CST report: ‘Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2011′

November 29th, 2012 by Mark Gardner

CST’s final annual report of the year, Antisemitic discourse in Britain in 2011 is available today on the publications section of CST’s website, in pdf format. It may be read here.

The report is 38 pages long and contains introductory sections on Jewish life, antisemitism and anti-Zionism, followed by analysis of developments in antisemitic discourse (and reactions to it) in mainstream politics and media during the year 2011.

The report cites numerous mainstream publications, groups and individuals who are by no means antisemitic, but whose behaviour may impact upon attitudes concerning Jews and antisemitism.

CST Blog will be running excerpts from the report. Below, the Executive Summary:

  • Explicit antisemitism against Jews is rare in British public life and within mainstream political and media discourse. Nevertheless, antisemitic themes alleging Jewish conspiracy, power and hostility to others can resonate within mainstream discourse about Israel and (especially) about so-called ‘Zionists’.
  • When explicit antisemitism does occur, it tends to do so within circles that are also racist or hateful towards other groups.
  • The internet and social media are providing new opportunities for the spread of antisemitic discourse. This includes mainstream companies, such as Amazon, selling blatant antisemitic propaganda, such as The Protocols of the Elders
    of Zion and Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth at Last.
  • Fears that economic troubles in 2011 would spark antisemitism in Britain proved largely unfounded.
  • 2011 was notable for the public reaction to antisemitic remarks made by fashion designer John Galliano. The case was not especially remarkable, but provided a focus for numerous articles in mainstream media that analysed and spoke strongly against contemporary antisemitism.
  • The trend to blame so-called ‘Zionism’ for anti-Muslim hatred intensified in 2011. This included allegations that Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik was inspired by ‘Zionism’.
  • The controversy surrounding the Home Secretary’s (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to deport Sheikh Raed Salah epitomised debates around antisemitism and overseas Islamist figures. This case also included false accusations that the UK Government had acted at Israel’s behest and was somehow under the control of Israel’s supporters in the UK. This falsehood encourages and reinforces antisemitic attitudes.
  • The Guardian reinforced its reputation as being the most subjective and contentious mainstream newspaper on issues of antisemitism in the context of Israel and Zionism. This, despite the paper also warning against antisemitism.
  • The publication and promotion of Gilad Atzmon’s book The Wandering Who? introduced a relatively new form of antisemitism into ‘anti-Zionist’ discourse.
  • Britain’s refusal to attend a United Nations anti-racism conference, due to prior instances of antisemitism there, was an especially important public statement.
  • In Scotland, the conviction of Paul Donnachie on criminal and racist charges showed that anti-Israel behaviour can be prosecuted under legislation relating to race, colour, nationality or ethnicity.
  • Fears and concerns about antisemitism, as expressed by mainstream Jewish communities and bodies, are routinely ignored, or even maliciously misrepresented, within supposedly ‘progressive’ circles, including some media, trade unions and churches. Few, if any, other minority representative groups are treated with such reflexive suspicion and ill-will.

Antisemitism and football: time for action

November 26th, 2012 by CST

Events in Rome and London this week have put the focus of football racism onto the question of Jews and antisemitism.

Both cities saw antisemitic abuse directed at fans of Tottenham Hotspur, a club long associated, rightly or wrongly, with having a Jewish fan base, and whose fans self-identify as ‘Yids’. In Rome, Spurs fans were attacked in a vicious planned assault by far right hooligans from Lazio and Roma, who shouted “Jews” during the attack. Two Roma fans are now facing charges of attempted murder for stabbing a Spurs fan. At the game itself, Lazio fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” and waved Palestinian flags – the latter not itself an antisemitic act, but clearly done with antagonistic intent.

In London yesterday at a Premier League match between Spurs and West Ham United, West Ham fans chanted “Adolf Hitler, he’s coming to get you” and made hissing noises to imitate gas chambers. Enough West Ham fans joined in for this to be audible to journalists sat in the Press Box 60 yards away.

UEFA and the FA need to take urgent action regarding Lazio and West Ham respectively, to ensure that the perpetrators of the racist chanting are identified and that this does not happen again. Mere condemnation and paltry fines will not have an impact and we have already sought meetings with the FA, the police, Spurs, West Ham and other interested parties to see what steps need to be taken.

The response of West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, claiming that he didn’t hear the chanting and that “it is the least of my worries at the minute”, is simply not good enough. It would not be acceptable for a manager to claim not to have heard the chanting of monkey noises at a black player that was clearly audible to others in the stadium. This is no different.

While the issue of racism in football has hardly been out of the news over the past year, most of the cases have involved individual comments or gestures by players or fans. The days of massed racist chanting at English football grounds were thought to be long behind us. Events at White Hart Lane yesterday show that this is not the case, and the battle to kick antisemitism out of football is several years behind the work to kick out other forms of racism.

Antisemitism at the Premier League level often revolves around Spurs. Clearly, any effort to rid the game of antisemitism has to start by focusing on the antisemites. People chanting about Hitler or making hissing noises should be arrested, charged and banned for life. There are some good examples of clubs taking this sort of action, and others where the punishment has been far too weak.

The role played by Spurs fans’ use of ‘Yid’ is more complex and subtle and needs to be addressed differently. Spurs fans say that they use the word in a positive way, as a badge of honour in response to antisemitic taunts directed at them by fans of opposing clubs. They are clearly not using it to offend Jews and in this respect the calls by some people for Spurs fans to be arrested for antisemitic chanting miss the point entirely.

However, with the exception of Orthodox Jews who speak Yiddish, most Jews view ‘Yid’ as an antisemitic word. For much of the 20th century it was a common term of abuse directed at Jews. Oswald Mosley’s thugs used to paint it on walls all over the East End of London. It is not used as frequently today but it nor has it disappeared: CST receives several reports every year from Jewish people who have been called ‘Yid’ in the street, or in school, or in other places with nothing to do with football. Beyond White Hart Lane it is still a term of antisemitic abuse.

Most Spurs fans are not Jewish. Arsenal probably have a similar proportion of Jewish fans and the two Manchester clubs also draw strong support from their local Jewish community, as do Leeds United. Jews are represented at boardroom level at many clubs. So the notion that Spurs are a particularly ‘Jewish’ club compared to their rivals is something of a myth. This means that when Spurs fans call themselves ‘Yids’ it is not the same as when members of an oppressed minority ‘reclaim’ an offensive word, as has happened with ‘queer’ or the N-word. Some Jewish Spurs fans love the fact that Spurs identify as ‘Yids’ while others feel very uncomfortable about it.

If Spurs fans did not sing about being ‘Yids’ then it is likely that there would be much less antisemitism in football grounds than there is. It is part of the dynamic of football crowds that if one set of fans sing about a particular part of their identity, opposing fans will twist it back against them. When Spurs fans sing about being ‘Yids’ it encourages opposing fans to think that ‘Yids’, and therefore Jews, are a subject that it is OK for them to sing about too, but in an abusive way. It does not in any way justify opposition fans being antisemitic – but it does perpetuate it.

If we want to have zero tolerance of racism in football then that has to include antisemitism; and if we want to rid football of antisemitism then the word ‘Yid’ does not belong in football grounds, whoever uses it and for whatever reason. Spurs fans can be Jewish or pro-Jewish without singing about ‘Yids’.

This does not mean that Spurs should be blamed for provoking antisemitism, which would be completely wrong. Nor does it mean that the primary responsibility for ridding the game of antisemitism falls on their shoulders. The fact that most Spurs fans are not Jewish should make no difference to how such gross racist chanting and abuse is treated. Antisemitic chanting towards mostly non-Jewish Spurs fans is just as much an offence – both legally and morally – as it would be if it were directed at a visiting Israeli team, for example. Even if Spurs’ entire team, support and board of directors were exclusively Jewish, it would not, in any way, legitimise antisemitic chanting towards them. This also applies regardless of whether Spurs fans sing about being Jewish or not.

Recent controversies over racism in football involved individuals and were not about Jews, but antisemitism directed at Spurs is the most widespread example of football racism in this country. It is a crowd phenomenon, in which large sections of opposing fans conduct mass chanting about gassing and Hitler. This is extreme racism that must not be excused away as mere crowd ‘banter’.

We saw, rightly, the outrage of the FA and its member clubs at racist abuse directed against England’s Under 21s when they recently played in Serbia. It has even been suggested that English teams ought to refuse to play Serbian opposition. Nobody within ‘the football family’ has yet suggested that Spurs should refuse to play their matches, but real action needs to be taken and the vicious cycle surrounding Spurs must be reversed as a matter of the utmost urgency.

In all of this, Spurs fans need to show more understanding that their use of ‘Yid’ causes problems for Jews. And if identifying as ‘Yids’ is a relatively recent response to antisemitism from opposing fans, then it is not an immovable part of the clubs’ identity. Calls for Spurs fans to be arrested or ejected from grounds for calling themselves ‘Yids’ are misguided, but ultimately part of the work to rid football of antisemitism needs to involve Spurs fans voluntarily dropping the word from their songbook.

Antisemitism at Spurs/Lazio football match

November 23rd, 2012 by CST

The Community Security Trust and Maccabi GB are appalled at the violent antisemitism directed at Spurs fans in Rome this week.

Reports from Italy strongly suggest that the assault on a group of Spurs fans on Thursday was a politically-motivated attack by far right football hooligans who shouted antisemitic abuse at their victims.

There are also reports that Lazio fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” ( ‘Jewish Tottenham’) during the game.

It is unacceptable for football fans to be confronted with antisemitism when attending a match, wherever this takes place, and we call on the Rome authorities and UEFA to take meaningful action to ensure that this does not happen again.

CST letter in Guardian

November 21st, 2012 by Mark Gardner

Today’s Guardian has published the below letter from CST.

On 17 November, the Guardian published my letter against contributors’ use of antisemitic imagery. This followed Steve Bell’s cartoon, depicting Tony Blair and William Hague as Benjamin Netanyahu’s glove puppets (16 November).

I said antisemitic “language may well be inadvertent” and explained why the puppets fitted this pattern. In reply, three letters (19 November) wrongly accused me of conflating all “criticism” of Israel as antisemitic and inferred that I lie on behalf of Israel. The last letter ended by calling me a “zealot”: somewhat ironic, given the nature of my complaint. 

This squabble exemplifies, in miniature, the ugly exception that is being made of antisemitism within some anti-racist and anti-Israel circles. Offensive behaviour is routinely defended, mainstream Jewish views are grossly misrepresented and complainants are roundly abused. It is a disgrace.  

Mark Gardner, CST

Other letters, for and against, are also published. They can be seen here.

 

Zealots and Antisemitic Discourse

November 19th, 2012 by Mark Gardner

The mainstream of the Jewish community and anti-racist anti-Israel circles are at odds over perceptions of antisemitism. There is a chasm between the two. This spells danger for Jews, anti-racist unity and universal values. It invites (uniquely negative) exceptions being made for antisemitism and Jewish concerns.

The perception gap is keenly illustrated by today’s Guardian letters page, concerning last week’s Steve Bell cartoon.

(CST Blog featured the cartoon, but it has now been removed at Bell’s request. The rest of CST’s analysis remains, however and is here. Bell’s cartoon is still here on the Guardian website.)

The arguments in the Guardian over Bell’s cartoon are like those concerning institutional antisemitism at the lecturers union, UCU. It is the same stuff we used to hear when Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London. It is the usual story about antisemitic discourse within anti-racist anti-Israel circles. This is how it goes:

1. Anti-racist critic of Israel (often inadvertently) uses antisemitic discourse.

2. Concern is carefully expressed about the above.

3. The carefully worded concern is tossed aside and totally misrepresented. It is falsely alleged that all “criticism” of Israel is being called antisemitic. It is falsely alleged or implied that concerns about antisemitism are lies, concocted to shut down “criticism” of Israel. It is falsely alleged or implied that those concerned about antisemitism are fanatics, or conspirators in a wider enterprise.

4. The chasm widens a bit more.

This particular little episode began on Friday 16 November, when the Guardian ran Steve Bell’s cartoon, depicting Tony Blair and William Hague as Benjamin Netanyahu’s hand puppets. It was denounced in various media, including by non-Jewish commentators, with CST amongst those noting the antisemitic resonance of the imagery.

The following day’s Guardian printed this letter from CST:

The Guardian has, in recent years, editorialised against the use of antisemitic language, publishing strong articles on this subject by Chris Elliott (the readers’ editor), Jonathan Freedland and others. They have rightly noted that such language may well be inadvertent on the part of the user, while retaining its offensive power.

Nevertheless, too many Guardian contributors continue to get away with using antisemitic imagery and tropes, the latest example being Steve Bell’s cartoon (16 November) showing Tony Blair and William Hague as puppets of Bibi Netanyahu. This is an unoriginal way of visualising the old antisemitic charge that Jews are all-powerful. (The notion of Jewish power and conspiracy has long distinguished antisemitism from other racisms, which tend to depict their targets as idiots.)

The paper’s integrity and reputation is seriously compromised by its continuing failure to get a grip on its own content.
Mark Gardner
Community Security Trust

CST’s letter was published underneath another, concerning the current Israel-Hamas conflict. The headline given to the two letters was,We need an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire – and then peace talks”.

As you can see, CST’s letter specifically concerned the resonance of the puppet imagery with the old antisemitic charge of Jewish power. It did not call anyone an antisemite and acknowledged that such tropes may be used inadvertently.

The Guardian saw fit to publish three letters in response to CST’s concerns. Together, they have the headline, “Steve Bell’s cartoon defended”. To be clear, CST fully expected this kind of response, but it is disappointing to see that the paper willingly published not one, not two, but three letters, bearing such misrepresentations of what CST had actually written.

Worse still, the third letter ends with reference to CST as “zealots”. Given the fact that our letter had concerned the Guardian (yet again) publishing antisemitic language and imagery, the “zealots” conclusion is somewhat ironic.

 The letters included the following:

(1)    “One’s heart sinks as Mark Gardner plays the dog-eared antisemitism card for the fifteen hundredth time…”

(2)    “Mark Gardner can’t be allowed to get away with the old trick of pretending all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic…”

(3)    “…the deeply misconceived notion that criticism of particular Israeli governments must, ipso facto, be avoided because it demonstrates prejudice against the Jewish people themselves. Heaven forbid that the Guardian should bow to the wishes of such zealots.”

In the Jewish Chronicle, Steve Bell has answered criticisms of his cartoon. This is how the JC reported it:

Mr Bell said he had chosen to draw the cartoon because “the coverage of Operation Pillar of Defence has been so skewed in favour of the Israeli side, particularly I regret to say on the BBC, that I do personally feel quite a strong need to make the counter argument”.

He said the cartoon was about “the cynical manipulation of a situation by a specific politician” and “NOT about cynical manipulation by ‘the Jews’. I refute completely any charge of antisemitism, since I would never conflate the two.”

Mr Bell added: “I also refute the charge that I am somehow deliberately repeating the antisemitic ‘trope’ of the puppet master. The wilful manipulation is Netanyahu’s not mine.

“I can’t be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon. My intention, I think, is fairly clear.”

CST accepts that Steve Bell is not an antisemite and this is why our letter specified antisemitic imagery “may well be inadvertent on the part of the user”. Crucially, however, we also stated that such imagery could still retain “its offensive power”. Bell’s cartoon is likelier to have emboldened antisemitism than to have reduced it; and it certainly offended many people who saw it. We voiced our concerns and now, for daring to do so, we have been offended some more in the pages of the paper. Antisemites will enjoy seeing that.

And so it keeps going on…and on…and it will do so until such time as Israel’s anti-racist critics treat mainstream Jewish concerns with the respect they would show to other minority groups. We tried asking Ken Livingstone, we tried asking the university lecturers and we have tried asking the Guardian. It isn’t zealotry, it’s just trying to stand up for decency and our self-respect.

Meanwhile, in today’s Independent, Robert Fisk plucks a related theme out of thin air, but goes that bit further:

…At least Hamas, with their Godzilla rockets, don’t claim anything ‘surgical’ about them. They are meant to murder Israelis – any Israelis, man, woman, child.

As, in truth, are the Israeli attacks on Gaza. But don’t say that or you’ll be an anti-Semitic Nazi…”  

 

 

Jews, puppets and the Guardian

November 16th, 2012 by Dave Rich

In November last year Chris Elliott, the Guardian Readers’ Editor, wrote an important article warning Guardian journalists of the need to avoid  publishing “material that either lapses into language resonant of antisemitism or is, by its nature, antisemitic.” He explained that”antisemitism can be subtle as well as obvious” and gave as examples:

… references to Israel/US “global domination” and the term “slavish” to describe the US relationship with Israel

…antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control, or being clannish and secretive, or the role of Jews in finance and the media.

Newspapers have to be aware that some examples involve coded references. They need to ask themselves, for example, if the word Zionist is being used as a synonym for Jew.

Into this category of “subtle” antisemitism that describes Jews or Zionists as “having too much power and control“, falls Steve Bell’s cartoon in today’s Guardian which portrays William Hague and Tony Blair as puppets of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

What is striking about Steve Bell’s cartoon is that he seems to have reached for the ‘puppeteer’ trope to explain that fact that William Hague’s statement on the conflict was presumably not critical enough of Israel for his liking, as if this is the most plausible explanation for Hague’s view.

The antisemitic trope of Jews as puppeteers, controlling the politicians of ostensibly much more powerful nations, should be familiar to the Guardian: Jonathan Freedland wrote about it in their pages in 2011, when he described it as “an image with long-established service in the cause of antisemitism“.

Also last year, Elliott warned against criticism of Israel that is wrapped “in antisemitic language or imagery“.

In 2009 a Guardian editorial argued:

The left fought a long and honourable battle for racial equality, but some within its ranks now risk sloppily allowing their horror of Israeli actions to blind them to antisemitism. There is an ill-considered tendency to reach for the language of Nazism in order to excoriate Israel, regardless of its impact on the climate of tolerance.

And in 2003 another Guardian editorial described antisemitism as “Our dulled nerve” and asked: “Could not the liberal left, which in an earlier era vigilantly sought to protect Jews from prejudice and bigotry, rediscover its old values?

So there is no lack of knowledge and understanding at the Guardian regarding the dangers of antisemitism, nor about the resonance of this particular antisemitic image; yet, as CST have documented in our Antisemitic Discourse Reports, antisemitic tropes keep appearing in their pages. And as Elliott pointed out, substituting ‘Zionist’ for ‘Jew’ does not remove the antisemitic message.

It is particularly important for commentators  to avoid the use of antisemitic language and imagery at times of heightened tension in Israel/Palestine. The impact that conflict in that region can have on the number of antisemitic hate crimes directed at Jews in the UK is well documented, and is something that responsible journalists and newspapers ought to consider.

For any avoidance of doubt, here are some cartoons that clearly show the antisemitic pedigree of the ‘puppeteer’ image. The first two are from the Nazi era; the last two are of more recent provenance.

Security Notice regarding current situation in Israel and Gaza

November 15th, 2012 by CST

The escalation of conflict between Israel and Hamas may lead to an increase in antisemitic incidents and threats against UK Jewish communities.

All communal buildings and events are requested to ensure that their security measures are fully implemented.

All visitors to communal buildings and events are requested to comply with security procedures.

Most importantly, CST urges the community to continue to lead its way of life to the full, to support communal security efforts and to report any suspicious activities to CST and the Police.

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

SECURITY REMINDERS

ACT NOW: DON’T IGNORE IT, REPORT IT TO POLICE AND CST IMMEDIATELY

  • Remember to keep all external doors secured even when the building is in use.
  • Where possible, external security patrols should be increased or implemented.
  • Be alert to suspicious people and activities around your building. This includes parked cars and unattended objects.
  • Challenge and question all strangers and visitors to your building even if they are accompanied by someone you know.
  • Try to prevent staff and visitors from congregating outside your building. Encourage people to disperse as quickly as possible, e.g. after services, at the end of the school day, at the end of an event.
  • Do not accept unexpected post or deliveries until someone has confirmed it was expected. If you are not sure, send it back with the courier.
  • Ensure all security equipment, alarms and CCTV systems are working correctly. Check that lenses are cleaned and video equipment is recording.

Should you require advice or training on any matters relating to security please contact CST.

London & Southern Regions  -  020 8457 9999

Emergency 24hr Pager  -  07659 101 668

Manchester & Northern Regions  -  0161 792 6666

Emergency 24hr number  -  0800 980 0668

IN AN EMERGENCY ALWAYS CALL THE POLICE ON 999, THEN CALL CST