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.

 

Politicians opposing antisemitism

September 12th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

Many Members of Parliament from each of the parties have voiced their opposition to antisemitism in recent weeks, including leading Government figures.

Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis on 10 September to mark the annual pre-High Holy Day Conference of Rabbis. The PM stated:

…as we reflect on events this summer, it is more important than ever that Britain says loudly and clearly that there can never be any excuse for antisemitism.

As a Government we are committed to doing everything we can in the fight against antisemitism…

We are working with our police and universities to stop the spreading of divisive messages on our university campuses and we have excluded more foreign preachers of hate on the basis of our strategy for preventing extremism than ever before…

…a Jewish friend once asked me whether it will always be safe for his children and grandchildren to live in Britain. The answer to that question will always be “yes”. I hope that in years to come we will reach a point where that question will not even be asked.

The message was echoed by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who addressed the rabbinical conference in person and was warmly received. The minister had stated this opposition on previous occasions, including in the Daily Telegraph on 5th September:

…Whatever one’s view about the politics of Israel and Gaza, everyone who believes in British liberty should stand up for the Jewish community’s right to practise their faith and go about their lives without fear. A cursory glance at European history shows the worst atrocities can begin with turning a blind eye to seemingly small acts of discrimination.

Home Secretary Theresa May was equally clear when addressing a Conservative Friends of Israel event on 9th September:

I have been appalled by recent reports from the Community Security Trust indicating a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the UK. Yesterday I along with Theresa Villiers met Mike Freer MP, David Burrows MP and Lee Scott MP to discuss their concerns and the action the Home Office is taking to combat anti-Semitic hate crime.

Accounts of Jewish people being verbally abused on the street, placards displaying loathsome threats, and bricks being thrown through synagogue windows are – like any form of hate crime – abhorrent and unacceptable.

A straw poll conducted by the Jewish Chronicle also found that 63 per cent of Jewish people in north London questioned their future in the UK amid the rise of anti-Semitic attacks. This picture is being mirrored in other European countries. France has recently been reported as the leading country for Jewish emigration to Israel for the first time.

I am clear that everyone in this country 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. That’s why we have provided over £2.3 million of funding to organisations and schools to help prevent hate crime, increase reporting and improve the operational response.

…This country has one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry. But I am clear that we must keep both the operational and legislative response under constant review. There is absolutely no place in our country for anti-Semitism whatever form it takes.

The speech repeated the strong message that the Home Secretary gave the Jewish Chronicle on 28th August (read it here). At the CFI event, she also told journalists of her forthcoming meeting with CST, Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, adding:

We are working closely with a number of organisations including the CST to see what more can be done in terms of ensuring hate crime is dealt with properly by the police but also that there is protection

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is another politician who has seriously grappled with antisemitism in recent weeks, as mentioned in Theresa May’s CFI speech, along with Mike Freer, David Burrows and Lee Scott. For example, in this clear message on her website, including:

Over recent days I have spoken to a number of my constituents about their fears and concerns about the current situation, including the chair of Barnet Synagogue who told me of a heated meeting held at the shul to discuss this issue. I have also received a detailed update from the police on the action they are taking and their plans for keeping people safe in Barnet during the forthcoming high holy days. I am also grateful to the Community Security Trust for keeping me informed on these very worrying developments

Jim Murphy MP is not a member of Government, but despite the pressure of being one of the leading Scottish Labour advocates against Scottish independence, he has continued his record of standing against antisemitism. For example, writing an analysis of the problem in the Glasgow Herald on 13th August that concluded:

…Many Jewish constituents have been in touch with me in recent days. It shouldn’t be left to Jews to speak out against the existence of anti-Semitism in our midst. It is all of our human and democratic responsibility – no matter our faith and regardless of our view on the Middle East – to renew our opposition to the world oldest hatred.

Finally, there was the searing speech against antisemitism and its drivers by the Chief Whip Michael Gove, at the annual dinner of the Holocaust Educational Trust on 9th September (see most of it here). It was extremely well received by those present and included the following:

…We need to stand together against prejudice, against hate, against the resurgent, mutating, lethal virus of antisemitism — now more than ever.

The Holocaust Educational Trust was established a quarter-of-a-century ago by men and women who knew that, unless future generations were taught about the Holocaust and inoculated against the virus of antisemitism then prejudice could recur…

…In the aftermath of the Second World War, everyone was agreed. Antisemitism could have no place in a civilised society. The articulation of prejudice towards the Jewish people was the gateway which led to Auschwitz by way of Nuremberg — exclusion and then extermination…

…Or so it seemed back then. Today, across Europe, there has been a revival of antisemitism that the enormity of the Holocaust should have rendered forever unthinkable…

And we must not think that Britain — gentle, tolerant, civilised Britain — is immune. The Community Security Trust (CST) monitors instances of antisemitism throughout the UK. It is careful to distinguish between explicitly antisemitic incidents and more general protests about Israeli policy…

When banners at pro-Palestinian rallies carry slogans such as “Stop Doing What Hitler Did To You” or “Gaza is a Concentration Camp” then a line has been crossed. In July this year, CST recorded 302 antisemitic incidents, a fivefold increase from July 2013. In 101 of those cases, there were explicit references to the Holocaust, including attempts to equate Israel’s actions in self-defence with Nazi crimes. On our streets, our citizens have marched with swastikas superimposed on the Israeli flag.

We need to be clear about what is going on here. There is a deliberate attempt to devalue the unique significance of the Holocaust, and so remove the stigma from antisemitism…

…And even as this relativisation, trivialisation and perversion of the Holocaust goes on, so prejudice towards the Jewish people grows…

We need to speak out against this prejudice. We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past ended with a campaign against Jewish lives. We need to spell out that this sort of prejudice starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. We need to stand united against hate. Now more than ever.

I believe that, in the face of this prejudice, there has, so far, been insufficient indignation: an insufficient willingness to recognise that civic freedom is indivisible: that an attack on one is an attack on all.

The British rightly pride themselves in their long and relatively peaceful political evolution based on a widespread acceptance of British values. But this can have an unfortunate consequence: complacency in the face of threats from those who care nothing for peace, democracy or British values.

…I believe that, in the face of this prejudice, there has, so far, been insufficient indignation: an insufficient willingness to recognise that civic freedom is indivisible: that an attack on one is an attack on all.

The British rightly pride themselves in their long and relatively peaceful political evolution based on a widespread acceptance of British values. But this can have an unfortunate consequence: complacency in the face of threats from those who care nothing for peace, democracy or British values..

 

 

 

Antisemitic incidents reach record level in July 2014

September 4th, 2014 by CST

Antisemitic reactions to this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas resulted in record levels of antisemitic hate incidents in the UK, according to new figures released by CST today.

CST recorded 302 antisemitic incidents in July 2014, a rise of over 400% from the 59 incidents recorded in July 2013 and only slightly fewer than the 304 antisemitic incidents recorded in the entire first six months of 2014. A further 111 reports were received by CST during July but were not deemed to be antisemitic and are not included in this total. CST has recorded antisemitic incidents in the UK since 1984.

The 302 antisemitic incidents recorded in July 2014 is the highest ever monthly total recorded by CST. The previous record high of 289 incidents in January 2009 coincided with a previous period of conflict between Israel and Hamas. CST also recorded at least 150 antisemitic incidents in August 2014, making it the third-highest monthly total on record. The totals for July and August are expected to rise further as more incident reports reach CST.

Anti-Israel and antisemitic leaflet inserted amongst Israeli produce at a supermarket in Norfolk, July 2014

155 of the 302 incidents recorded in July (51%) involved direct reference to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza. All incidents require evidence of antisemitic language, targeting or motivation alongside any anti-Israel sentiment to be recorded by CST as an antisemitic incident.

101 antisemitic incidents recorded in July involved the use of language or imagery relating to the Holocaust, of which 25 showed evidence of far right political motivation or beliefs. More commonly, reference to Hitler or the Holocaust was used to taunt or offend Jews, often in relation to events in Israel and Gaza, such as via the twitter hashtag #HitlerWasRight. 76 of the 302 incidents in July (25%) took place on social media.

Antisemitic image circulated on social media, July 2014

Antisemitic image circulated on social media, July 2014

CST obtained a description of the offender for 107 of the 302 antisemitic incidents recorded during July 2014. Of these, 55 offenders (51%) were described as being of south Asian appearance; 32 (30%) were described as white; 15 (14%) were described as being of Arab or north African appearance; and 5 (5%) were described as black.

There were 21 violent antisemitic assaults recorded by CST, none of which were classified as ‘Extreme Violence’, which would involve a threat to life or grievous bodily harm (GBH). None of the 21 assaults resulted in serious injury. There were 17 incidents of Damage & Desecration of Jewish property; 218 incidents of Abusive Behaviour, which includes verbal abuse, antisemitic graffiti, antisemitic abuse via social media and one-off cases of hate mail; 33 direct antisemitic threats; and 13 cases of mass-mailed antisemitic leaflets or emails.

Antisemitic letter sent to synagogues in London, July 2014

Antisemitic letter sent to synagogues in London, July 2014

CST recorded 179 antisemitic incidents in Greater London in July 2014, compared to 144 during the whole of the first half of 2014. There were 52 antisemitic incidents recorded in Greater Manchester, compared to 96 in the first six months of the year. 71 incidents were recorded in other locations around the UK during July.

CST spokesman Mark Gardner said:

These statistics speak for themselves: a record number of antisemitic incidents, few of them violent, but involving widespread abuse and threats to Jewish organisations, Jews in public places and on social media. It helps to explain the pressures felt by so many British Jews this summer, with its combination of anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Israel hatred.

The high proportion of offenders who appear to come from sections of the Muslim community is of significant concern, raising fears that the kind of violent antisemitism suffered by French Jews in recent years may yet be repeated here in the UK.

CST will continue working with Police and Government against antisemitism, but we need the support of others. Opposing antisemitism takes actions not words. It is particularly damaging for public figures, be they politicians, journalists or faith leaders, to feed these hatreds by comparing Israel to Nazi Germany or by encouraging extreme forms of public protest and intimidation.

Prosecutors also have their part to play. Those who have used social media to spread antisemitism are identifiable and should be prosecuted.

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