK context, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have strongly refuted the claims. Meanwhile, the Islamist lobby group, MEMO, have also strongly denied the accusations, whilst threatening legal action and making a host of disgusting characterisations against the complainants. (Analysed previously here on CST Blog.)

Blogger, heal thyself

June 21st, 2011 by Dave Rich

Inayat Bunglawala has written a predictable blogpost attacking the government’s new Prevent strategy; predictable in that he blames “Zionists” for influencing the government’s new position.

There is one line in his article which, although almost an aside, caused me to catch my breath. He writes:

As I argued in my previous blog, Zionists view any political progress made by Muslims (or ‘Islamists’ as they term them) as detrimental to their interests.

Putting to one side for a moment the conspiracy theory about “Zionists” attacking Muslims, which seems to be a core belief of both Bunglawala and the iEngage lobby group which he founded, the allegation that people who campaign against Islamism use it as a code for Muslims is simply untrue.

Firstly, it is untrue because plenty of well-known Islamists use the word quite freely to describe themselves. For example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood, writing in the magazine of the Federation Of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) in 1990, warned that “Islamists must pay special attention to the preparation of competent cadres.” In 1995, when addressing a meeting of the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, the Tunisian Islamist Rashid Ghannouchi, told his audience that he “prefers to be described as an Islamist.” Kamal Helbawy, also of the Muslim Brotherhood, even founded a magazine called Islamism Digest.

Secondly, it is untrue because Islam is a religion and Islamism is a political ideology and movement, and it must be possible to critique and criticise the latter in a way that does not automatically include an attack on the former. To argue otherwise is both evidence and fuel for Islamophobia.

And thirdly, if Bunglawala really believes that “Islamist” is just used as a codeword for “Muslim”, then he really ought to look at his own use of the word “Zionist”, because he leaves himself open to the charge of hypocrisy.

For example, writing in the magazine Trends in 1992, Bunglawala presented evidence of what he considered to be excessive Jewish influence over the UK media:

The chairman of Carlton Communications is Michael Green, of the tribe of Judah. He has joined an elite club whose members include fellow Jews Michael Grade (Chief Executive at Channel Four) and Alan Yentob (Controller at BBC2 and friend of Salman Rushdie). The three are reported to be “close friends” (The Times, Oct. 17). So that’s what they mean by a “free media”!

When challenged on this by the Daily Telegraph in 2005, Bunglawala said:

 Those comments were made some 12 or 13 years ago. All of us may hold opinions which are objectionable, but they change over time. I certainly would not defend those comments today.

Fair enough: as he says, plenty of people hold extreme views in their youth that they regret as they mature. But what, then, should we make of this paragraph, in his blogpost yesterday:

Alhamdulillah, despite their considerable influence in the mainstream media – influence which they routinely use to smear and bully politicians and senior civil servants that regard anti-Muslim policies as wrong and detrimental in the real struggle against AQ-inspired terrorism – the Zionists seem clearly destined to lose this battle.

It may be true that Bunglawala considers it objectionable to claim there is some sort of Jewish media conspiracy, but he regularly claims there is a Zionist one. And it may also be true that he does not consider a person’s religion to be relevant, although he did imply that Lord Carlisle was not credible partly because he told the Jewish Chronicle that “he was proud of his “100 per cent Jewish ancestry” and that he was a strong supporter of Israel.” But given Bunglawala’s blanket assumption that all Zionists use “Islamist” as a synonym for “Muslim”, he can’t be surprised if some of those “Zionists” think he uses that particular label as a synonym for “Jew”.

UPDATE 22 June:

On 21 June Middle East Monitor (MEMO) held a “roundtable meeting in the Houses of Parliament” for Sheikh Rashid Ghanoushi, leader of Tunisia’s Al-Nahda party and possibly the most senior Islamist to have been resident as a dissident in Britain, until his recent return to Tunisia following political change there.

MEMO is a pro-Muslim Brotherhood outfit that is increasingly central to Britain’s Islamist scene. Its Director is Daud Abdullah, who was general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain when Inayat Bunglawala was spokesman for that group. (For example, see here.) 

MEMO also seem somewhat confused over their terminology. Their report of the Ghanoushi meeting variously describes Al-Nahda and similar as “moderate Islamic groups”, “Islamic forces” and “the Islamists”:

popularity of moderate Islamic groups such as Al-Nahda…

…While it would no longer be possible to marginalize the Islamic forces, the Nahda leader acknowledges the Islamists cannot lead Tunisia by themselves.

Should Inayat Bunglawala’s next memo be to MEMO?

From UCU to MEMO and “Israel’s British hirelings”

June 16th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

Of the many depressing features around the University and College Union’s (UCU) trashing of the European Union Monitoring Centre’s Working Definition of Antisemitism, perhaps the worst one is the basic denial of the decency and humanity of those expressing concerns about antisemitism.

In this, the UCU reflects a far wider and very ugly trend, whereby the anti-Israel movement rejects claims of antisemitism by alleging that those who complain are merely doing so to cover Israel’s crimes. This ostensibly anti-Israel response, is in effect an antisemitic response. It not merely obstructs the fight against antisemitism, it helps propel it: firstly, by denying what is antisemitic and encouraging more; and secondly, by depicting people who complain about antisemitism as being moral reprobates. 

CST distinguishes between antisemitic incidents (ie hate crimes against Jews) and antisemitic discourse (ie discussion and rhetoric). When, in the early 2000’s,  CST and others drew attention to the wave of antisemitic incidents that hit British Jews (and other Jewish communities throughout the world), we were accused of exaggerating the problem in order to distract attention from alleged Israeli crimes. The physical evidence proved so overwhelming that most of our critics have now dropped that particular slander.

When it comes to antisemitic discourse, however, the battlefield remains hotly disputed. On one level, this is entirely understandable, as hate crime is often far easier to identify than hate speech. If, for example, a random British synagogue is defaced with anti-Israel slogans, then most people (including CST, Police and the EUMC definition) would accept this as being a hate crime against a Jewish communal building.

If, however, a public speaker condemned the mainstream Jewish community for demonstrating in support of Israel, then any arising accusations of antisemitism would depend upon a multiplicity of factors, facts and contexts: all of which would be heatedly argued dependent upon one’s personal ideology, fears and awareness (and interpretation) of the history of antisemitism.

It does not take much knowledge of antisemitism to appreciate that Jews, having been brutally persecuted for the best of 2,000 years, then suffered industrialised genocide across Europe within living memory. It does not take much knowledge of the Arab-Israel conflict to appreciate that Israel was founded in the aftermath of that genocide and has faced down the threat of violent destruction for its entire existence.

I do not expect or ask that UCU and its defenders (on the anti-Zionist left, including the Jewish anti-Zionist left) reach some magical agreement with their critics on what is, and what is not antisemitic: but surely the history and context of antisemitism demand that they afford their critics far more humanity and basic decency than is currently the case.

They could, for example, say that they understand why Jews might fear an anti-Israel boycott as having a historical antisemitic resonance; a likely isolating impact upon mainstream Jewish communities; and a potentially antisemitic knock-on effect. (Because people might assume that Israel’s real and supposed supporters were deserving of derision, and the occasional good kicking.) They could go out of their way to speak out against such impacts, could attempt to assuage Jewish fears; and could even refuse to work with groups that refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to its very existence as a Jewish state.    

Instead, the opposite occurs. Jews who express concern about antisemitism are not treated with respect, but are summarily dismissed as liars and frauds. Their case is prejudged according to its perceived political setting. (I say perceived, because the case of Engage shows that well-known critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians are subject to the same abuse as those who do not make such criticisms.) This, of course, becomes a vicious cycle. The person complaining about antisemitism, or fearing antisemitism, has their sense of persecution vindicated and intensified by the response that they receive. The cycle intensifies further.

Where Jewish groups that were consulted by EUMC in the drafting of the Working Definition are concerned, the demonisation is even worse. They are treated as if they colluded to mainpulate the European Union into constructing a shield for Israel’s crimes. The reality is far simpler and far more humane. They were trying to help European police forces to identify when an anti-Israel act might be antisemitic (such as slogans on a synagogue), or might not.

Only two conferences ago (in 2009), an attempt was made to explicitly address the problem, with this resolution being proposed:

Congress notes with concern the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK and resignations of UCU members apparently in connection with perceptions of institutional anti-Semitism.’

Add new final bullet point: ‘ To investigate the number of recent UCU resignations and the reasons for them, and to report its findings to next Congress.’

Sad to say, the resolution was resoundingly rejected by the conference; and today’s UCU Executive is driving the problem, having premised their rejection of the EUMC Working Definition upon this:

[EUMC] is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.

So, how long will it be before they cut to the chase and use the following terms:

  • hysterical hue and cry by Israel’s lackeys in Britain
  • Israel lobbyists have shown themselves to be even more extreme than their paymasters in Tel Aviv
  • Evidently bankrupt of any intellectual, moral or political tools to stem the growing tide of international support for the just nature of the Palestinian cause, Israel’s British hirelings mounted a scurrilous smear campaign
  • A number of fantasies were concocted to prevent a legitimate debate on the conflict

Ridiculous you say? Not really. All of that is taken from a “commentary” issued today by MEMO (Middle East Monitor) in which they deny that their forthcoming guest speaker, Islamic Movement in Israel head, Sheikh Raed Salah, has uttered antisemitic remarks widely attributed to him and dating from 2007. 

MEMO are not the only ones involved in Salah’s visit. His 1st event is scheduled for 27 June and is jointly organised by MEMO, Islamic Forum Europe and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. His 2nd event is at the House of Commons on 29 June. It is organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

One of UCU’s main partners for pro-Palestinian activity – yup, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Will anyone from UCU, or its defenders, criticise Salah? (And, if so, will they explain why the EUMC definition should not be applied in his case?)

Will anyone from UCU, or its defenders, or PSC, condemn MEMO’s abusive language against those who are opposing Salah’s visit?    

Don’t bet on it. Instead, watch the vicious cycle take another turn.

CST Elections Report 2011

June 14th, 2011 by Dave Rich

Last month, over 300 British National Party candidates stood for election in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Only two won, both in English local council elections: several existing BNP councillors lost their seats as the party’s electoral decline and organisation collapse, which began last year, continued. Next month the party’s ‘other’ MEP, Andrew Brons, will challenge Nick Griffin for the leadership of the BNP.

Several other, smaller, far right parties stood in the elections, many on a ticket of radical, xenophobic English nationalism and with candidates who have been expelled from the BNP over the past two years. With the rise of the English Defence League, this may presage a new form of far right politics in Britain, and particularly England.

CST’s Elections Report gives an overview of the electoral performance of the BNP and other far right parties in these elections. It assesses the prospects for the BNP and the future direction of the wider far right. It also includes complete tables with the results of all BNP and other far right candidates.

Elections Report - 2011

On hating Israel and hating Jews

June 13th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

A lot of stupidity (and even more hypocrisy) has been spouted in over-eager defence of the University and College Union’s banning of the European Union Monitoring Centre’s working definition of antisemitism.

I am not, however, aware of any UCU defenders having referrred to the procedural precedent for the current controversy, namely an even earlier UCU motion, passed in May 2007.

This is unfortunate, as that earlier motion was clearly the forerunner to the EUMC banning. The motion was effectively a call for anti-Israel boycott measures. It listed alleged Israeli transgressions and then stated,

Congress believes that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic. 

So, according to UCU four years ago, Israel’s behaviour meant that “criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic”.

Meanwhile, down at the House of Lords terrace, an anonymous life peer (quoted this weekend by Daily Mail columnist, Petronella Wyatt) essentially ends up in the same ballpark as UCU: albeit having taken (I optimistically assume) a somewhat different route to get there.

The Jews have been asking for it, and because of the atrocious way Israel behaves, we can finally say what we think.

(See Wyatt’s entire article, here.)


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