A truth for a truth

July 10th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its our traditional weapon…the jaw of an ass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Current situation: security note

July 2nd, 2014 by CST

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

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

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

We thank you for your cooperation at this time.

 

Blackley Cemetery update: Greater Manchester Says No to Hate

June 30th, 2014 by CST

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

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

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

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

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

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

GM no to hate statement

 

Jihadist Recruitment Videos Raise Important Questions About Counter-Extremist Policy

June 25th, 2014 by Dave Rich

This is cross-posted from the Huffington Post UK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desecration at Jewish cemetery in Manchester

June 24th, 2014 by CST

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

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

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

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

All photographs © Community Security Trust

Blackley Cemetery Desecration3

Blackley Cemetery Desecration 4

Blackley Cemetery Desecration 5

OSCE launches international hate crime website

June 17th, 2014 by Dave Rich

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has launched a new Hate Crime Reports website, transforming its annual hate crime report into an interactive and user-friendly resource. The new website divides hate crime data collected from various sources across the OSCE region into digestible chunks of information that are country- and issue-specific, and will be constantly updated.

The OSCE’s annual hate crime report details official and NGO reports of hate crimes in its 57 participating states across Europe, Asia and North America. CST has worked with the OSCE and ODIHR for several years and our antisemitic incident figures are included in its report for the UK.

The new website includes data on hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Christians, people of other religions; hate crimes against Roma and Sinti; hate crimes motivated by racism and xenophobia; and hate crimes against and other targeted groups. It also has contact details for relevant NGOs in each participating state (including CST).

The website also explains the obligations of governments to monitor and record hate crime, and the training that ODIHR is doing across the OSCE region to help participating states to live up to these obligations.

The full website is here; the section on the UK is here; and the section on antisemitism is here.

 

Brussels suspect – the lessons

June 2nd, 2014 by CST

On Friday 30 May, customs officials in Marseilles, southern France, arrested 29 year old French national Mehdi Nemmouche on suspicion of having perpetrated the previous Saturday’s terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium. If this is the terrorist, then there are some blatant lessons to be learned about modern Jihadism and the security implications for Jews and non-Jews in Western Europe.

The truth is that by now, after over a decade of terror attacks and plots from Madrid to Manchester, these lessons ought merely to be confirmed: but many people are still reluctant to accept them.

The Brussels attack occurred on Saturday 24 May and was carried out by a gunman using a pistol and an AK 47 assault rifle. CCTV images showed an unidentified man walking into the unguarded building, before he opened the museum door and shot inside, leaving three dead and another on the brink of death. The gunman then walked away. News of Nemmouche’s arrest was supplemented by statements from Belgian prosecutors and French authorities. These were first responses and came before Nemmouche’s initial questioning had concluded, never mind any actual trial and confirmation of guilt. Nevertheless, a summary of the current information is extremely worthwhile:

  • Nemmouche was radicalised whilst in French prison. He was jailed for robbery and spent five stints in prison. Of Muslim origin, he went from having little or no interest in Islam, to becoming a would be Jihadist radical.
  • He joined Jihadists in Syria. He left for Syria on December 31, 2012, three weeks after being released from prison.
  • In Syria, he fought with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the most radical of the Syrian Jihadist groups: more so even than Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusrah, from which it split (and to which it is now hostile). ISIS is the most popular destination for western Jihadists traveling to Syria.
  • Nemmouche returned to Europe in March 2014. (Having spent over one year in Syria.)
  • He was known to the French authorities. How closely they were monitoring him before, during or after the Brussels attack remains to be seen. He was arrested in what is described as a customs search of the coach on which he was traveling from Brussels to Marseilles. (It had originated in Amsterdam.)
  • In his luggage was found the same weapons as apparently used in the Brussels attack; a baseball hat similar to that worn by the shooter; and news cuttings about the attack.
  • The weapons were found with a white cloth bearing in Arabic the name of ISIS and “G-d is great”.
  • Nemmouche also had a Go Pro camera similar to that used by Mohamed Merah when he filmed his murderous shooting attack at the Jewish Ozar Hatorah primary school in Toulouse, France in April 2012. Nemmouche has apparently admitted that the camera was strapped to his bag so it would film the attack, but it failed to do so. In his possession, Nemmouche had a 40 second film of the weaponry, which includes someone (seemingly him, but not definitely) saying they carried out the attack.

For now, the most important lessons appear to be very obvious:

  • Europeans (including hundreds of Britons) who travel overseas to fight Jihad pose a potentially deadly terrorist threat upon their return here.
  • The lack of internal European border controls makes it easy for radicals and weaponry to travel throughout the continent.
  • Comparisons of European Jihadists with International Brigade fighters of the Spanish Civil War are misguided, dangerous nonsense.
  • Those who rushed to claim that these killings were somehow not what they appeared (such as supposed brilliant intellectual Tariq Ramadan) should have kept their biases to themselves.
  • Even if some west European commentators and politicians want to keep hiding from the ramifications of each successive Jihadist terrorist attack and plot, their local Jewish communities can have no such luxury.

Below photograph: Israeli holidaymakers Miriam and Emanuel Riva, two of the Brussels victims.      Les proches aux funérailles d'Emmanuel (g) et de Miriam Riva (d), un couple victime de la fusillade de Bruxelles, au cimetière de Kyriat Shaul, à Tel Aviv, le 27 mai 2014 ( Jack Guez (AFP) )

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