Now and then. HMD reflections.

January 27th, 2015 by CST

Holocaust Memorial Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, is our annual reminder of what antisemitism, racism and totalitarian extremism can lead to. CST’s work is driven by such lessons. We combat antisemitism. We help others combat varying types of bigotry and discrimination. We believe in helping to build a diverse yet cohesive society and in strengthening democratic values against extremism.

We commemorate the Holocaust because morality demands it of us. We oppose today’s antisemitism because it must be opposed, not because we believe that another European Holocaust is likely.

The recent terrorist attack on a kosher store in Paris focussed political and media attention upon today’s antisemitism. The question of Jewish feelings of safety, security, belonging and future, was understandably at the fore of such conversations. CST had insisted that “have you considered emigrating…due to not feeling safe as a Jew” be one of the key questions in the European Union survey of Jewish communities, conducted by the Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013. We have long stated that this question is fundamental to understanding how antisemitism and related phenomena are actually impacting against Jewish communal life. “Never Again” becomes less relevant if British and European Jews feel the need to emigrate in order to lead a “normative” life of their own choice.

For all the fine and sincere words about “Never Again”, a crime on the scale of the Holocaust does not come out of nowhere; and Jewish history is sadly littered with recurring rhetorical motifs, and resultant oppression and massacre. As ever, there are old Jewish jokes to wryly paint the picture. One is about the telegram that reads “start worrying, details to follow”; another tells how Jews will be blamed for the Titanic disaster, “iceberg, Golberg, what’s the difference?”.

Contemporary antisemitism may be modern in its motivation, perpetrators and method, but there is nothing new in any of that: nor in the fears it prompts. It is, nevertheless, inevitable that the Holocaust has become the prism through which contemporary antisemitism is ultimately perceived, discussed and referenced.

Rising levels of antisemitism give early warning of fracturing society, so in one sense post 2000 antisemitism echoes post 1930 antisemitism: but any comparison between now and then is not a philosophical exercise in political theory. Rather, comparisons between now and then evokes gut emotions and headlines of another Holocaust lurking in wait.

There is no doubt that British Jews are unusually worried at this time, but breaking down the reasons for this shows it to be a combination of many things. In briefest summary, it is the accumulative impact of antisemitism, anti-Jewish terrorism and anti-Israel rhetoric and action from 2000 to the present day. Each surge (eg 2014, 2009, 2006) brings fears that build upon pre-existing pressures, which cannot properly subside due to the short time spans between each outburst. The post 2000 trajectory is very clear and for many Jews it is deeply disturbing, with no obvious reasons why the direction should reverse any time soon. That this should occur during (in Britain at least) a period of serious Jewish communal regeneration and public confidence merely adds to the complexity of things. It also makes CST even more determined in its work.

If there is a comparison with the 1930s, it perhaps lies in the failure of democratic elites to seriously contemplate the murderous rhetoric and actions of openly antisemitic totalitarians. It is hard to shake the sense that this is at least partly due to European post-Holocaust values of anti-racism and what is often sneeringly summarised as ‘political correctness’. For Jews, the consequence of such inaction goes well beyond noting the irony of the situation. When French Jews are shot in a kosher store merely for being Jewish, there is an inescapable historical echo.

Nevertheless, the existence of Israel, political consciousness against antisemitism, strong support from Government and Opposition, and the sheer solidity of the UK state, all render comparisons between Britain (and France) today and Europe in the 1930s and 1940s as deeply flawed. This, before we compare the socio-political position of British Jews to the marginalised position of those Central and East European Jews who actually comprised most of the victims of the Holocaust: and to say so does not concede one inch in the struggle against modern antisemitism, nor the importance of France within that fight.

Police announce new risk assessment for Jewish community

January 16th, 2015 by CST

National Policing Lead for Counter Terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, has announced that the terrorist threat assessment relating to the UK Jewish community has been increased in the light of recent events in Paris, Belgium and elsewhere.

Assistant Commissioner Rowley said:

The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the UK. We are seeing continuing antisemitic rhetoric from extremists and attacks on this community in France and elsewhere. In addition to our existing security measures, we are in dialogue with Jewish Community leaders about further actions that we will be taking, including more patrols in key areas.

Police contacted CST immediately prior to this announcement and have stressed that there is no specific intelligence suggesting an imminent attack against the Jewish community.

We believe that today’s announcement will help to deliver the level of policing that we feel is required for our community, given the national threat level and the events that we see in Britain and Europe. As CST is currently on our second-highest threat level, we are not raising our own threat level further. (To do so would take us to the highest level: meaning an attack was known to be imminent.)

In practical terms, this means that increased levels of policing should be obvious in Jewish neighbourhoods throughout the UK and extra policing will be in place for other operations relating to the protection of the Jewish community.

CST believes that the increase in the risk assessment for the Jewish community is an appropriate and necessary response after last week’s attacks in Paris and recent anti-terror operations in Belgium and elsewhere. Extra policing for the Jewish community was requested by CST at separate meetings on Tuesday 13 January: the pre-planned annual meeting of Jewish community leaders with Prime Minister David Cameron; and a specific planning meeting between CST and Security Minister James Brokenshire following the attacks in Paris. We appreciate their swift response to our requests.

We hope that the increased police presence, alongside CST patrols, will help to reassure the Jewish community as they go about their lives during this difficult time.

CST has already received an unprecedented number of calls from across the community during this week. We are doing our utmost to deliver appropriate security, as are the Police, and we hope that in time this will help to reassure our community.

Please follow CST Blog or social media on Twitter (@CST_UK) and Facebook (Community Security Trust) for further updates.

For security advice or assistance please call your local CST office:

  • London & southern regions: 0208 457 9999
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0161 792 6666

    CST 24/7 emergency numbers:

  • London & southern regions: 0800 032 3263
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0800 980 0668

We must ensure that antisemitism gets no foothold in Britain

January 14th, 2015 by Dave Rich

This article is cross-posted from Left Foot Forward

Polling shows that British Jews are better integrated than their European counterparts; we must not let extremists change this

Last week’s horrific jihadist attacks in Paris, and in particular the murder of shoppers at a kosher supermarket, have added to already-existing anxiety amongst British Jews about antisemitism.

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo, and the police officers protecting them, were murdered in the line of duty. Those murdered at the Hyper Cacher shop were killed simply for being Jewish.

Many Jews have also noticed that the only woman killed at the Charlie Hebdo office, Elsa Cayat, was the only Jewish woman present.

“We don’t kill women”, Said Kouachi said to one terrified journalist during the attack. Unless they are Jewish, it seems.

This jihadist determination to slaughter Jews is not new. Its French iteration left its bloody mark in Brussels last year and in Toulouse in 2012.

Add in the anti-Jewish riots in Paris and Sarcelles last summer, the regular violent antisemitic assaults on French Jews that go mostly unreported in the media, and remember the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006: then you start to appreciate the pressure and fear felt by so many French Jews.

This is why the 7,000 French Jews who moved to Israel in 2014 was more than double the number who moved in 2013, itself a large increase on the 2012 figure of 1,923 emigrants. There is also an increasing French presence in the Jewish communities of London and New York.

Events in France do not only affect the confidence of French Jews. Here in Britain, Jewish people also feel increasingly anxious about their safety and about the future for their families.

Britain saw a large, if temporary, rise in antisemitic incidents during Israel’s war with Hamas last summer: over 300 incidents recorded in July 2014 and over 200 in August, an increase of over 400 per cent compared to the same period in 2013. In Britain, too, jihadists have tried, but so far thankfully failed, to kill Jews.

Yet the situation in Britain is not the same as in France. The antisemitic incidents recorded last summer, though large in number, were mostly not violent. Riot police were not needed to keep mobs from burning down synagogues in London, as they were in Sarcelles.

When the new grassroots group the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) took a non-Jewish journalist to spend an entire day last month walking the streets of London wearing a kippah (skullcap) and a hidden camera, hoping to expose the dark underbelly of British antisemitism, he failed to elicit a single hostile comment from passers-by.

Now CAA has released a YouGov poll about British attitudes towards Jews that essentially repeats the findings of last year’s ADL Global 100 Survey: a stubborn minority of British people – between 10 per cent and 20 per cent – clings onto stereotypical ways of thinking about Jews.

This does not necessarily translate into conscious or active dislike of Jews. The same ADL survey found that just five per cent of British people said they have an unfavourable attitude towards Jews (the same as towards Christians, and less than towards Muslims and Hindus).

So much for the numbers. Just as public fear of crime does not always correlate to actual crime trends or patterns, so individual attacks like those in Paris can have a profound impact on Jewish self-confidence and sense of belonging.

When the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) conducted extensive polling of Jewish perceptions and experiences of antisemitism in 2013, they found that British Jews were, on the whole, better integrated, more confident and less fearful of antisemitism than their West European counterparts.

This led the respected London-based think tank, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, asked whether Britain was an ‘exceptional case‘ regarding European antisemitism.

In contrast, today the CAA has also released the results of an online survey that suggests British Jews feel significantly less secure now than they did in 2013.

That would not be a complete surprise given the wave of antisemitism last summer and the shootings in Paris, which took place during their survey period, although it is likely that differences in methodology explain some of the more glaring variations between the CAA and FRA results.

Meanwhile, British Jewry has just enjoyed yet another successful Limmud festival of learning, Jewish schools keep opening and London’s JW3 cultural centre has transformed Jewish cultural life in the capital.

Government ministers and police forces are queuing up to offer their support to Jewish communities in the wake of the Paris attacks. This alone makes comparisons to the 1930s inaccurate and unhelpful.

This contrast sums up the situation for British Jews and antisemitism. The dangers are real enough. Jihadis want to kill us; antisemites shout or tweet their abuse; when Israel fights one of its periodic conflicts against Hamas or Hizbollah, latent anti-Jewish attitudes in some sections of British society cause eruptions of antisemitic hate crime.

Yet most of the time, most British Jews do not encounter antisemitism and are able to live whatever Jewish lives they choose.

As French Jews have found, if terrorists are successful in murdering Jews then this delicate balance can be altered irrevocably. The challenge in Britain is to ensure that they do not get that chance.

CST Security Response to Paris Murders

January 11th, 2015 by CST

CST, working with Police and Government, has increased its security cover at Jewish locations throughout the country. This is in response to the terrorist attack on Friday 9th January in Paris upon the Hyper Cacher Jewish store, in which four hostages were killed by a Jihadi terrorist.

The previous day, the same terrorist had killed a French Police officer. There is an as yet unconfirmed suggestion in the media that the terrorist had been intending to attack a Jewish primary school when he shot and killed the officer.

These murders were closely linked to the attack in Paris on Wednesday 7th January by two other Jihadi terrorists on the offices of a French satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people were murdered.

CST is acutely aware of the importance of Jew-hatred in Jihadist ideology. The Charlie Hebdo publication was specifically targeted because of its ridiculing of Islam and Muhammad. The Hyper Cacher store was attacked simply because it was a Jewish location.

CST was in contact with Police as the hostage taking at the Jewish store was ongoing. This intensified as the tragic outcome became known and CST was quickly contacted by the Security Minister, James Brokenshire MP. CST and Police increased their operations at Jewish locations and neighbourhoods across Britain, and we will continue working in the closest partnership with Police and Government in the coming days and weeks. Similarly, synagogues and other Jewish locations and organisations were in close contact with CST as Friday’s tragedy unfolded.

Our working partnerships across the Jewish community are vital to us at all times, but especially so in such moments. We will continue communicating and working with all of our community to provide security and reassurance.

None of these responses would be possible were it not for the extensive partnerships and investments that have already been made in communal security by CST, our Jewish community, Police and Government. This includes CST spending over £5 million on security infrastructure at hundreds of communal buildings, and the thousands of dedicated volunteers whom CST has trained in recent years. The Police have been extremely supportive of these efforts, as have Government, in particular through the funding of security guards at Jewish schools (begun under Labour and seamlessly continued by the Coalition).

It is clear that the threat of Jihadi terrorism will not diminish anytime soon and we must all continue doing our utmost to unite and stand against it.

Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family, friends and colleagues of all those affected by these tragic events. We mourn for those who were murdered simply for being Jewish, for the Police officers who were murdered for defending our liberty, and for the magazine staff and contributors who were murdered for expressing their freedom of speech.

CST encourages British Jews to report any suspicious activity and antisemitic incidents as soon as possible to CST and Police. In an emergency, Police should be contacted immediately on 999.

Please follow CST Blog or social media on Twitter (@CST_UK) and Facebook (Community Security Trust) for further updates. For security advice or assistance, or to support our work as either a security volunteer or financial donor, please call your local CST office:

  • London & southern regions: 0208 457 9999
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0161 792 6666

CST 24/7 emergency numbers:

  • London & southern regions: 0800 032 3263
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0800 980 0668

 

Paris Kosher grocery terror attack – latest CST statement

January 9th, 2015 by CST

Media reports indicate that hostages have been taken at a kosher grocery store in Paris, and that there may well be casualties in the incident. This follows the murder of a Police officer in Paris yesterday and the deadly terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office on Wednesday.

There is currently no known link to the UK, but CST is in continuing contact with Police and Government, and there will be increased policing in Jewish neighbourhoods for this weekend’s Sabbath. CST will also increase its own security at synagogues, and has issued advisory notices to all Jewish community venues and their security officers.

CST extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected by this week’s tragic events in France.

These attacks are a dreadful reminder of the deadly threat that terrorism poses today. Jews are repeatedly included amongst the targets of Jihadist terrorism and this is why CST has been on its second highest level of alert for a number of years now, with the highest level being reserved for when an actual attack against British Jews has occurred, or is known to imminent.

The level of threat and our alert status is why CST’s staff and volunteers do their work. It is why we have partnered with hundreds of UK Jewish community organisations in recent years to install over £5 million worth of security measures wherever possible. It is blatantly obvious that these threats will not diminish anytime soon and all decent people must work together in confronting the harsh reality of Jihadist terror.

CST encourages British Jews to report any suspicious activity and antisemitic incidents as soon as possible to CST and Police. In an emergency, Police should be contacted immediately on 999.

Please follow CST Blog or social media on Twitter (@CST_UK) and Facebook (Community Security Trust) for further updates.

For security advice or assistance please call your local CST office:

  • London & southern regions: 0208 457 9999
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0161 792 6666

CST 24/7 emergency numbers:

  • London & southern regions: 0800 032 3263
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0800 980 0668

Security notice regarding terrorist incident in Paris

January 9th, 2015 by CST

Media reports indicate that hostages have been taken at a kosher grocery store in Paris, and that there may be casualties in the incident. This is believed to be linked to the murder of a Police officer in Paris yesterday and the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office on Wednesday.

Although there is currently no known link to the UK we believe it is important for us to ensure that security across the Jewish community is at an appropriate level this Shabbat.

We are in contact with Police forces across the country to ask for increased patrols in Jewish areas over Shabbat. This has already been agreed with the Metropolitan Police Service in London and Greater Manchester Police and we are grateful for their support.

We are also asking all Security Officers at Jewish locations to ensure there is sufficient security at their buildings during Shabbat as a visible reassurance to the community. This follows advice we issued to Security Officers and Jewish locations yesterday as part of our ongoing security work in the light of events in Paris.

We ask everybody to ensure that all security procedures are fully implemented and ask the community to follow the advice of Security Officers at your locations.

Please report any suspicious activity and antisemitic incidents as soon as possible to CST and Police. In an emergency, always call 999 first.

Please follow CST social media on Twitter (@CST_UK) and Facebook (Community Security Trust) for further updates.

For security advice or assistance please call your local CST office:

  • London & southern regions: 0208 457 9999
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0161 792 6666

CST 24/7 emergency numbers:

  • London & southern regions: 0800 032 3263
  • Manchester & northern regions: 0800 980 0668

Charlie Hebdo: Security, Liberty, Democracy

January 8th, 2015 by Dave Rich

CST utterly condemns yesterday’s terrorist murder of 12 people at the office of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and our thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured. We wish every success for the French authorities’ efforts to locate and arrest those responsible.

Jihadist terrorism in Europe is not new, but yesterday’s attack feels different because it was so targeted, and its primary target was not an arm of the state or the military but the simple, taken-for-granted practice of free expression. There are many reasons why people join jihadist groups and various reasons are given by them and others to explain their actions. At root, though, the clash between jihadists and democracies is one of values.

The fact that those murdered in yesterday’s attack were journalists and Police officers emphasises this point. Freedom of speech and the rule of law are two fundamental core values of democracy, and no democracy can function without either profession. Nothing more clearly illustrates the relationship between liberty and security: without security, there is no liberty.

The violence of ISIS and al-Qaeda (and their European followers) is not simply a reaction to grievances, although they play their part: it expresses a positive, utopian worldview that justifies endless murder for the creation of a new, better world. It attracts young people seeking a cause and needs to be countered not only with hard power, but with an alternative cause: one that is proud of the achievements and advantages of secular democracy and champions the idea of diverse yet cohesive Western societies.

In fact, there is nothing new about jihadists using violence and murder to silence those who they feel have offended Islam or Muhammad. It is 26 years since Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the murder of British novelist Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. Rushdie survived in hiding, but others suffered: Hitoshi Igarashi, the novel’s Japanese translator, was stabbed to death; its Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, was shot and seriously injured; Ettore Capriolo, its Italian translator, was also nearly killed. Several bookstores in Britain and elsewhere were attacked. In Turkey, 37 people died when a hotel was set on fire by a mob seeking to kill the book’s Turkish translator, Aziz Nesin.

More recently, Theo van Gogh was murdered in Holland in 2004 and in 2009, two British Islamists were jailed for trying to burn down the publisher of the novel The Jewel of Medina. Jihadist terrorism will continue to target cartoonists, journalists, writers and publishers, because jihadists believe that they are fighting a war of values, even if some in the West do not.

Combined with the act of supposed vengeance on Charlie Hebdo is the deliberate intimidation of others. Journalists and editors around the world put themselves, their staff and their families at risk if they publish material that jihadist murderers deem to be offensive. They put their professional principles – their very purpose – at risk if they do not. It is an unenviable dilemma and publication requires real courage. Failure to publish, though, causes less tangible damage to all of our rights and freedoms. Self-censorship only encourages further intimidation.

Those (mercifully few) journalists who have argued that Charlie Hebdo provoked the jihadists by unnecessarily lampooning and insulting Islam and Muhammad, appear not to understand that yesterday’s mass murder was an attack on all journalists, including them, and on the very idea of journalism.

Implicit in a democracy  is the inevitability of causing offence. There is no right not to be offended, and there is a difference between material that causes offence and that which incites hatred or violence. The latter is illegal; the former may be hurtful, but it is not criminal. At the same time, I have the right to explain that something offends me, but that does not translate into a right to have it censored, nor should it be assumed that the feeling of offence automatically includes a desire to see the offending material banned. Thus, in the UK, Holocaust Denial is prosecuted where it can be shown to incite racial hatred of Jews, not because it causes offence to Jews.

In a way, Charlie Hebdo did ‘provoke’ the jihadists: it deployed the freedom of thought, mischievous humour and irreverent insults that are found in all satire. Such qualities are a provocation to anyone who demands passive obedience to authority and power. One such example is Anjem Choudhary, absurdly given column space in USA Today:

Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people’s desires.

Contrast this with Inayat Bunglawala, previously a supporter of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, writing on his blog today:

Everyone must have the right to satirise religions and religious figures – without exception. And that includes Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. The freedom that makes it a pre-requisite to be allowed to satirise others is the very same freedom that protects fearless scientific inquiry and progress. It is the very same freedom that acts as a painful thorn in the backside of dictators and autocrats and two-faced politicians everywhere.

Ultimately, freedom is very much in the interests of Islam and those Muslims who crave genuine progress.

I rarely agree with anything Bunglawala writes, but he understands that minorities in Western societies are obvious beneficiaries of the freedom to speak and act against suppressive power; and that secular liberal democracy is the greatest protector and guarantor of all religious freedoms.

This clash of values, then, is not a simplistic conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims, or between Islam and democracy.  It is a clash between those who embrace the advantages of democracy and pluralism  (which includes most Western Muslims) and those who would use violence and intimidation to suppress diverse forms of thought, action and worship. Those who prefer the former need to defend them. I can do no better than to quote Michael Walzer on this point:

The encounter with Islamic radicalism, and with other versions of politicized religion, should help us understand that high among our interests are our values: secular enlightenment, human rights, and democratic government.

Jihadist terrorism will endure, and it will continue to be fuelled by Western Muslim recruits. The crucible of Syria and Iraq ensures this is the case. As we have seen previously in France and elsewhere, the ideology and worldview that justifies killing cartoonists also justifies killing many other people, including Jews. It is the reason why CST does its work: why we have over a thousand volunteers protecting their synagogues, schools and communal events; and why CST has installed £5 million worth of security equipment at communal buildings around the UK. It is clear that this threat will not diminish anytime soon and we must all work together to stand against it.

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