When George schmoozed Gilad

January 6th, 2015 by Dave Rich

This Saturday saw George Galloway MP and his wife Gayatri interview Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on their Russia Today TV show, ‘Sputnik’. The significance of Galloway hosting Atzmon, a man whose views regarding Israel, Zionism and Jewish identity are so extreme that he is shunned by most of the anti-Israel movement in this country, should not be underestimated.

Atzmon Galloway

Atzmon has previously argued that “American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.” More recently, he has written that “Jewishness means supremacy and chauvinism and chosenness” and thatthe Holocaust narrative, in its current form, doesn’t make any historical sense“. The Socialist Workers Party and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign both refuse to work with Atzmon as they consider his views to be antisemitic.

Galloway, though, appears to have moved in the opposite direction. He has previously been at pains to distinguish between Zionism and Jewishness. A decade ago he told American conspiracy talk show host Alex Jones, “Well, this is the thing about Zionism. It has nothing to do with Jewishness. Some of the biggest Zionists in the world are not Jews. Anybody who thinks George Bush likes Jews has never been to his golf club.” He has also previously rejected conspiracy theories about Jewish or Zionist lobbies controlling American foreign policy. Therefore his endorsement of Atzmon suggests an important and worrying development in Galloway’s public attitude towards Jewishness.

The full interview is a little over 13 minutes long and can be watched here or below. Galloway, incongruously wearing the blazer of a Royal Navy Lieutenant, praised, agreed and laughed with Atzmon throughout. He seems to be charmed by Atzmon, despite previously insisting that “I don’t debate with Israelis”. He began by complimenting Atzmon as “politically fascinating” and artistically “a genius”, noting that he plays on the new Pink Floyd album The Endless River. Galloway then says he was “enthralled” by Atzmon’s book The Wandering Who? (described by CST as “probably the most antisemitic book published in this country in recent years.”) In a discomforting image, Galloway explains that he read a chapter of Atzmon’s book to his new wife every night after they were married, so that “we went to bed thinking of you“.

It is not clear which parts of this book left Galloway “enthralled“. Perhaps it was the chapter title “Swindler’s List“, clearly a cheap joke at the expense of Holocaust victims; or the claim that “The Holocaust religion is probably as old as the Jews themselves“; or the suggestion that in the future, “some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’

To accept or endorse Atzmon’s writings is to endorse a wholesale, full-frontal assault on Jewish identity. This is the line that Galloway appears to cross in this interview. Atzmon is very clear that his target is not Zionism. He tells Galloway:

I really think that we are, we have been misled for quite a long time in our understanding of Zionism, Israel, the work of the lobby and so on and so on and so on. For quite a while I argued that if Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and decorates its airplanes and tanks with Jewish symbols, the first thing that we have to do is to try to understand what is Jewishness? What are the relationships between Judaism, Jewishness, the Jew, what are the relationships between these three and Zionism, these are fundamentals. Now for quite a while, because of the domination of a lot of good Jews, let’s say, within the Left, we were prevented from going there, we were only allowed to talk about Zionism, or colonialism…. We are using a lot of terminology that is very misleading. I realised a long time ago that it is the Jewish identity politics that drive the Jewish state.

Atzmon is not scared to point out the practical consequences of demonising Jewishness and Jewish identity in this way. He calls for the British Police and intelligence agencies to “step up their surveillance and espionage” within Jewish communities.

Galloway concurs with almost everything Atzmon says during their interview. Even when Atzmon mentions “the predominance of Jews within the Bolshevik Revolution” (on Russia Today, of all places!) Galloway, the man who described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the biggest catastrophe of my life“,  does not demur.

The only moment of disagreement is when Galloway describes Atzmon as Jewish. Atzmon immediately looks uncomfortable: “I’m not a Jew any more”, he protests. Galloway insists, saying “I’m not sure you can resign it”. Galloway does seem to have a ‘blood and soil’ notion of nationhood. Later in the interview, when explaining that the man who was recently convicted of assaulting him in a London street plans to live in Israel after serving his prison sentence, Galloway says “he has no genetic connection to the land of Palestine at all” (his assailant had converted to Judaism prior to the assault).

The interview ends with Galloway promising that “we are going to have to continue this another time because we’ve run over.” This means, sadly, that they did not have time to discuss Atzmon’s recently-declared admiration for American neo-Nazi David Duke. But then if Atzmon is considered a suitable guest for Galloway to schmooze, perhaps David Duke will make an appearance himself in a future episode.

Robert Fisk and immoral equivalences

December 18th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

Writing in the Independent, Robert Fisk gives a startling example of anti-Israel obsession, expressed in words that are about Jews, not Israelis. In doing so, he illustrates how far Israel’s most trenchant critics will go in order to focus scrutiny and disgust upon it, rather than other targets: in this case, the extremes of Jihadi terrorism. Given the links between anti-Israel agitation and antisemitic attack levels, this rhetorical trend / temptation brings obvious risks for Jews.

Fisk has previously exposed antisemitism and sincerely warned against it, but he still uses language that risks leaving too much to the average reader’s imagination.

Now, Fisk’s words about Jews are “massacre of the innocents”. They begin and end an article on the (Pakistani) Tehreek-e-Taliban’s dreadful mass murder of 148 people, including 132 schoolchildren, in a school in Peshawar. It has nothing, whatsoever, to do with Israel, but Fisk cannot resist ending with an attack upon Israel and its Jewish identity.

The article is headlined “Massacre of the innocents born of ambivalence  towards Taliban”. Its opening sentences read “It was a massacre of the innocents. Every report must admit this – because it’s true”. It is typical Fisk, insightful analysis and righteous anger at local and international power play politics, here the relations between the Pakistani Army, Pakistani intelligence services and the Taliban.

The article is nearly a page long and includes a quote from David Gosling, a former head of a leading Peshawar school. Having described the horror of the Peshawar school tragedy and the Pakistani politics behind it, Fisk’s penultimate paragraph once again quotes Gosling. This is where the article shifts to Israel and its Jewishness, where it ceases to be about Pakistan and Jihadis.

“You must remember,” Gosling says, “how enraged people were with the Israeli attacks on Gaza this year. People in Pakistan were furious at the casualty toll – more than 2,000 people, many of them children.”

Then, Fisk’s ending, about Israel and Jews:

“Needless to say, the phrase “massacre of the innocents” was not used about those children.”

So, at its end, the article’s theme massacre of the innocents ceases to be about murdered Pakistani schoolchildren. Instead, it is now about Israel and about Jews. Perhaps it was actually about that all along: about the alleged hypocrisy of railing against the Taliban, whilst supposedly giving Israel an easy ride.

The phrase “massacre of the innocents” helps underpin two millennia of Christian anti-Jewishness. It is the story of Herod, King of the Jews, ordering the murder of newborn children in order to kill Jesus, the newborn King of the Jews. This is one of the deep origins of the Jewish “child murderer” charge that occurred repeatedly against British Jews during this summer’s war between Israel and Gaza. Rightly or wrongly, it is also a trope that some perceived to underpin certain mainstream media coverage of the conflict.

But Fisk does not seem to be warning against anti-Jewish resonance within anti-Israel criticism or hatred. On the contrary, he seems to be embracing exactly that practice, using it to say that the media and politicians are somehow forcibly prevented from talking about Israel’s victims in the way that they would the Taliban.

Then, on the wider point about Israel’s critics bringing everything back to it, there is Fisk’s apparent determination to drag IsraeI into a moral equivalence with the Jihadism evidenced in Peshawar by the cold blooded slaughter of children: and by so many other Jihadist crimes against women, Muslims, Christians, Jews, non-believers, and whoever else they are able to intimidate, brutalise and murder.

The warning here for Jews is that those on the left and elsewhere who are determined to keep depicting opposition to Israel as the world’s most important ideological cause, must overcome the far worse crimes and fantasies of the Jihadists. This means Jihadist crimes must be ignored or minimised, or somehow explained away with Israel as the root cause or moral equivalence. In practise, all four tactics are often simultaneously employed: ignoring, minimising, scapegoating and equating. The factual and moral outrages and hypocrisies that ensue may not be antisemitic as such, but they are a dangerous stupidity that can only bring harm for Israel, Jews, and all other Jihadi targets.

Chanukah Sameach to all our readers

December 16th, 2014 by CST

Chanukah greeting 2014

House of Commons debate on antisemitism

December 10th, 2014 by CST

The House of Commons held a Westminster Hall debate on antisemitism yesterday at the request of John Mann MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, who has worked tirelessly to lead political efforts to combat antisemitism in the United Kingdom.

The debate can be watched in full below, or there is a transcript here.

Yesterday’s parliamentary debate highlighted the strides taken in combating antisemitism by Government and parliamentarians in recent years, as well as reflecting on the antisemitic upsurge experienced during the summer and assessing the continued challenges in addressing antisemitism in the future.

One theme that ran throughout the debate was the key role that CST plays in monitoring levels of antisemitism in the UK, and the effect that CST’s work has in informing decision makers on antisemitism and the wider arena of hate crime, both in the UK and abroad. We are grateful to all those MPs who expressed support for CST in yesterday’s debate.

John Mann MP used CST’s summer figures and analysis as the bedrock of his detailed introduction before praising our work in glowing terms when stating that:

… the basis of recording by the CST is without question the world best. It is renowned across the world for being so.

Mann continued by raising other important issues, including MPs who use irresponsible language; ongoing concerns at the rise of antisemitism on Social Media platforms; and the successes in addressing recommendations of the 2006 All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism (pdf).

Reflecting the cross party concern at current levels of antisemitism in the UK, further statements were made by other MPs, many of whom quoted CST figures and praised our actions.

Conservative MP Guto Bebb found it unacceptable that the threat level to the Jewish community in the UK and Europe has meant that schools and synagogues need to be protected. Jim Shannon MP of the Democratic Unionist Party, raised MOPAC’s new Hate Crime Reduction Strategy – that CST was consulted on – which revealed that July 2014 was the highest recorded month of faith-hate crime in London, 95% of which was antisemitic. Labour MP and shadow Communities Minister Lyn Brown encouraged all those who experienced or witnessed antisemitic and other racist online incidents, to follow CST’s guidance on combating and reporting antisemitism online.

In providing the Government’s response Lib Dem MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Stephen Williams, recognised the summer’s increase in antisemitism and outlined Government efforts in tackling this issue. Strongly stating that there is never an excuse for antisemitism, and that it is “wrong, wrong, wrong”, he continued by identifying and condemning sources of contemporary antisemitism:

It is shocking and offensive that British Jews continue to be singled out for antisemitic abuse. Whether from the far left or the far right – an abhorrent antisemitic streak goes through both extremes of British politics – or from misguided individuals who happen to be Muslim, who pervert the true meaning of Islam when they attack British Jews, all such attacks should be condemned.

He continued by mentioning a summer recess meeting between himself and CST, as well as a joint letter to local authorities sent by CST Chief Executive David Delew and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles.

While we at CST are grateful for the support we receive from Government and parliamentarians, we will not be complacent regarding the work that still needs to be done to reduce antisemitism. July and August saw record levels of antisemitic incidents in the UK; combating antisemitism on social media is a growing challenge; parts of continental Europe are becoming increasingly hostile for some Jewish communities; and as Guto Bebb recalled, Jewish schools and synagogues still need to be protected. We will continue to do all we can to tackle these problems, working with our friends and partners in Westminster and beyond.

CST Antisemitic Discourse Report 2013 – what statements and actions about Jews and Israel do Jews consider to be antisemitic?

November 27th, 2014 by CST

Below is the second extract from CST’s Antisemitic Discourse Report 2013 (pdf) to be published on the CST Blog. It reports the results of an EU-funded survey of Jewish opinion, published in 2013, that included questions about statements and actions that Jewish people consider to be antisemitic. These are useful in helping to understand how Jews perceive the complicated relationship between anti-Israel views and activities, and antisemitism.

The extract begins:

EU SURVEY: What statements and actions about Jews and Israel do Jews consider to be antisemitic?

IN NOVEMBER 2013, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published a groundbreaking survey of Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of hate crime, discrimination and antisemitism in eight EU member states, including the United Kingdom, covering around 90% of Jews in the EU.

The survey asked respondents whether they considered different statements about Jews and Israel to be antisemitic, and also asked in what contexts they heard those antisemitic statements most often.

The survey was carried out online from September to October 2012 by the polling company Ipsos MORI, working with the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in the UK. Across Europe, 66% of respondents said they consider antisemitism to be a “very big” or “fairly big” problem in their countries. In the UK, 48% of respondents said that antisemitism is a very big or fairly big problem (the lowest figure of all eight countries surveyed), while 52% said that it is “not a very big problem” or “not a problem at all”.

The survey found that British Jews were more likely to attribute antisemitic sentiments to a person who used classical antisemitic tropes to be antisemitic, than they were for people who criticise Israel or who campaign against it. For example, 80% of British Jews said that a person who says “The Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated” is “Definitely antisemitic”; 77% said that a person who believes “Jews are responsible for the current economic crisis” is “Definitely antisemitic”; and 67% said the same about a person who claims “Jews have too much power in the UK”.

Only 6% of British Jews said that they would consider a person to be “definitely antisemitic” if they criticised Israel, while 27% said that they would consider such a person to be “probably antisemitic”. Therefore around a third of British Jews think that somebody who criticises Israel is definitely or probably antisemitic, while around two-thirds said that such a person is “Probably not antisemitic” or “Definitely not antisemitic”.

Read the rest on page 16 of the report here.

CST Antisemitic Discourse Report 2013

November 25th, 2014 by CST

Antisemitic Discourse Report 2013 Cover - Blog

Today sees the publication of CST’s Antisemitic Discourse Report 2013. This is our final report of the year and details the use of antisemitic language and images in mainstream politics and media, including social media. The report also covers public discussion and debate about antisemitism, including condemnations of antisemitism by mainstream figures.

This Facebook page repeats the classical antisemitic blood libel for a contemporary, social media audience.

This Facebook page repeats the classical antisemitic blood libel for a contemporary, social media audience.

The full report can be downloaded here. We have reproduced the Executive Summary below, and we will run extracts from the report on the CST Blog throughout this week.

The Executive Summary begins:

Explicit antisemitism against Jews per se, simply for their being Jewish, remains rare in British public life and within mainstream political media discourse. However, over two-thirds of British Jews say that they have encountered antisemitic remarks on the internet, and over three- quarters of British Jews feel that the problem of antisemitism on the internet is getting worse.

The Summary then explains how historic antisemitic themes still appear in public debate, and indicates the examples that are given in the report itself:

Historically, antisemitism has included allegations of Jewish conspiracy, wealth, power, manipulation, immorality and hostility to others. Echoes of these allegations, while rarely made explicitly against Jews, can be found in some mainstream discourse about Israel, Zionists or ‘the Jewish lobby’. The further one moves from the mainstream, for example into more extreme activist groups or websites, the more pronounced and obviously antisemitic these echoes become.

Conspiracy theories about hidden ‘Jewish’, ‘Zionist’ or ‘pro-Israel’ influence in politics and the media continue to be expressed by people from different parts of the political spectrum, in mainstream and extremist circles. Different examples in 2013 involved then-BNP leader Nick Griffin, former BBC correspondent Tim Llewellyn and Iranian TV channel Press TV.

British Jews say that they are more likely to hear antisemitic remarks from people with ‘a left-wing political view’ or ‘a Muslim extremist view’ than from ‘someone with a right-wing political view’.

Most British Jews do not believe that criticism of Israel is antisemitic. However, most British Jews do believe that a person who boycotts Israeli goods, or who compares Israel to Nazi Germany, is probably antisemitic.

Holocaust commemoration increasingly acts as a trigger for antisemitic expressions, particularly those that involve comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

Over a third of British Jews say that they have heard antisemitic remarks in political or academic settings, including at schools. In 2013, social media comments by David Ward MP and two Daily Mail articles about Ed Miliband MP were examples where some British Jews felt that antisemitic language was used in political settings.

Several episodes in 2013 regarding alleged use of antisemitic discourse hinged on nuanced interpretations of language and imagery, and of the gap between a person’s stated intentions in their language and the way that their choice of words or imagery are perceived by others.

The role that a quick and meaningful apology can play in answering concerns about antisemitism was highlighted by contrasting situations involving David Ward MP; and the Sunday Times newspaper. While both apologised, only the latter did so unequivocally and without further offence.

Antisemites have, in the past, used Jews as a scapegoat to explain their own failings or weaknesses. An example of this in 2013 can be found in the claim by Lord Ahmed that Jewish-owned media organisations were responsible for his 2009 conviction for dangerous driving.

The potential for religious attitudes to the Israel-Palestine conflict to provide a framework for the expression of theological hostility to Judaism was highlighted by the Church of Scotland’s 2013 report, The inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land’.

Overt opposition from pro-Palestinian activists to antisemitic ideas and remarks found within the pro-Palestinian movement remains inconsistent and weak.

The problem of abusive antisemitic language at football matches, and the use of the ‘Y-word’ by fans of Tottenham Hotspur, remained issues of media and public debate. However, only 6 per cent of British Jews say that they have heard antisemitic remarks at sporting events.

An antisemitic image shared on Facebook that uses the antisemitic imagery of the ritual murder of children, in a meat grinder marked with a Jewish Star of David; combined with a slogan that accuses Israel of genocide while also calling for Israel not to exist.

An image shared on Facebook that combines the antisemitic ‘blood libel’, involving the ritual murder of children by a meat grinder marked with a Jewish Star of David, with a slogan that accuses Israel of genocide while also calling for Israel not to exist.

Give Antisemitism the Boot

November 21st, 2014 by Mark Gardner

Reported remarks about Jews and money by Wigan football club’s respected owner, Dave Whelan, reflect the persistence of dinosaur attitudes in football on issues of racism and sexism. They show how far the people’s game still has to go in order to catch up with its global audience. Whelan’s remarks are perhaps best explained by his age and background, but the Football Association must now deal with this case, just as they would any other. This is why CST has stated:

Dave Whelan’s comments invoked antisemitic stereotypes about Jews and money and his apology suggests that he still doesn’t understand why his comments were offensive. It is an indication of how widespread such outdated attitudes still are within football, and how much work needs to be done to eradicate this way of thinking.

Whelan claims not to understand why his reported comment that “Jewish people chase money more than anybody else” has caused offence. Being a multimillionaire himself, he may even consider it to be a compliment. His quick apology (view it here) appears sincere, but reinforces his claim not to understand the offence: because even here, his reference to Jews as “a great race of people” will still leave many people feeling that he simply doesn’t get how to talk about these issues in the modern day:

If there are Jewish people offended by what I have said then I would apologise immediately and say I am sorry and did not mean offence to them. All my Jewish friends realise that I would never insult a Jewish person, I have no reason to – they are a great race of people. I do a lot of business with them, they are very honest people, hard-working people and I would never insult a Jewish person.

The controversy around Whelan’s remarks is understandable. Football is big business and a core subject of modern day 24 hour news, and this is another sad example of the game’s continuing struggle to think and talk in the modern manner that is rightly demanded of it. It is easy to take a kick at Dave Whelan and football for what are commonly referred to as “unreconstructed” attitudes, but this is really not the most serious example of antisemitism in recent public discourse. The association of Jews with money is a very old antisemitic trope, which is exactly why Whelan’s blunt old-fashioned remarks caused the controversy: but the same thing, delivered in a much more sophisticated manner, underpins far more insidious and dangerous discourse that alleges Jewish and / or pro-Israeli lobbies control politicians, the media, global capitalism and much else, besides. It is those deeper comments, made in Parliament and elsewhere, that also need called out at every turn, and booted into touch.    

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