Anti-Semitism: The Trap Muslims Fall Into When Discussing Israel And Palestine

Share this:

Background

I was asked to write a piece on the sensitive topic of Israel and Palestine and how some Muslims seem to find themselves reciting anti-semitic tropes when discussing the issue. At first, I was reluctant to agree to it, given that such a sensitive topic would be received both positively and negatively from most people on either side of the divide. However, I felt that if this issue wasn’t tackled, then it was just another step towards making a topic that was touchable, untouchable. This isn’t an issue of free speech, but rather an issue of free thought in which we can say what we want about Israel and Palestine, without falling into anti-semitic tropes.

There is no denying that there is significant support for both Israel and Palestine to exist, equally, the contrary appears to be true also. The conflict between the two regions is not an argument I wish to rehearse here but rather how that argument can tend to lead to anti-Semitism both consciously and unconsciously by some Muslims. It is therefore important at this stage to define what anti-Semitism is, in order to ensure that what is discussed, is done so within a consistent framework.

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, anti-Semitism is defined as:

“… a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Rise of Anti-Semitism Worldwide

A report released by the UN in September 2019 authored by Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, states “the frequency of antisemitic incidents appears to be increasing in magnitude in several countries”. This is very concerning, for both Jewish communities and others that stand with them in solidarity against all forms of hatred and bigotry. The Kantor Center, in their 2018 general analysis report that hostility, discrimination and violence motivated by anti-Semitism have increased worldwide. Furthermore, in the same general analysis, Kantor Center also found a 13 per cent rise in physical manifestations of anti-Semitism. Therefore it is not surprising that in a survey conducted by EU Fundamental Rights Society found that 84 per cent of participants reported that anti-Semitism was a serious problem in their country, whilst 34 per cent avoided Jewish events due to fear of attacks. In addition to this, 38 per cent of participants felt like emigrating because they feared for their safety. It is therefore reasonable to suggest, anti-Semitism has not only always existed, but is rising at a rapid rate. This is displeasing because, whilst we appear to generally have become more tolerant as a society over time, Jewish communities do not appear to be reaping the benefits that come along with that tolerance. It is thus prudent to understand what Muslims can do to not unconsciously support this by listening to what those affected by it say.

 All Jews Are The Same

In my call for suggestions to what Muslims can do to not fall into the trap of anti-Semitism, I was inundated with ideas from many people in Jewish communities. The central theme to emerge was to not equate Jews, Judaism and Israel as one entity. For example, the actions of the Israeli government are not the responsibility of Jewish communities worldwide and that not all Jewish communities are the same. I found this fascinating, not so much so because I didn’t believe it (because I do), but rather that anyone would disbelieve it. This is really where the point of contention emerges for me, that if some Muslims believe all Jews are the same, and in their description of Jews they believe some to be evil, then they may believe this is the case for all Jews.

This line of thinking, whereby communities are considered homogenous is dangerous. Not only does it attempt to create a block of people, but it also suggests that any negative action that may happen within that “block”, is, therefore, representative of the entire community as a whole. Many in Muslim communities have experienced this very same issue since the September 11th terrorist attacks. So I find it bizarre that any Muslim would knowingly engage in anti-Semitic tropes? However, my starting point with any individual or community is to assume they are good and they know what is just, and would not engage in anything to the contrary unless it was done so unconsciously. I do not believe all Muslims that do engage in anti-Semitic tropes do so because they know it’s anti-Semitic, I believe it is rather the case that they do so because they do not know what anti-Semitism actually is. But how do you remedy against such a malady?

What Can Muslims Really Do?

Whatever suggestions I make henceforth, are fruitless unless those Muslims that have engaged in anti-Semitism are genuinely willing to change. The desire to be good must override one’s own pride and arrogance and, I am sure that those in Jewish communities are very willing to forgive if the perpetrator is sincere in changing their ways.

Elizabeth Arif-Fear, Muslim writer and activist offers her 13 ways to move towards peace with the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is a helpful starting point for both Muslims and anyone else that has previously engaged in anti-Semitism. For example, point 3 in which Elizabeth Arif-Fear says we must  “Listen to those most affected” is a very important one for Muslims. If the logic is, that Zionism is a racist endeavour, then surely Muslims should be thinking about the Jewish communities et al that are living under said endeavour? If Jews are not part of a Muslim’s concern, then it is the Muslim that has the issue, not the Jewish communities.

An example of this is highlighted when Elizabeth Arif-Fear posted a picture, on Twitter in support of Jewish communities regarding the Holocaust. To her surprise, and maybe not to others, Asghar Bukhari a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee replied with:

“Always one [SIC] muslim puts Jewish victimhood above Blacks, first nation people, Palestinians and everyone else. Shameful”.

If this isn’t an example of not only whataboutery but also minimisation from a Muslim about Jews that suffered under Hitler’s rule, then I don’t know what is? But is this is an isolated action from Asghar Bukhar? It appears not. There is one accusation that does deserve your attention, and that is of Mossad breaking in and entering his home in 2015.

Bukhari is reported to believe that Mossad broke into his home and stole one of his shoes. It is his belief that stealing both shoes served little purpose and that stealing one was necessary in order to let him know that they had been. Since posting it on Twitter, it received considerable attention and the hashtag #MossadStoleMyShoe began. Of course, he was ridiculed for such a risible accusation, but when anti-Semitism is taken to ridiculous extremes, then it is no wonder many people on opposing sides are brought together to laugh at him. Asghar Bukhari has since taken down that post and it is likely he will be defined by it for the remainder of his career.

Whilst this is an example of a ridiculous anti-Semitic event, there are others that are not so. But there is another issue which I would like to turn your attention to, and that is of the Jewish allies.

The Anti-Semitic Jewish Allies

In a Muslim’s quest to be less anti-Semitic, it is worth reminding them that whilst conflicts will always exist between adherents of religions and people from different regions, snakes will emerge to capitalise on this misery. One such individual is Katie Hopkins. There are plenty of documented instances in which Katie Hopkins appears to be anti-Muslim, whether it is the articles she writes, the interviews she gives or what she tweets. It is unlikely that anyone would disagree that in her pursuit for fame, bashing Muslims is her modus operandi.

Sir Mick Davis, the former Conservative Party CEO was aware of this and how it would manifest in the real world. In an article for the Jewish Chronicle, Sir Mick Davis states:

“We cannot defeat antisemitism by teaming up with people who mindlessly hate Muslims. Our fight against bigotry cannot be fought alongside bigots.”

This point hits the nail on the head because, whilst some Muslims may feel like people such as Katie Hopkins are only supporting Jewish communities as a means to hate Muslims, it is not the case that Jewish communities are willingly opening their doors to her. Sir Mick Davis advances his position further:

“These people are not our friends. Once they’re done with Muslims they will turn their attention to us. For them, difference is intolerable and something to be feared and vilified. Seeking common cause is a cynical ploy and sometimes the misguided and foolish are taken in.”

If some of those Muslims that are actively engaged in anti-Semitism realise that Jewish communities face a common bigoted enemy in Katie Hopkins, then this could potentially bridge the divide they are facing.  It is both the responsibility of Muslim and Jewish communities to find common ground against those that wish to use either one of them in their campaign of hate and bigotry. But as Sir Mick Davis highlights, the charge of anti-Semitism appears to be rooted in three sections of society; the Far Right, the Far Left and the Islamists.

Anti-Semitism – The One Ring Of Racism To Rule Them All

The phrase, anti-Semitism is the one ring of racism to rule them all was first coined by Maajid Nawaz, the founding director of the Quilliam. A strong proponent against anti-Semitism, Maajid Nawaz regularly takes on anti-Semites from the Far Left, Far Right as well as Muslims on his weekly LBC show.

In November of last year, Maajid Nawaz explained succinctly and with conviction on his LBC show how anti-Semitism was uniting fascists. But it isn’t just Islamists that can be anti-Semitic, so to can ordinary Muslims and they can end up doing so without even realising. For example, with the current conflict appearing to escalate in Iran since the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, a caller named Shabir decided to instead talk about Israel. Maajid Nawaz responds with probably the best answer anyone could give, and which underlies the thesis of this article when he tells Shabir:

“It’s such a cliche to drag Israel into this debate. Listen to yourself. And you wonder why people think you’re anti-Semitic. Why are you dragging Israel into a conversation that has nothing to do with it?”

It is like, Israel is a magnet that The Far Left, The Far Right and Islamists are attracted to. No matter what happens, they can always rely on Israel to exist, in order to blame it for everything bad that happens in the world. But ordinary Muslims can also get caught by this trap and it is therefore important for them to recognise when they are appearing to be in agreement with those that would ordinarily do harm to them. Shabir subsequently admitted his mistake and the call ended.

Concluding Thoughts

Although the topic was about what Muslims could do to ensure they did not fall into the trap of anti-Semitic tropes, it seems to be a difficult endeavour if Muslims themselves are not willing to change. Most of what is covered in this piece sets out the scene of what Jewish communities are facing worldwide and our focus should be on that. But in the pursuit of reducing anti-Semitism, we must tackle those that engage in it innocently, because there are some and they too are the victims of anti-Semitic propaganda.

Muslims such as Shabir exist everywhere, bringing up Jews and Israel at every opportunity they can, but in most cases, it is likely they do not even know why they are? Given that the Labour Party which is the official party of opposition is under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for anti-Semitism, just goes to show that anti-Semitism has reached mainstream politics. This is exactly the cover that anti-Semites need to push through with their hate and bigotry and take unknowing Muslims with them.

The way forward for Muslims finding themselves unknowingly reciting anti-Semitic tropes is, to recognise what they are, and, to take a step back and put themselves in the shoes of Jewish communities. It is only through empathy can we work towards ridding ourselves of this malady. Much of what Jewish communities have been facing for centuries, have Muslims more recently been facing since the September 11th terrorist attacks. For nearly two decades, Muslims have been portrayed as the other, have been made to feel like they are terrorists and their religion is the driving force behind it, but the similar sentiment has existed for Jewish communities since the death of Jesus. So rather than bringing up Israel into every conservation, why not try and argue the case for Israel having the right to exist. If you find that difficult, then you have found your biggest reason for why you are consciously or unconsciously reciting anti-Semitic tropes.

Being anti-Semitic is a choice, so make the right one.

Share this:

Shalom, Salaam- An Imam and a Rabbi discuss Jewish-Muslim relations

Share this:

Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS) are delighted to host the above event with Kingston Liberal Synagogue (KLS) On Tuesday 26th November 2019, from 7.30pm

At MAAS we welcome the opportunity to work with such an active, open and thriving community as KLS, who are allies of ours in the fight against all forms of hate, including hate against Jews and Muslims.

The event, coming soon after the end of the 2019 Interfaith Week, will focus on Jewish-Muslim relations, in front of an audience of all faiths and none.

We are very fortunate to have as speakers two leading religious figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities who are experts on the subject: Dr Imam Mamadou Bocoum and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg.

Their expertise is not solely academic, as for a number of years they have been crucial in bringing Jews and Muslims together.

Given their knowledge and passion, they are sure to have an incredibly interesting and wide-ranging discussion on various aspects of relations between Jews and Muslims in the UK today and audience members will have the chance to contribute through questions.

The two speakers are extremely comfortable in each other’s company. In recent years they have talked about the importance of Jewish and Muslim communities standing together as an important way of tackling hate and promoting an inclusive relationship based on tolerance and educating each other on their respective religious traditions.

Their work has not gone unnoticed. In 2017 they jointly receive the No2H8Crime Award for Intercultural Dialogue. You can see a clip of them receiving the award in the video below.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Rabbi Wittenberg descends from a family of impressive rabbinical traditions going back several generations who lived in Germany and Eastern Europe.

A highly learned man, he has a literature degree from Cambridge University. He studied to become a Rabbi at Leo Baeck College in London and Jerusalem.

He has been the Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism for over 8 years and the Rabbi of New North London Synagogue for over 25 years.

He has written a number of books and has appeared on Thought for the Day on Radio.

He takes a keen interest in interfaith work and in October 2019 hosted MAAS’s inaugural Sukkot evening.

Dr Imam Bocoum

Dr Imam Bocoum was born in Senegal. He has lived in the UK for many years. 

He can speak a number of languages and has a degree in Arabic. This has helped him in his extensive travels throughout the world where there are significant Muslim populations.

He also has a degree in Islamic Studies and therefore was able to become an Imam in 2004.

Due to his passion for interfaith work he also obtained a master’s degree in the study of Abrahamic religions.

He is a Chaplain for Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMP) where he has played a key role in deradicalisation, which he is an expert on.

He is also an Interfaith Adviser to Register Our Marriage (ROM).

How you can get a ticket

Tickets are FREE and are going fast, so if you don’t want to miss out, please book via the Eventbrite link below, where you will also be able to contact the organisers if you have any questions. You will be given the venue for the event nearer the time if you book a ticket.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/shalom-salaam-an-imam-and-a-rabbi-discuss-jewish-muslim-relations-tickets-71779994897

KLS and MAAS reserve the right to cancel any bookings before the event, based on security concerns arising from vetting.

If you have booked a ticket, but can no longer make the event, please inform us, so we can give your ticket to another person.

PLEASE DO BRING A FORM OF PHOTO ID ALONGSIDE YOUR TICKET

It will be fantastic to see many of you on Tuesday 26TH November 2019 from 7.30pm, as your presence will help make what is sure to be a good event, great!

Share this:

Salma Yaqoob reflects the grip of antisemitism over the Labour Party

Share this:

There have been calls from many in the Jewish community, The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) and others for the suspension of the Labour Mayoral candidate for Birmingham, Salma Yaqoob. The response is covered in a Jewish Chronicle article here and you can see the response from the Board of Deputies, President Marie van der Zyl below.

Ms van der Zyl called Yaqoob’s claim that Israelis are European colonisers

“A calculated insult to the thousands who fled to Israel having survived the Holocaust and the hundreds of thousands more who arrived in Israel having been persecuted by Arab states.”

She added “no-one who refers to Jews as ‘pigs’ could possibly be considered for high office by any reputable party. Labour must withdraw her from the shortlist for West Midlands Mayor and expel her immediately.”

This was in response to a video that surfaced recently in which it has been claimed Yaqoob peddled conspiracy theories against the State of Israel and has been accused of blatant antisemitism. Yaqoob has also tweeted an article in 2013 describing in lurid antisemitic language about 10 Rothschilds bankers being arrested in Iceland. For many years’ conspiracies around the Rothschilds have been a common antisemitic trope, based on the idea of rich Jews buying political power and rigging international banking in the interests of Jews against everyone else. This has no basis in fact, but that Yaqoob promoted this on her own Twitter account raises serious questions over whether she should be anywhere near elected politics.

The issue of Yaqoob’s record on antisemitism came to the fore, when she spoke at the May 2019 Al Quds Day. This is a rally created by the Iranian regime to celebrate the Iranian revolution and run by the notoriously antisemitic Islamic Human Rights Commission in the UK. In the past this annual rally has resembled an antisemitic hate fest, where Hezbollah Flags until they were recently banned were held aloft and antisemitic comments made. Muslims Against Semitism Co-Ordinator Stephen Hoffman revealed the dubious history of Al Quds Day and its organiser here.

At the rally she questioned the legitimacy of Israel hosting the Eurovision Song Contest saying:

“For years [they] have pretended to be Europeans. The only link is they’re European colonisers.”

This is an example of antisemitism, based on presenting Jews as privileged whites who are part of the elites and use allegations of antisemitism as a tactic to shut debate down. This ignores that many Jews across the world including the UK are Mizrahi Jews, which means they come from the Middle East. There are also many Jews from the Maghreb and many black Jews. The idea that Jews are privileged white Europeans is based on a lie to promote a negative image of Jews.

Yaqoob went on to add another layer to the antisemitic tirade by referring to Israel as a pig. The pig which is not kosher has been used for years as antisemitic imagery.

Labour Against Anti-Semitism (LAAS) in response to Yaqoob stated

“It is beyond belief that she has been shortlisted as a potential candidate for the Mayor of West Midlands, a region with a proud history of tolerance and multiculturalism.”

Yaqoob is no stranger to controversy. She is already a disgraced political figure for her campaign in 2017 as the Respect Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the 2017 General Election. In this election she was pitted against the current Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah.

Such was the vile nature of how Yaqoob campaigned, Shah was left feeling suicidal. and the Chief Opinion Writer for the Observer, Sonia Sodha wrote about Yaqoob’s toxic campaign in this piece.

Shah herself has spoken movingly about how she was made to feel in this Twitter thread.

A tactic Yaqoob used against Shah was to introduce sectarian politics by attempting to divide the vote along religious grounds when she made reference to Shah not wearing the hijab.

Consequently, its unsurprising surprise that Labour MP Ruth Smeeth in relation to Yaqoob joining the Party said:

“I personally think Salma Yaqoob has no place in our movement, not least because of her behaviour towards Naz Shah in 2017.”

Whilst momentum is building to expel Yaqoob from the Labour Party, it is worrying that she was even allowed to join, let alone be selected to be the next Labour Mayor for the West Midlands. Her record was a matter of public knowledge, which those in Labour in charge of choosing who should be on the short list should have been aware of.

It is important to note that Yaqoob isn’t necessarily the problem per se, but rather a symptom of the Labour Party’ lack of leadership on rising antisemitism in the party since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader in 2015. Indeed, it has become such a problem that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is currently sifting through numerous submissions on examples of antisemitism in the Labour Party, as part of its inquiry in to antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader, antisemitism has increased in the UK. Although its not solely due to the rising antisemitism in the Labour Party given the rise in far-right antisemitism, it has been a significant factor.

The Community Security Trust (CST) reported a 10% increase in antisemitic incidents in the first half of this year, totaling 892. That is the highest figure the CST has ever recorded for antisemitic incidents for the first half of the year and a 10% rise on the 810 antisemitic incidents from January to June 2018.

The highest monthly totals in the first half of 2019 were February and March, with 182 and 169 antisemitic incidents respectively. These are the joint-fourth and sixth highest monthly totals ever recorded by CST. They occurred when issues relating to Jews and antisemitism were prominent in news and politics due to the continuing controversy over antisemitism in the Labour Party.

February saw several MPs leave the Labour Party, some of whom cited antisemitism as a prominent reason for their decision.  

There was also a 46% rise in online hate against Jews compared to the first six months of 2018. High levels of online antisemitism happened during periods in which antisemitism was high on the political agenda within the Labour Party. You can see the CST report in full here.

Where Labour was once the natural home for Jews for many, it has now left many feeling homeless. In September 2018 data from polling carried out by Survation for the Jewish Chronicle showed that 85.6% of British Jews believe that there are high or very high levels of antisemitism at all levels in the Labour Party. This has risen from a similar poll for the Jewish Chronicle by Survation in 2017, where the number was 69%.

This trend of Jews feeling that antisemitism is an ongoing serious problem in the Labour Party is supported by the October 2019 poll by Survation for the Jewish Chronicle. The polling results revealed 78% of British Jews surveyed would prefer a no deal Brexit to a Jeremy Corbyn Government.

Commenting on the poll Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North stated:

“I’m afraid this poll reflects what I hear on the doorstep in my own community, but seeing it so starkly presented is devastating – not least for significant numbers of Jews who clearly want to vote Labour but can’t because of Jeremy Corbyn

Given our very public failure to tackle antisemitism within our ranks who can blame them?”

For decades Jews were driven from their homes, massacred, portrayed as puppeteers controlling the banks, the media and global politics. Alongside these forms of antisemitism, we also see Jews being questioned if they’re Europeans, should be allowed to take part in singing competitions and referred to as pigs. We learn nothing from history if we don’t challenge this and beat it.

I firmly believe if you replace Jews with any other race there would be more outcry at what is happening in the Labour Party, but it seems too many believe that antisemitism against Jews is not as important as hate against other minorities.

If the Labour Party are serious about tackling antisemitism, it must look more closely at its leadership, which appears to be a magnet for antisemites. If, as some do, claim the leadership isn’t attracting antisemites, then it is utterly failing at tackling them. Due to this it is losing many Jewish party members and Jewish allies who abhor the grip antisemitism has over the Labour Party.

Either way, this situation is untenable and the Jewish community should not be made to feel like the Labour Party and the UK is no longer their home. Sadly, that sorry state of affairs won’t change whilst people like Salma Yaqoob are not only allowed to be members of the party, but election candidates.

Author

Wasiq is an educational and political analyst. His areas of expertise include government policy, countering hateful extremism and social cohesion.

To find out more, please visit www.wasiq.co.uk 

Share this:

PITTSBURGH TREE OF LIFE ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT FROM MUSLIMS AGAINST ANTISEMITISM

Share this:

On Saturday 27THNovember 2018, shortly after the Shabbat service started at 9.45am at Pittsburgh Tree Life Synagogue, led by Rabbi Jeffrey Hill, an individual with the sole aim of murdering as many Jews as possible defiled what should be a place of holy sanctuary, peace and joy by shooting dead 11 Jewish people.

What happened in Pittsburgh was not an isolated incident.It pains us deeply to say it, but due to rising antisemitism worldwide what happened at Tree of Life Synagogue will not be the last murder of Jews just for being Jewish.

We see attacks on Jewish gravestones, over social media and in person across the UK and worldwide.

In the face of this, it is important we redouble our efforts to combat antisemitism.

We wish that antisemitism had stopped with the Holocaust, but as the murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue showed, there are far too many people with hatred in their heart prepared to hurt and kill Jews.

In Islam and Judaism, every single life is sacred. Therefore, Muslims Against Antisemitism stands in solidarity with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and the wider Jewish community worldwide. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones.

Designed by Voice of Salam ( Protected by Copyright Law)

As we come to the year anniversary, we call on people remember the 11 beautiful people who lost their lives at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

Joyce Finberg

Richard Gottfried

Rose Mallinger

Jerry Rabinowitz

Cecil Rosenthal

David Rosenthal

Bernice Simon

Sylvan Simon

Daniel Stein

Melvin Wax

Irving Younger

May their memories be a blessing.

Additional Information

If you would like to put your name to this statement over the next two weeks which we will be sending to Tree of Life Synagogue, please contact Muslims Against Antisemitism Co-ordinator, Stephen Hoffman at stephen@stephenhoffman.co.uk .

Share this:

Standing up to Antisemitism: It’s not always easy, but always necessary

Share this:

Please listen to Elizabeth Arif-Fear’s personal story that will provide you with an insight into the horrors of antisemitism. It’s an emotional, raw account, which as fellow human beings we should all be able to relate to in the spirit of humanity.

We have also included the antisemitic abuse Elizabeth received on Twitter and how people seeing this spoke out in support of her.

Here you see the picture Liz shared on social media to support Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s exactly what we at Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS) work to see, as this is just one example of so many which show Muslims showing their solidarity with their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Here we have the wording Liz used with this picture for Twitter. It illustrates a commitment to Jews and Muslims working together against bigotry.

Sadly, Islamists – who do not represent the vast majority of Muslims – seized upon this opportunity and tweet representing the best of humanity to give voice to their poisonous antisemitism. One such person epitomising such behaviour was Ashgar Bukhari, who works for the Islamist group MPAC.

Ashgar was not the only person to abuse Elizabeth online through the language of antisemitism – there were in fact many more. However, during a time of outpouring of hate, some people were however also prepared to #BeLouder and show solidarity with Elizabeth.

Whilst it can be challenging to speak out against antisemitism, at MAAS we are committed to supporting people like Elizabeth to ensure that Muslims and Jews stand together to combat antisemitism. This ensures that those seeking to divide Muslims and Jews will not win.

If you’re Muslim and want support in challenging antisemitism, please do get in touch with MAAS’s Co-ordinator Stephen Hoffman via email at: info@muslimsagainstantisemitism.org.

Elizabeth Arif-Fear is the Founder and Director of Voice of Salam, a human rights and interfaith charity seeking to make the world a more peaceful place based on our common humanity. You can find out more about Voice of Salam at voiceofsalam.com.

  

Share this:

What antisemitism feels like

Share this:

What antisemitism feels like

 “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA Working definition of antisemitism

Since Jews lived on this earth they’ve been hated, mocked, laughed at, disliked and seen as nefarious controllers of the world just because they were Jewish. Their views, skin colour, origin, gender, economic level, gender, sexuality etc does not matter to these people, all antisemites’ see is a Jew to blame all the world’s problems, to hate, to dump all the fears of the other on.

This is why antisemitism is such as wide-ranging ideology, coming from across the political spectrum and hiding in many guises and continually metamorphosing like the three headed monster, who every time you think you have killed comes back bigger and stronger in a different guise. Jews have been blamed for capitalism and communism, greed and poverty. If something troubles you, antisemitism tells you the Jew is the eternal scapegoat.

The heart-breaking thing for me and so many Jews and non-Jewish allies fighting antisemitism is that the situation seems to be getting worse and worse. I’ve been monitoring, speaking out and attempting to root out antisemitism in the UK since 2012 and I wish I could say the situation has improved by then, but it has significantly worsened.

A report in July 2014 by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research ‘The Exceptional Case? Perceptions and experiences of antisemitism amongst Jews in the United Kingdom’ found that from 2009-2014 70% of UK Jews said antisemitism had grown. Then there were the problems those Jews faced who were observant. The report discovered that 60% of Jews who were traditionally observant sometimes avoided public display of Jewishness such as wearing a kippar.

In 2018 the Community Security Trust – which is monitors antisemitic crime incidents across the UK recorded a record 1,652 antisemitic incidents, a 16% rise on the 1,420 incidents recorded in 2017.

These are all statistics but behind them are personal stories like mine.

I was born in 1990. When I was around 5 to 6 being Jewish was great. I ate cool food at Jewish festival. I also had lots of non-Jewish friends who found it cool I was Jewish.

By the age of 7, being Jewish became a burden, as I was bullied simply for being Jewish. Its this bullying which to this day has robbed me of a lot of self-belief and I believe is a key reason why I am so susceptible to depression. The bullying continued till secondary schools and I did react in ways that did not help. I didn’t want to be Jewish, all it caused me was problems.

There were still some fantastic times, when I felt blessed being Jewish. I still remember the wide grin encompassing my whole face on my Bahmitzvah aged 13 (A ceremony when a Jewish man come of age). Reading from the Torah, I felt the presence of God and the loving embrace of my family and friends who had come to experience the joy of my Bahmitsvah.

Age 14 to 16 was tough. Alongside, all the teenage hormones which can make life nightmarish, I spent lots of time desperately trying to fit in with ‘the cool kids’ by hiding my Jewishness and if pressed making a joke of it. I went along with the antisemitic taunts masquerading as banter, which were like a dagger to my heart, but which I greeted outwardly with a nervous smile and a hollow laugh. Most of the jokes were around Jews being money grabbers, selfish and greedy. There was the ubiquitous dropping of coins and jokes about Jews getting sweaty in banks with all the money around. Sometimes it got sinister, the idea that Jews were in charge of the world – and given that why was I not rich. I tried to convince myself it was all banter.

At 16 I moved to a new school and resolved to never hide my Jewishness again. Its an important part of my identity and I will always be proud of being Jewish. Throughout university even when I saw antisemitism at Leeds University where I studied, I never again hid my identity.

At the age of 22 when I entered the world of work, I saw how antisemites would pretend they were anti-Zionist, but in their anti-Zionism frequently expressed antisemitic tropes. Terms like ZioShill, ZioNazi and Rothschild Zionist were the latest word accessory for antisemites.

The last two years have been a living hell for me when it comes to antisemitism. Every week I monitor pro-Corbyn Facebook Groups and Far-Right Facebook groups. The sewer of antisemitism which I monitor and record, is like an open sewer in these groups. Jews are all called disloyal, Zios, smear merchants, liars, part of a global Rothschild or Soros, whingers, string pullers, warmongers and much more. Indeed, what I’ve recorded goes to 100s of pages. It makes me feel as a British Jew that I am under attack and unwelcome in the country and I am not alone as one of over 300,000 Jews living in Great Britain feeling like this.

I hope I have given you a small insight in to the human impacts of antisemitism and why as fellow humans, we need the Muslim community to be #ActiveAllies in combatting antisemitism, as you should expect of the Jewish community when it comes to Islamophobia.

About Stephen Hoffman

Stephen is a young British Jew with a passion for writing and speaking out against intolerance.

From a young age, Stephen has been interested in the world and people around him. It is this which leads him to want to work to bring people together to challenge prejudice.

As a student at Leeds University, Stephen was active in the Jewish society and since graduation, he has held a number of roles including working in UK Parliament for an MP and for a variety of campaigning groups, which has involved him monitoring and campaigning against antisemitism and other forms of hate.

Share this:

We will not succumb to Hate

Share this:

We will not succumb to hate

In the last 8 months the world has seen a wave of violent attacks on faiths. They have been attacks at the heart of our communities intending to divide us, inspire more hate and more attacks of the same. In October of last year eleven people were killed in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.[1] The terrorist opened fire on a congregation attending Shabbat morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

In March of this year there were two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand killing 50 and injuring 50 others.[2] The terrorist opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers.

This Easter 321 people were killed and 500 injured in an attack on three Christian churches and four hotels.[3] It is unclear exactly who the attackers were and what there motives were but again it was a clear attack on faith and community.

These three attacks have been centred on attacking the heart and soul of communities. They have been inspired by ideologies of hate and nihilistic supremacism.  The strongest response we can have is to show our love and support for one another.

In response to the Pittsburgh and Christchurch we saw huge demonstrations of solidarity between faiths. Tarek El-Messidi, a Chicago-based activist created an online campaign with the backing of two muslim groups, ‘Celebrate Mercy’ and ‘MPower Change,’ raising over 240,000 dollars for victims of the Pittsburgh attack.[4]  Then in light of the Christchurch attack on Muslims, Jews opened a fund and raised money for the victims.[5] Responses to Christchurch by the community were incredibly powerful and moving; groups all over New Zealand performed the traditional Haka dance in solidarity and mourning for the victims;[6] a minute of silence was held in Christchurch for the victims following the Muslim call to prayer[7] and Jacinda Arden, New Zealand’s leader, responded to the atrocity with this powerful statement:

 ‘Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.[8]

We are now sickened by yet another attack but our resolve will not be broken. We will continue to stand for one another and in solidarity. Our communities will not be divided and we will not succumb to hate.


[1] Selk, Avi; Craig, Tim; Boburg, Shawn; Ba Tran, Andrew (October 28, 2018). “‘They showed his photo, and my stomach just dropped’: Neighbors recall synagogue massacre suspect as a loner”The Washington Post.

[2] “Police with the latest information on the mosque shootings”Radio New Zealand.

https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/384896/police-with-the-latest-information-on-the-mosque-shootings

[3] https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/21/whats-behind-the-terrorist-attacks-in-sri-lanka/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/us/muslims-raise-money-pittsburgh-synagogue.html

[5] https://www.thejc.com/news/us-news/pittsburgh-jewish-community-raising-money-for-new-zealand-s-muslims-after-mosque-gun-attack-1.481610

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47648393

[7] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/christchurch-holds-public-call-prayer-site-mosque-attack-190322000548154.html

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/world/jacinda-ardern

Share this:

Stronger Together. The world proves terrorist Brenton Tarrant wrong.

Share this:

50 killed including as young as three; a globe in mourning. A white supremacist with a camera strapped to himself hoping to gain fame as a hero and possible martyr for his successful mission in ensuring racial dominance has slaughtered 50 including a boy as young as three. In his sickening, lethal manifesto he purports immigration to be destroying communities and he claims to be acting for many that share in his beliefs, but New Zealand and the world are inspirationally proving otherwise.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister has responded to the atrocity with:

Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.’

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg has made this statement:

‘The oneness of God and the fellowship of our common humanity unite us. We must stand as surety for each other in times of threat and danger. We must act collectively against all forms of hatred and bigotry. We must foster friendship and understanding between us and all people. We must work together for the safety and good of all life everywhere.’

At MAAS we are utterly heartbroken as we watch footage of parents who have lost children as young as three and watch the community grief stricken laying flowers at the mosques but whilst devastated we are also inspired by the international outpouring of love for the Muslim community of Christchurch. We are not white, black, Christian, Jewish, Muslim alone we are human and we stand together in humanity. New Zealand comes together and shows us exactly what it means to stand together in solidarity for one another.

Photo of leader

Share this:

University of Essex Suspends Worker Over Antisemitism Allegations

Share this:

A worker has been suspended amid an anti-Semitism row at the University of Essex.

The member of staff has been suspended while allegations are independently investigated.

The university said a Jewish society will be created on campus regardless of a vote in which more than 200 students opposed it.

Concerns have been raised by the Union of Jewish Students over posts from the Facebook account of lecturer Dr Maaruf Ali, including one that read “the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university”.

University of Essex vice-chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “To see the University of Essex associated with anti-Semitism has been a deeply shocking event and one which has filled me with great sadness.

“Anti-Semitism is antithetical to the values of the University of Essex and has no place at our university.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and hate crime which is at the very core of our values and beliefs.

“We are proud to subscribe to the working definition of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“Recent events have shown me we still have work to do and I am announcing a series of immediate actions to tackle all forms of anti-Semitism within our community.”

The university said it will ensure a Jewish society is created irrespective of any ratification by the students’ union.

It has launched a review to ensure Jewish students and staff are provided with unequivocal support and will hold a public event on February 28 in support of its Jewish community.

The Union of Jewish Students said it was “deeply disappointed by the significant proportion of students” who voted against the establishment of a Jewish society and “dismayed” to see comments from the Facebook account of Dr Maaruf Ali.

It said it welcomes Prof Forster’s condemnation of anti-Semitism and commends the “swift, strong and supportive action taken”.

“There is certainly still a long way to go until antisemitism is eradicated from university campuses, but we are heartened that these steps will make a significant impact on improving the lives of Jewish students at the University of Essex,” the group said.

Share this:

Not funny. Why we must challenge ‘casual anti-Semitism’

Share this:

A friend of mine went on a date recently where she was asked, out of apparent curiosity, where Jews typically live in London. In listing areas she mentioned Golders Green. She was met with the comment:

‘Oh that’s why it is called Golder’s Green’

When the date was pushed on what he meant by this he replied:

‘Well you know Jews and all their money’

Appalled and shocked my friend changed the topic of conversation.

Over the next few days she decided to ask friends what they thought of this comment. I happened to be one of these friends, as we stood over the world’s largest stone scarab in the ancient Egypt exhibition of the British Museum, we came to a deeply troubling conclusion.

It is a fact that Jews constitute 100 of the 400 richest Americans, which is strikingly high when you consider Jews only make up 2% of the world population.[1] However this absolutely does not suggest an ‘evil’ and a conspiratorial level of control. In fact Tzedakah, the giving of charity, is a hard wired Jewish value and in this vein there are more charitable organisations per Jew than almost any other group.[2] Also it is of course not a blanket rule that Jews are wealthy, there are many Jews in poverty: in New York 30% of people living in Jewish households are poor or near poor[3] and the Jewish Chronicle recently dedicated a whole article to the question of shame around being poor and Jewish.[4]  But more to the point, a good attitude towards work and knowledge of business is no negative, it is the jealousy of the relative success of the Jewish people and emphasis put on it by society that has created a negative stereotype leading to the greatest horrors of history. There are other communities that put similar weight on education, take the Chinese as an example, identified as disproportionately ‘high flyers’ in the UK,[5] however their relative success has not had them labelled as evil manipulators controlling the world.

Since Roman times, Jewish people have frequently been depicted as wealthy, menacing and controlling. In these respects, Jews have been associated with Mammon, the deity associated with money, and Moloch, the Ammonite god associated with human sacrifice.[6] It was this deeply held conspiratorial belief that lead to Jews being the scapegoat of Germany’s economic catastrophe pre WWII. It was this belief that then had them depicted as evil, selfish wealth grabbers that had their properties and businesses snatched on the night of krystalnacht where over 91 Jews were killed and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Finally it was this belief that saw between 5 and 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

With this in mind you would think no young person would enter into banter connected to the same attitude that fuelled the largest orchestrated killing of a people in known history. It begs the questions what do young people know about the Holocaust and how deeply held are these anti-Semitic attitudes?

Let us first give the young man the benefit of the doubt. He did attend a top ten university and may have been trying to impress his Jewish date with his quick wit. Let us assume that he is aware of the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism that drove it. You may think this is an obvious assumption to make but it really isn’t. As a recent survey has shown one third of Europeans ‘know little or nothing about the Holocaust.’[7] Moving into the pre-history exhibition we decided it was likely that he isn’t within the one third that knows little to nothing of the Holocaust, however he maybe one of the quarter that believes Jews to have too much influence in business and finance,[8] thus a part of and adding to a new wave of anti-Semitism that is striking a deep fear into our Jewish communities. In fact this new rise in anti-Semitism has caused such fear that one third of Jews are considering leaving Europe.[9]

We then tried to further extend our empathy to this young man. Was it not just a joke? And when does a joke become a problem? We quickly concluded, as we moved past a recreation of a pre-historic Levantine burial site, that jokes naturally rely on stereotyping and that jokes often are dangerous and controversial in nature. However a joke that relies on the stereotyping of an at-risk minority, that has faced genocide as a result of said stereotyping and when said stereotyping strikes such fear into our Jewish community then it is no longer funny.

We concluded that there are some jokes that base themselves in such painful parts of human history, which use stereotypes that still pose a threat to the target of the joke, that they become dangerous. As a society we need to pay careful heed to the roots of stereotypes, the history of their effect and the current risk they pose. If a minority is still at risk and you are entering into what you consider to be ‘harmless banter’ then you are a part of the problem.

As we head towards Holocaust Memorial Day where we reflect on the evil that can result from engaging in prejudice we should reflect on how we can day to day better protect humanity from future atrocity. Understanding the roots of stereotypes and the risk they can pose to a people is a start. Identifying and challenging is the next step:

‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me’[10]


[1] https://www.jweekly.com/2013/04/12/jews-and-money-the-stereotype-the-history-the-reality-jccsf-series-explores/

[2] https://www.jewishcharityguide.co.uk/alphabetical-charity-list/

[3] https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-in-n-y-jewish-poverty-doubles-in-20-years-1.5275240

[4] https://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/family/i-m-poor-and-jewish-should-i-feel-ashamed-1.478383

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/feb/07/chinese-children-school-do-well

[6] https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/AboutUs/CivilSociety/ReportHC/75_The%20Louis%20D.%20Brandeis%20Center%20_Fact%20Sheet%20Anti-Semitism.pdf

[7] https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/AboutUs/CivilSociety/ReportHC/75_The%20Louis%20D.%20Brandeis%20Center%20_Fact%20Sheet%20Anti-Semitism.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Martin Neimoller, First They Came…

Share this: