Jewish Community Meeting With Home Secretary

November 5th, 2014 by CST

Jewish community leaders met with Home Secretary Theresa May MP to express communal concerns about antisemitism and extremism. The continuing spread of terrorist threats against the Jewish Community was also a matter of particular focus.

The group was led by Gerald Ronson CBE (Chairman of Community Security Trust) and included Mick Davis (Chairman of JLC), Vivian Wineman (President, Board of Deputies of British Jews), David Delew (Chief Executive of CST), Simon Johnson (Chief Executive of JLC), and Gillian Merron (Chief Executive of BoD).

The Home Secretary was told of the record number of antisemitic incidents that occurred during the summer (314 in July alone); and that the community had never before expressed such a widespread feeling of being under severe pressure, with attendant fears for the future wellbeing of the community.

These pressures and fears combined experiences and perceptions of open antisemitism, but also deep concerns about the worsening nature of anti-Israel rhetoric and protest, especially pro-boycott actions that have included violence, criminal damage and intimidation of members of the public and shop workers. Where possible, actions should be taken against those who break the law. Furthermore, intimidation or harassment by pro-boycott activists should be publicly condemned, and retailers ought to contact police when protests involve criminality.

The problems faced by British Jews contradict British values and should concern not only Jews, but society as a whole. It was noted that senior Government figures, including the Prime Minister David Cameron MP, Chief Whip Michael Gove MP, and the Home Secretary herself have publicly expressed a keen awareness of all the factors impacting upon the Jewish Community this summer. Their strong opposition, combined with that from other senior figures including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband MP, is extremely important to the Jewish Community.

One particular aim of the meeting was to reinforce the message that the community needs to be reassured that the law is properly enforced in regard to all of the issues that arose so forcefully this summer. This had also been one of the core messages in the previous day’s meeting of the Cross-Government Working Group on Antisemitism, which included Parliamentary Under-Secretary Stephen Williams MP and was addressed by CST, BoD, JLC, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. The Working Group is the core of the joint long-term efforts between Government and the Jewish Community to discuss and tackle antisemitism.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

I am absolutely clear that everyone in this country, including members of Britain’s Jewish community, should be able to live their lives free from racial and religious hatred and harassment. No one should live in fear because of their beliefs or who they are. Recent reports from the Community Security Trust, which have indicated a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United Kingdom, are deeply worrying.

Since we published our hate crime action plan in 2012, the government has made significant progress in preventing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving the operational response. We are committed to engaging closely with Jewish communal leaders on this issue.

Book review: ‘Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism’

November 4th, 2014 by CST

CST’s Dave Rich has  reviewed Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism, by Ben Cohen, for the journal Fathom. The book is a collection of essays and articles by Cohen, written between 2004 and 2013, on an array of subjects related to contemporary antisemitism and anti-Zionism. As Rich explains:

In truth, the range of subjects covered in this book is an accurate reflection of the confusing, and at times chaotic, debate that surrounds antisemitism. It is apt that the section of the book on ‘Antisemitism and Anti-Judaism’ begins with an article titled ‘What antisemitism is (and isn’t)’. The academic and political arguments over precisely this question have at times left damaging scars, such as during the misguided and largely unnecessary battles over the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) Working Definition of Antisemitism, or the short life and sudden demise of the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). The central article of this section and of the entire book (‘The Big Lie Returns’) contains Cohen’s original formulation of ‘bierkeller and bistro antisemitism.’ Bierkeller antisemitism, he explains, ‘employs such means as violence, verbal abuse, commercial harassment, and advocacy of anti-Jewish legal measures.’ Its name associates it with the antisemitic thuggery of 1920s and 1930s Nazism, and therefore with an ‘old’ antisemitism that, in theory at least, has been discredited by history. Bistro antisemitism, on the other hand, ‘sits in a higher and outwardly more civilised realm, providing what left-wing activists would call a “safe space” to critically assess the global impact of Jewish cabals from Washington D.C., to Jerusalem.’ The themes of this intellectual, left-wing antisemitism ‘include the depiction of Palestinians as the victims of a second Holocaust, the breaking of the silence supposedly imposed upon honest discussions of Jewish political and economic power, and the contention … that American Jewish government officials are more suspect than others because of a potential second loyalty to Israel.’

The difference between bierkeller and bistro antisemitism is illustrated by the striking juxtaposition, early in the book, of tributes to Vidal Sassoon and Ronnie Fraser (29-35). Sassoon, best known as a celebrity hairdresser, spent his youth fighting fascist gangs in the East End of London in the immediate post-war years. He and his friends in the 43 Group would set out ‘armed with knives, coshes and knuckledusters’, and often return home with bruises. This was antisemitism red in tooth and claw, and Jewish self-defence was both direct and brutal. Immediately following Cohen’s obituary for Sassoon are two articles about Ronnie Fraser, a Jewish further education lecturer who unsuccessfully sued the University and College Union (UCU) in 2012, on the grounds that UCU’s activities in support of the boycott of Israeli academics constituted discrimination against its Jewish members. The contrast between these two episodes is stark, and not only because the 43 Group achieved its goals while Fraser lost his case. Rather, it is the idea that both belong in a book about antisemitism, and that Sassoon and Fraser are both heroes in the defence of Jews against the prejudice they face, that draws attention.

Since Cohen’s ‘The Big Lie Returns’ was first published in Commentary magazine in January 2012, jihadists have murdered French Jews in Toulouse and Belgian Jews in Brussels; rioting mobs, made up primarily of French Muslims, have burned synagogues and Jewish shops in Paris and Sarcelles. Even in Britain, where the antisemitism is less violent than elsewhere, the summer of 2014 saw a record rise in antisemitic incidents fuelled largely by antisemitism from sections of British Muslim communities, while supermarkets were invaded by mobs determined to prevent them from selling Israeli-sourced goods. Meanwhile, Jewish religious rituals are under threat as much from human rights advocates of the left as they are from the xenophobic right. It is true that European fascism has made a recent return via Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, but insofar as Jews in Western Europe currently face ‘violence, verbal abuse, commercial harassment, and advocacy of anti-Jewish legal measures,’ these assaults on Jewish life do not come from the bierkeller. In these countries, Cohen’s dichotomy of bierkeller and bistro antisemitism requires a third category: banlieue antisemitism, perhaps, named after the deprived suburbs of French cities from which much Muslim and jihadist antisemitism now emanates.

You can read the rest of the review on the Fathom website here, and you can order the book here.

Ben cohen book

 

Alan Duncan MP opposes antisemitism and “a very powerful financial lobby”

October 14th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

In the space of under 24hrs, Alan Duncan MP (Conservative, Rutland & Melton) said that antisemitism “should be crushed in all its forms”: and that American politics is “dominated” by a “very powerful financial lobby”.

Duncan does not specify who is, or is not, actually in this lobby, but for many it will echo the hoary old Jewish conspiracy. The lobby remarks came in a BBC Radio Four ‘World at One’ interview (here, at 40min 12sec) on the subject of the previous day’s vote by backbench MPs to overwhelmingly recognise Palestinian statehood.

Duncan said the vote was needed in part because:

…we all know that the United States is in hock to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics…

This went unchallenged by the interviewer, Martha Kearney.

The night before (and following the backbench vote), Duncan had given a speech to the influential Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on Israeli settlements. His opposition to antisemitism was fiercely put:

I deplore anti-Semitism.  It should be crushed in all its forms and we should never seek to diminish its significance or downplay its impact on the Jewish community, particularly in the light of the worrying increase in anti-Semitism that we have seen recently across Europe.

…it is wrong to correlate Israel with all Jews: so is it also wrong to conflate all Jews with Israel. 263,000 Jews are British.  Jewish people don’t just play an important part in British life: they are crucial to it. All should value the UK’s Jewish community and its deep contribution to the fabric of Britain. As such they should, and do, play a full part in or politics.

Read the speech in full and you will see that Duncan went on to oppose “the Israeli lobby”, whilst trying to distinguish it from British Jews whose support for political parties (and Israel) he welcomed. In brief summary:

But our politics has rules…funding should not come from another country or from citizens of another country, or be unduly in hock to another country.  This rule seems to apply to every country except when it comes from Israel. Jewish voters in the UK should be welcomed as supporters of, and donors to, their favoured political party.

…the support of any British Jew for any political party can hinge on whatever they want

…We need British Jews for the Conservative, Labour, or other UK parties; not the Israeli lobby for any party. The time has come to make sure above any doubt that the funding of any party in the UK is clearly decoupled from the influence of the Israeli state.

This RUSI speech illuminates his comments the following day to the BBC, but they are objectionable in their own right. They resonate with the Jews / money / hidden power / alien purpose motifs of old antisemitic conspiracy theory: only now directed at Israel or pro-Israelis, rather than Jews.

For some, this shift in language from Jews to Israel is sufficient to cast off the antisemitic label, rendering everything kosher, modern and correct. Nevertheless, when Alan Duncan MP tells BBC Radio 4 that “we all know” about America being “very much in hock to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics” – and fails to specify what that lobby actually is – we are left wondering exactly what he is talking about.

Worse still, we are also left wondering what lobby his audience believes that he is talking about. Is it the antisemitic Jewish lobby: or the non-antisemitic pro-Israeli lobby that unfortunately bears such a striking resemblance to the pre 1945 version?

Finally, as evidence of confusion between Israeli lobbies and Jewish ones, what better than the unfortunate intervention of Alan Duncan’s colleague Andrew Bridgen MP (Conservative, NW Leics), who said in the backbenchers’ Palestine debate:

…given that the political system of the world’s superpower and our great ally the United States is very susceptible to well-funded powerful lobbying groups and the power of the Jewish lobby in America, it falls to this country and to this House to be the good but critical friend that Israel needs.

Rev. Stephen Sizer speaking at antisemitic conference in Iran

October 2nd, 2014 by Dave Rich

The Rev Stephen Sizer is a Church of England vicar with a long record of anti-Israel activity. In 2012 the Board of Deputies made a formal complaint to the Church of England about allegations that Sizer had used his website to link to antisemitic material from other websites. This complaint was resolved through mediation and a Conciliation Agreement was accepted by both parties, which included Sizer accepting that “on occasions his use of language has caused offence to some and agrees that he should have reflected on his choice of words more carefully.” Sizer also stated:

I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist within internationally agreed borders. I have always opposed racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial as well as Islamophobia and the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and will continue to do so.

Sizer’s presence at an antisemitic conference in Iran this week brings into question whether he is honouring the spirit of this Conciliation Agreement in good faith.

The conference is the Second New Horizon Conference in Tehran. According to Iranian state-run Press TV, the conference intended to “unveil the secrets behind the dominance of the Zionist lobby over US and EU politics.” Those attending include a host of Holocaust Deniers and conspiracy theorists.

For an example of why this is an antisemitic conference, one of the conference sessions is on “Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat”. This includes discussion of “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist “Public Myths””:

Tehran conference

Sizer was scheduled to speak at several points during the conference. One of these was a panel on “The Mechanisms of Action of the Israeli Lobby and their Effects in Western Capitals”, with Sizer speaking on “The Israeli Lobby in England”. One of the other speakers scheduled for this panel was Ahmed Rami, a Swedish Islamist with a history of support for Holocaust Deniers and Nazis.

Tehran conference 2

Rami has a conviction for antisemitism in Sweden and his Radio Islam website includes the full text of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, plus extensive Holocaust Denial material. It is impossible to miss the antisemitism on the Radio Islam website: the first four articles listed on the homepage are “The Jewish hand behind Internet”; “Judaism – Jewish “religion” and racism”; “The Jews behind Islamophobia”; and “Al Jazeera English – under Jewish infiltration.”

Another UK-based speaker at the Tehran conference was the former US marine Ken O’Keefe, who now inhabits the wilder fringes of pro-Palestinian activism.  In July, O’Keefe gave an interview to an online radio show hosted by American antisemite and former Klansman David Duke. In August he spoke at a London meeting of the far right Iona Forum. Typical of his speech on that occasion was this extract:

What we have right now is a world where, because we have a tiny tiny minority running the financial system, primarily Jew in the banking sector. But of course we’ve got Jews in the media, I mean come on, they own Hollywood, they own all the major cooperate media institutions, with rare exception, they’re have totally infiltrated the US government.

CST Blog has written several times before about the endemic antisemitism in the Iranian government, media and wider public debate. It is inevitable that an Iranian conference on “the Zionist lobby” would feature antisemites, Holocaust Deniers and conspiracy theorists. The fact that it also featured a Church of England vicar is utterly shameful.

#keepingitkosher – A Student’s Guide to Antisemitism

October 1st, 2014 by CST

Keeping it kosher cover2

As a new academic year begins, CST and the Union of Jewish Students have produced a new guide to help students identify and tackle antisemitism on campus.

#Keepingitkosher – A Student’s Guide to Antisemitism has been distributed by Jewish Societies at Freshers’ Fayres and can be downloaded from the CST website here.

The guide includes simple and clear advice about:

  •  Identifying antisemitism and anti-Zionism
  • How to use Students’ Union policies, codes of conduct and the law to tackle antisemitism
  • How to report an antisemitic incident
  • Where to get help, including from CST, UJS, the Police and from your university

The guide is the latest publication by CST containing straightforward advice for Jews and others to recognise and report antisemitism. It follows CST’s Guide to Combating Antisemitism on Social Media and Online, which was published in August.

A Rosh Hashanah message from Gerald Ronson CBE, Chairman of Trustees, CST

September 23rd, 2014 by CST

As Rosh Hashanah approaches I wanted to update you all on the Community Security Trust’s (CST) perspective on the current situation. As the Chairman of CST I also wanted to explain how I view the situation facing our Jewish community, and will tell you what CST is doing about it.

During this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, many British Jews of all ages and backgrounds stated that they had never felt under such pressures, nor been so concerned about antisemitism both here and in nearby Europe, France in particular. Our community rightly turned to CST for protection, reassurance and guidance.

With the immediate conflict having ended, the levels of antisemitism and anti-Israel intimidation are thankfully declining. We must however all remain vigilant.

In recent years, CST has invested millions of pounds in physical security enhancements at Jewish schools, synagogues and other venues. We have also recruited and trained over one thousand CST volunteers. These measures were fully tested this summer, with CST staff and volunteers working tirelessly to protect our community. Crucially, CST gives our community the confidence to continue its Jewish life, whether that be children returning to schools, or congregants attending synagogues over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

In July and August, CST was literally on the front-line, securing dozens of public communal protests and counter-demonstrations, especially at flashpoints of repeated confrontation, such as the Kedem Israeli products store in Manchester city centre.

Hundreds of antisemitic incidents and security alerts were reported to CST’s offices. July was the worst single month ever recorded by CST, with over 300 antisemitic incidents alone: the same number as reported from January to June 2014 inclusive. Every report and call needed a fully professional response, from speaking with distressed victims, to ensuring Police investigation, or delivering immediate security provision and advice.

CST worked with Police at local, regional and national level, explaining our communal concerns and conducting joint visits and patrols to Jewish shops and other venues. Security at communal locations and events was under constant review, with additional personnel being provided, whilst security upgrades were granted urgent funding.

Numerous meetings were held in which senior CST staff briefed members of our community, ranging from rabbis to youth workers. Government was also fully briefed throughout this time, especially via CST’s longstanding partners in the Home Office, and the Department of Communities and Local Government.

In a time of crisis, communications are vital. CST did its utmost to ensure that the situation was reported objectively and accurately, without panic or undue alarm. CST spokespeople, statistics and information were repeatedly utilised by local, national and international media; and also by senior Jewish communal figures, Government and Police.

Now, moving forward, you have my assurance that CST will continue to remain focussed upon its key security task. Only last month, the UK’s national threat level was raised to ‘severe’, mainly due to the number of British Jihadis now in Syria and Iraq. The threat is clear, as is the continuing need for a strong and visible security response delivered by CST, with crucial support from Police and Government.

Politically, it is also clear that British Jews must not be held perpetually hostage to overseas events. This is well understood by Government, and in recent weeks, Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May and Chief Whip Michael Gove have all strongly condemned antisemitism, and its implications for both Jews and Britain. They have stressed our community’s right to hold its opinions, without suffering racist bullying and intimidation. These are British values that we all stand for.

CST has been a charity since 1994. We have long understood the problems that came to such prominence this summer; and we have planned and acted accordingly. We will continue to do so. It is what our community expects, needs and deserves.

Finally, as you attend synagogue this Rosh Hashanah, you will see the security that is provided by CST, working in partnership with each of our local communities. It is truly a team effort, and I thank each and every member of our community for the part that they play in it.

I wish you, your family and friends a very happy and peaceful Rosh Hashanah and well over the fast.

Gerald M Ronson CBE, Chairman of Trustees, CST

shana tova

 

CST signs information sharing agreement with Nottinghamshire Police

September 18th, 2014 by CST
Deputy Chief Constable Sue Fish of Nottinghamshire Police and CST's Northern Regional Director Amanda Bomsztyk

Deputy Chief Constable Sue Fish of Nottinghamshire Police and CST’s Northern Regional Director Amanda Bomsztyk

CST and Nottinghamshire Police today signed an information sharing agreement to help our joint work combating hate crime. This agreement enables us to share anonymised information about antisemitic incidents and hate crimes that occur across Nottinghamshire and follows similar agreements with Greater Manchester Police and the Metropolitan Police in London.

Research shows that most people who report antisemitic incidents will call either CST or the Police, but not both. By sharing information, we increase our ability to support victims and tackle hate crime.

Nottingham University has the largest Jewish Society in the country so today’s agreement will be particularly helpful in our work protecting Jewish students from any antisemitism that they may face on campus.

We are proud of our close partnership with the Police across the UK in tackling hate crime and we look forward to signing similar agreements with other Police forces in the future.

 

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