Protesting Palestine, targeting Jews

July 21st, 2014 by CST

CST wrote last week about the danger of anti-Israel protests in the UK involving or encouraging antisemitism, either by targeting British Jews or by featuring antisemitic language and imagery.

Since then, several more examples of antisemitic incidents and other activity in relation to anti-Israel protests have been reported to CST:

  • Demonstrators on a march through central London assaulted and verbally abused a Jewish woman who expressed her support for Israel as they walked past. Marchers surrounded her, called her a “Jew Zionist” and stole her phone. Later the same afternoon, demonstrators from the same march verbally abused another Jewish woman who was with her two young children, telling them to “Burn in hell.”
  • A pro-Israel demonstrator at a rally in central London was knocked unconscious by a group of assailants who were part of a counter-protest. While it is not believed that anything antisemitic was said, this level of violence from pro-Palestinian protestors is a worrying development.
  • A Rabbi walking in north London was verbally abused by a group of youths who shouted “Free Palestine”, “F*** the Zionists”, “F*** the Jews” and “Allah Akhbar.”
  • A brick was thrown at the window of a synagogue in Belfast.
  • “Baby murderers” was shouted at a synagogue in Liverpool.
  • A pro-Israel organisation in London received a telephoned bomb threat.
  • A visibly Jewish boy was cycling in north London when a woman wearing a black niqab threw a stone at him, hitting him on the head.

These are just a handful of over 70 antisemitic incidents reported to CST since the beginning of July. This is roughly double the number we would expect to be reported during this period under ‘normal’ circumstances. Approximately ten of these incidents have involved violence. Approximately 14 have involved the use of social media.

Roughly two-thirds of the incidents reported since 1 July have been related to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, and the number of incidents reported to CST has escalated since the beginning of Israel’s operation in Gaza on 8 July.

Another disturbing factor is that the proportion of antisemitic incident perpetrators described to CST as being of south Asian appearance has been much higher during this period than is normally the case. Antisemitism in Muslim communities is something that others have written about before; the incidents reported to CST suggest that it is playing a significant role in the high level of antisemitic incidents currently being reported. In these circumstances, last week’s statement from the Muslim Council of Britain warning against such behaviour was most welcome.

There have also been several examples of antisemitic incitement on anti-Israel demonstrations and on social media since the conflict between Israel and Gaza began. Last week the hashtag #HitlerWasRight trended on Twitter worldwide. One protestor took this theme onto an anti-Israel demonstration in London:

hitler right2

It should be noted that the antisemitic incidents recorded by CST since 1 July do not include antisemitic placards or chants on demonstrations.

Other protestors have used Nazi imagery to abuse Israel:

Hitler Bibi2

Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is antisemitic. It abuses the memory of Holocaust victims and offends contemporary Jews. It attacks Israel on the basis of its Jewishness. It should have no part in pro-Palestinian campaigning.

This flag commits the same offence, and compounds it by using a Star of David next to the phrase “Baby Killers”. The Star of David is a Jewish symbol. It is found on the Israeli flag, but it is also found on synagogues all over the UK. To use it in the manner it is displayed on this flag risks inciting hatred against British Jews.

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This incitement has also been seen on social media. This cartoon is from the Facebook page of UK Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Taji Mustafa. it evokes the antisemitic blood libel, in which Jews are accused of murdering non-Jewish children and consuming their blood in religious rituals. The Arabic on the knife reads “Arab silence”, but the person holding the knife bears a Star of David. The Stars and Stripes on the fork also suggests an antisemitic conspiracy theory regarding alleged Jewish control of America.

Taji Mustafa cartoon2

CST has also received several reports of antisemitism on Twitter. These two tweets are clear examples of incitement against Jews in the Stamford Hill area of north London:

Stamford Hill tweet3

j4fly tweet3

It has been suggested by some people that hate and abuse on social media is not as serious as other forms of hate crime and should not be included in hate crime statistics. We do not agree. Firstly, if a victim considers a tweet to be offensive or threatening enough to report it to CST, we will respect their feelings and their reaction to what they have seen. Secondly, if somebody shouts an antisemitic comment at a Jewish person in the street, it may only be heard by one person; if that same comment is put on Twitter, it can be seen by an unlimited number of people and it has a permanent record.

This pattern of antisemitic incidents in relation to the current conflict in Israel and Gaza is replicated in several countries around the world, most notably in France where Jewish shops and synagogues in Sarcelles were attacked last night. The antisemitic incidents and incitement seen in Britain over the past two weeks suggest that this danger is getting more, not less, acute. There should be zero tolerance within pro-Palestinian groups, and wider society, for anybody who targets Jews in word or deed.

UK antisemitism: current situation

July 14th, 2014 by CST

The correlation between Middle East conflict and antisemitism against Jewish Diaspora communities is well known. It is one of the primary reasons for the work of CST, and the partnerships that we have (out of necessity) with Jewish communities, Police, Government, politicians and good people of all faiths and none.

As of noon today, approximately 47 antisemitic incidents have been reported to CST in the two weeks since 1st July. This compares with 58 incidents for all of July 2013, which was the second worst month for incidents in all of last year. In very basic terms, this month’s antisemitic incident levels are almost double what would have been expected.

Some of the 47 incidents are yet to be fully analysed and the figures may yet show slight change, but around 30 of them appear to be directly attributable to the current conflict: because of the verbal or written component, or other indicators. Only three of the 47 incidents include actual violent assault. (Two of these are the can and egg throwing incidents shown below. The other may or may not be overseas-linked and is not currently in the 30 total.)

Of the 30 incidents apparently related to the conflict, the overwhelming majority involve verbal or written abuse and threats, either face to face, or in phone calls, graffiti, emails and online (usually via social media). The incidents have occurred throughout the country.

CST is especially concerned by incidents in which people attending pro-Palestinian demonstrations have turned antisemitic.

In Manchester on 12 July, after a pro-Palestinian rally that included a “Drive for Justice” to the BBC, a group of four of five cars with occupants of south Asian ethnic appearance passed through the Jewish neighbourhood of Broughton Park. Some of the cars flew Palestinian flags, and occupants shouted and swore at Jewish pedestrians (including “Heil Hitler”). Cans and eggs were thrown at Jewish pedestrians from at least two of the cars. Similarly, that same day in Glasgow on the fringes of a demonstration, a man of south Asian appearance was heard shouting “f**king kill the Jews”. CST has made police aware of all these incidents.

London witnessed the largest pro-Palestinian rally, on 11 July. Demonstrators included veteran far right activist James Thring, photographed below, determinedly making the Israel-Holocaust link.

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The Holocaust theme continued on Twitter, where the hash tag “#Hitlerwasright” was trending, perhaps partly due to people objecting to its use. CST has been informed by members of the public that the Hitler theme and imagery can also be currently seen in Facebook comment chains for forthcoming pro-Palestinian demonstrations, organised by groups such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The above pales in comparison with the situation in France, where on Sunday 13 July over 100 Jews needed rescuing from inside a synagogue that was besieged by a violent pro-Palestinian mob. Also that day in Paris, a Jewish owned shop was reportedly ransacked by a 50 strong mob armed with iron bars; and a synagogue was fire bombed. On 8 July, a 17 year old Jewish girl was attacked with pepper spray in her face, whilst her assailant (an adult male of North African ethnic appearance) yelled antisemitic abuse at her.

These antisemitic impacts, very largely involving Muslim perpetrators, are why so many thousands of Jews have left France in recent years. The kidnap, torture and ultimately murder (by burning) of Ilan Halimi in Paris in 2006 was one particularly horrific act. In 2012, there was the appalling terrorist attack on the Jewish primary school in Toulouse. Two months ago, a French Jihadi killed people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels. None of this has satiated the antisemites in France: they want more.

Here in Britain, the situation is less severe, but remains highly volatile. It is understandable that Jews, Muslims and others have strong opinions about the conflict. Nevertheless, it is neither inevitable nor excusable for people to express their strong feelings by attacking Jews or by using antisemitic language. We call on all people, from all communities and authorities, to use their influence to put a stop to this growing escalation before it becomes even more threatening.

A truth for a truth

July 10th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

The current violence between Israel and Gaza has prompted two very different anti-Israel voices to utilise Judaism in their propagandist attacks upon the Jewish state.

The Independent cartoonist Dave Brown has twisted the wording and meaning of the biblical “eye for an eye” quotation in a cartoon of Israeli jets attacking Gaza (see here). It reads:

An eye for a tooth…a hand for an eye…a life for a hand …a people for a life…

Meanwhile, on his own blog (see here), Muslim community activist Inayat Bunglawala rhetorically asks:

Is Judaism the most racist of the world’s great monotheistic religions?

Bunglawala is a former spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, so what he says matters. (Not as much as it used to, but he is no antisemitic twitter loon – of whom there have of course been plenty in recent days.)

Bunglawala’s piece is a statement not an article. It mainly features his quoting an infamous vitriolic diatribe by Richard Dawkins against “The G-d of the Old Testament”: before and after which Bunglawala asks his question about Judaism being the most racist religion. (Chief Rabbi Sacks told Dawkins he was antisemitic for his diatribe. Dawkins denied it.)

In fact, Bunglawala makes no mention of Israel, none whatsoever. It may simply be an attack on Judaism. Nevertheless, let us be charitable and say that the timing suggests it is aimed at Israel, rather than at British Jews, or at all Jews.

Returning to Dave Brown, this is not the first time he has quoted the Bible. For example, in 2002, another of his anti-Israel cartoons (see here) depicted Ariel Sharon in biblical garb, beating Yasser Arafat over the head, literally using George Bush as a bludgeon. Sharon was saying:

Its our traditional weapon…the jaw of an ass.

However witty its attack upon George Bush as “an ass”, the cartoon’s wording (“our traditional weapon”) also emphasised Sharon’s Jewishness. It strongly echoed the antisemitic charge about Jews controlling politicians.

Many people regarded Brown’s “After Goya” cartoon from 2003 (see here) as far worse. It adapted the Goya painting Saturn Devouring his Children (see here), with Saturn replaced by Sharon, literally devouring a child, whilst saying “what’s wrong…you never seen a politician kissing babies before”. Brown was widely accused of having aped the antisemitic blood libel, but firmly denied this and won a Press Complaints Commission case.

In Brown’s latest offensive cartoon (and also in his Sharon/Saturn one), the Israeli jets do not bear Star of David markings. If they did, it may have caused more offence. The jets have no markings, so nothing in this latest picture explicitly tells you that it is about Israel. Instead, you infer it from the cartoon’s timing and from its Jewish biblical quotation. Consequently, whatever anti-Jewish aspect was conspicuously avoided by the Star of David omission is subliminally delivered by the salience of the Jewish paraphrasing.

Should the current conflict further deteriorate, we can expect to see much more of the above. As a rule of thumb, anti-racists could usefully ask themselves how they usually react when Islam is depicted like this.

Specifically, Dave Brown should note that “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot” refers to monetary compensation for an injury, or missing limb, and specifically not the amputation of the limb as a punishment. Dull as it may sound, the Jewish tradition is one of non-literal Biblical interpretation, with the Torah or Tanach (the Written Law) contemplated alongside the Oral Law as per the Mishna, Talmud and rabbinic teachings.

Nevertheless,  there are far worse cases of its perversion than this. For example, that of Michael Adebalajo. Raised as a Christian, this Jihadist declared “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” after butchering Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of London.

No branch of Judaism advocates – far less perpetrates – chopping off body parts, be that hands, feet, heads or whatever. Just as Christians long abused the phrase “Chosen People” to wrongly allege that Jews regard themselves as superior beings, so has “eye for an eye” long been a similar calumny.

 

 

Current situation: security note

July 2nd, 2014 by CST

Due to current tensions in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, CST has issued an advisory notice to all UK Jewish communal venues, stating that security procedures should be rigorously followed.

CST is in close contact with Police and Government. They are aware of our concerns that an escalation in the current overseas situation may heighten the risk of antisemitic incidents occurring here in the UK.

CST requests that all visitors to Jewish communal venues and events comply with security procedures and personnel. We will continue to closely monitor the situation, and ask that any instances of antisemitism or suspicious behaviour are reported to CST and Police. In case of emergency, call 999.

We thank you for your cooperation at this time.

 

Blackley Cemetery update: Greater Manchester Says No to Hate

June 30th, 2014 by CST

This weekend saw positive developments following last week’s shocking desecration of Blackley Jewish Cemetery in Manchester.

Around 45 gravestones had been pushed over or damaged during the desecration, which took place on the weekend of 22/23 June.

Greater Manchester Police have arrested two boys, both aged 13, on suspicion of committing a racially-aggravated public order offence in connection with the damage at the cemetery. We would like to thank the Police for the effort and resources they have committed to investigating the desecration. We are also grateful to those witnesses who have already come forward and we encourage anybody else who may have information relating to the damage at the cemetery to contact the Police on 101 or to call CST on 0161 792 6666.

The second piece of uplifting news was the response to a call for a ‘Community Clean-up’ at the cemetery on Sunday. Over 100 people from different backgrounds and walks of life turned up at Blackley Cemetery to help begin the work of repairing the damage and to show moral support to the local Jewish community. This was far in excess of the number expected by the organisers, the Manchester Jewish Cemetery Trust. Faith leaders in Manchester also issued a statement condemning the desecration.

Hate crimes do not only affect the people directly targeted; they can spread fear and anxiety throughout entire communities. For this reason, the support shown to the Manchester Jewish community by Police, politicians, faith leaders and ordinary people is welcome and appreciated.

Greater Manchester Says No to Hate is a new campaign from Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, GMP Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA). You can sign up to the campaign’s statement here and support it on Twitter with the hashtag #GMSaysNoToHate.

GM no to hate statement

 

Jihadist Recruitment Videos Raise Important Questions About Counter-Extremist Policy

June 25th, 2014 by Dave Rich

This is cross-posted from the Huffington Post UK.

The appearance of three British Muslims in the latest recruitment video for Syrian jihadists raises important questions about counter-extremist policy and the Prevent strategy.

Nasser Muthana and Reyaad Khan from Cardiff, and Abdul Rakib Amin from Aberdeen, are just another example of British Muslims who have left behind their conventional British lives to seek martyrdom and jihad in a foreign land.

The government estimates that up to 500 British Muslims have followed this particular journey to Syria. Most of them have joined ISIS, the putative Caliphate that nominally controls more Middle Eastern territory than the governments of Israel or Lebanon and, not satisfied with literally crucifying Syrians, is now marauding its way through Iraq on a campaign of medieval barbarism.

These British foreign fighters in Syria are not Syrian exiles fighting for the future of their country, as was largely the case with those who travelled from Britain to Libya during the 2011 uprising there.

Nor are they disadvantaged youngsters lacking a toehold in British society. Muthana was heading for medical school before he went to Syria. Khan is the holder of 12 GCSEs including two A* and six A grades.

These are British-born believers in global jihad, living the dream of every al-Muhajiroun and Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet, apparently not bothered that most of their victims are fellow Muslims.

It has been said, rightly, that many, perhaps most, will return home – if they survive – and pose no threat to anybody in this country. But it is also inevitable that some of them will come back to Britain and try to kill their fellow citizens. Last month Mehdi Nemmouche, a French ISIS veteran, was arrested for the murder of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. This is more likely to be a precedent than an aberration.

The large number of counter-terrorist arrests, charges and convictions since 9/11 are testament to the success of the Police and the Security Services in disrupting terrorist activity and preventing attacks. The ‘Pursue’ strand of counter-terrorism is generally working well, despite the failure to prevent the murders of Mohammed Saleem and Lee Rigby last year.

Less clear is the effectiveness of Prevent: that part of the government’s counter-terrorist strategy that is supposed to dissuade young Muslims from falling for the seductive simplicities of jihadist propaganda. In recent years this has widened to include tackling extreme right ideologies, but radical Islamism remains its overwhelming priority.

Prevent has had some measurable successes, as would be hoped with upwards of £200million spent over six years. The Channel project, which intervenes with young people who have shown signs of supporting terrorism (and does so without criminalising them), has a good record. Lots of other projects have been successfully delivered to lots of appreciative audiences all over the country.

But the Syrian jihad is the first major crisis of radicalisation since the Prevent strategy was introduced in 2008, and it is difficult to look at the British contribution to this particularly brutal conflict without some uncomfortable questions coming to mind.

According to most estimates, Britain provides more foreign fighters in Syria than any Western country other than France. For sure, 500 people are a tiny fraction of the three million or so Muslims in Britain. But then so are the approximately 650 Muslims serving in the British army.

It seems that the moderating messages of Prevent struggle to match the savvy social media output of British jihadis in Syria, conversing directly on Twitter with would-be recruits across the UK or posting their latest YouTube videos.

Thousands of items of extremist content are removed from the internet every month at the request of the British government, but on its own this approach will not solve the problem. It is more important to compete directly with those who use the internet to spread extremist ideas, in the same internet spaces used by jihadist propagandists and recruiters.

This challenge is all the more difficult because some basic ideas in the jihadist narrative enjoy reinforcement from much wider public discourse. The notion that Islam is under attack, from Westerners, Jews, secular Muslims, apostates and others – and that in the right circumstances, violence is the appropriate response – is not restricted to ISIS YouTube videos or al-Muhajiroun leaflets.

For example, there is speculation about the role of Mohammed al-Arifi, a Saudi cleric who spoke in 2012 at the al-Manar Mosque in Cardiff that Muthana and Khan attended. Al-Arifi has called for jihad in Syria and described Shia Muslims as evil. He has claimed that Jews hide from Muslims to avoid being killed. He was banned from entering the UK earlier this year; but he had previously been invited to speak to UK audiences by (amongst others) the Federation Of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), Cageprisoners, iERA and al-Muntada al-Islami. And al-Arifi is hardly the only example of a preacher with vile views being given such mainstream platforms in this country.

The point is not whether Muthana and Khan were convinced to go to Syria by the specific sermons and speeches that al-Arifi delivered in Cardiff or elsewhere. It is that as long as mainstream organisations and institutions consider a man like al-Arifi to be an acceptable speaker to put in front of their audiences, no amount of Prevent spending or government messaging will cut off the supply of impressionable young British Muslims willing to kill and die for their jihadist fantasy.

Desecration at Jewish cemetery in Manchester

June 24th, 2014 by CST

CST has received reports of the desecration of a large number of gravestones at Blackley Jewish Cemetery on Rochdale Road, Greater Manchester. Approximately 40 gravestones were pushed over or smashed at some time between 4pm on Sunday 22nd June and 3.30pm on Monday afternoon.

This follows the discovery last week of antisemitic graffiti and swastikas on gravestones at the same cemetery.

Greater Manchester Police have recorded this desecration as a hate crime and will provide extra patrols in the area, to reassure the local community and act as a visible deterrent against any further incidents.

This sickening desecration will cause deep distress to the families whose loved ones are buried at Blackley Cemetery. We will work with the Police to support the local community and we call on anybody with information about this desecration to call police on 101 or to contact CST on 0161 792 6666.

All photographs © Community Security Trust

Blackley Cemetery Desecration3

Blackley Cemetery Desecration 4

Blackley Cemetery Desecration 5

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