PITTSBURGH TREE OF LIFE ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT FROM MUSLIMS AGAINST ANTISEMITISM

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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 .

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

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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.

  

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What antisemitism feels like

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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.

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University of Essex Suspends Worker Over Antisemitism Allegations

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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.

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

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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…

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With a Rise in Antisemitism – Minority Groups Should Stand Together

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There has been a 29% increase in hate crime since last year and over 700 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the first 6 months of this year alone. There is a real need for minority groups to stand in solidarity with one another in these troubled times.

With knowledge that positive content online lasts longer and propagates further, we will be developing and sharing content that showcases our positivity, our solidarity and our commitment to tackling prejudice together. Hear from our Outreach and Network Development Manager on what we will be doing and why.

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It’s no laughing matter – time to challenge conspiracy

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MAAS will be building a library of useful aids to challenge anti-Semitism. We will take manifestations of anti-Semitism and provide useful means to help you challenge them. First in this series we are looking at collective blame and conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11. 9/11 has seen hateful narratives created against both Muslims and Jews and in seeing how both of theses narratives have been created, their basis and why they are both false and dangerous we hope that you will have useful information to challenge these perceptions yourself.

Twin towers: The Jews did it! The Muslims did it!

 

Conspiracy theories might seem crazy, sometimes amusing but definitely not worth our time or attention. Wrong. Conspiratorial blaming around the twin towers provides a strong example as to why we must pay heed to conspiracy theories and dedicate time to challenging them.

On September 11th 2001 the Islamist extremist group, al-Qaeda, used four passenger airliners as weapons to attack the United States killing 2,996 people and injuring 6,000 others, causing Wall Street to close, resulting in a global economic downturn and closing civilian airspace in the US and Canada for two days. Despite the catastrophic effects this terror attack had on civilians and the economy, some adopt a belief that all Muslims were tacitly involved, or that it was not an Islamist extremist terror attack at all but an attack by the Jews.

Let us take first the notion that all Muslims are to blame for 9/11:

The thinking is this: 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslims therefore all Muslims are a threat. This kind of thinking saw hate crime against Muslims rise from 28 reported incidents to 481 in 2001 following 9/11.[1] It is the type of thinking that results in consistent spikes in anti-Muslim hate following Islamist inspired attacks. It relies on the belief that all Muslims are ideologically aligned and violently inclined. It is in fact a very easy fallacy to contest; firstly Muslims believe in a number of different interpretations of Islam belonging to a number of branches and can never ideologically be treated as a whole.

A useful parallel to draw here is with the Westboro Baptist Church: this widely reviled Christian sect spreads hate speech and is considered a hate group by nearly everyone, yet no-one would consider this group to be representative of Christian belief and practice as a whole.

Secondly even of those who adopt an extreme literalist interpretation of Islam are unlikely to believe in violent Jihad as a means to achieve religious/ political goals. For example, Saudi Arabians whose dominant faith is Salafi/ Wahabism, which insists on a literalist interpretation of the Qu’uran, and has been accused of laying fertile ground for terrorism, mainly emphasize dawa and reform as a way for spreading their ideology rather than violence.[2]

A useful parallel here is violent attacks perpetrated by the far right: even the most right leaning people in this country abhor far right violence like the killing of MP Jo Cox, yet they continue to disagree with her politics and may be accused of laying fertile ground for future violence. To conclude here there are a plethora of beliefs within Islam and even the distinct minority who adopt a literalist view are very unlikely to agree with violent measures. Therefore, despite the attackers of 9/11 being Muslim it does not follow that all Muslims should be considered a threat.

Now let us turn to the conspiracy theory that Jews were behind 9/11:

Hezbollah’s television station Al-Manar ‘reported’ that 4,000 Israelis employed at the World Trade Centre did not show up for work that day because they were told in advance of the attacks. This then became central to the conspiracy that it was Israel and the Jews, not Al-Qaeda, that perpetrated 9/11. [3] In fact it is estimated that 400 Jews died in the attack.[4]

Unfortunately, a conspiracy theory like this is not surprising: there is a concerning popular point of view that Jews control world affairs. A recent CNN survey showed that 28% of Europeans believe that Jews have too much power over business and finance.[5]

Again, we see a diverse and complex group treated as a whole. This is complicated further by conflating being Jewish with actions of the state of Israel. Jews hold a variety of different political and ideological views, and not all Jews believe in the Zionist ideology (the belief in a right to a Jewish homeland) and then many Zionists do not agree with Israeli state action.  So to treat all Jews as a whole and to consider all Jews to be supporters of and actively involved in Israeli state action is again a fallacy.

Both theories have elements of collective blame. Collective blame is the punishing of the whole for the actions of a few.  In these examples Muslims are collectively blamed for terrorist attacks and Jews are collectively blamed for disasters according to an association with Jews and power, wealth and global control.

The problem with collective blame, according to neuroscientist Emile Bruneau co-author of Interventions highlighting hypocrisy reduce collective blame of Muslims for individual acts of violence and assuage anti-Muslim hostility[6] is that “If you collectively blame an entire group for the actions of individuals, it makes it totally reasonable to exact your revenge from any person from that group… You get a cycle going on where each cycle is motivated to commit violence against totally innocent members of the other group.”[7]  The obvious example here is the Holocaust. The Jews were blamed for the economic problems Germany faced and were painted as a threat to national security and prosperity. As the nationalist propaganda began to take root, the majority of German citizens accepted, encouraged and even participated in the mistreatment of Jews under Nazi rule. To give an even more direct example, Kristallnacht, when 267 synagogues were destroyed and an estimated 90 Jews murdered by the SA and civilians, was seemingly in response to the assassination of the Nazi German diplomat by a German- born Polish Jew, but can be seen as a direct result of shifting blame collectively, where one Jewish person’s actions were used to instigate aggression of the whole community.

As this article has shown, conspiracy theories and collective blame should not be treated as a joke. In the fight against the rise in both Anti-Muslim hate and anti-Semitism conspiratorial thinking, sweeping generalisation and collective blame must be consistently challenged. An easy way to do this is to get accustomed to the common conspiracy theories, do some research on the facts and keep them ready for potential discussions that head in this dark direction. Pointing out hypocrisy and ‘fake news’ are the best way to challenge the theories. As well as pointing out how dangerous conspiracy theories and connected collective blame can be.

It may also be useful to consider why conspiracy theories are formed at all. Conspiracy theories are often created to either shift blame from a certain group or pin blame on another group. It is no surprise then that Jewish conspiracies surrounding 9/11 are widely held across the Middle East. Another reason may be to make sense of reality when it goes against set beliefs, for example: those who do not believe that we had the technology to go the moon, may adopt conspiracy theories advocating that the moon landing was faked. They can also empower the conspiracy theorists with a sense of superiority as they might feel they know something others don’t, and that they have unmasked something that those in power do not want them to know.

As David Baddiel put: ‘Conspiracy theories are a way for idiots to feel like intellectuals.’

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/conspiracy_files/6341851.stm

[2] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110shrg40579/html/CHRG-110shrg40579.htm

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20110604144105/http://www.adl.org/ADL_Opinions/Anti_Semitism_Arab/911_Conspiracies.htm

[4] https://web.archive.org/web/20021010020906/http://www.thejewishweek.com/bottom/specialcontent.php3?artid=362

[5] http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/

[6] http://pcnlab.asc.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/CB_R1_accepted_10-10-17.pdf

[7] https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/11/30/16645024/collective-blame-psychology-muslim

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Win the War? I’m not Fighting!

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Unpicking the Narrative of Bias

We live surrounded by invective, toxic opinion, and a lot of SHOUTING.

It is hardly surprising or blameworthy: there’s a great deal wrong with the world, and trying to be part of the solution is difficult and frustrating. Add to that the time pressures we are all under, the imperative to always produce and excel, so prominent in  the corridors of power and in our work place, and you have the ingredients for very bitter exchanges.

So what of a few bruises inflicted or a few wounds to lick? Surely the betterment of society warrants a few casualties, and we can just take it on the chin and carry on. In fact, we can probably draw strength from it, in the favourite trope of toxic masculinity: ‘grow a pair.’

But what if the methods were part of the problem? What if, in the race to turn up the volume and causticity of our utterances, we were causing irreparable damage? Or even worse, what if, by virtue of our combativeness, we were increasing our chances of defeat?

Intellectual debate has always relied on juxtaposition of different ideas, the very nature of thought formation occurs in neural connections made of electrical sparks, and reasoning is always made more fertile when challenged, yet the nature and rigour of the discourse is far more important that it is given credit.

The reasons differ from what may be immediately apparent, like  the basic need to keep a civilised exchange going and leave the debating floor with our integrity intact. In fact, having a more impassioned and rational debate helps us ‘unpick’ the automatic thinking that underpins so much of bias, prejudice and conflict.

That is not to say that we should shy from ‘calling out’ injustice and malfeasance as we see it, but by concentrating on the causality in our opponents’ motivations, we will make our argument stronger and more incisive.

The main problem with much of the acerbic exchanges on the media sphere is the ‘othering’ of our interlocutors by placing them into an immutably wrong conceptual space, allowing us to gain confidence in the righteousness of our position by virtue of contrast with it.

That is very much like the processes we employ, mostly unconsciously, when we make decisions based of biased premises.

The, now infamous, often quoted faux pas  by Jeremy Corbyn, who referred to Zionists as having no understanding of ‘English irony’, is a very good example to illustrate this point.

Corbyn later explained that he had used the term “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people,” and felt justified, I believe, in using the term to denigrate a political adversary, in the same way that one could say, without much controversy: ‘The Tories are a callous lot’ or ‘Socialists are living in the past.’

The point, however, is not whether the term is legitimately used, but that this process of creating a conceptually inflexible, all encompassing ‘other’ absolves us from reassessing her/his future utterances on their specific merits, and sanctions our treating of such utterances as the manifestations of a group that is intrinsically wrong, and therefore cannot contribute anything of value to the debate.

In other words, it allows the more prejudiced amongst us  to say that Zionist is ‘a thing’, like ‘women’ or ‘gays’ or ‘lefty’ and believe that everyone in that ‘group’ behaves as a single entity.

That is the same process we have employed in our biased decisions in our places of work, our courts of law and our social circles across gender, class, abilities, sexuality, religious and other perceived divides, in prejudiced structures whose mechanisms we are increasingly uncovering and struggling to make reparations for.

My point is that by frankly scrutinising our own arguments before making them public, we not only increase the mordancy and incisiveness of our arguments, but we also escape the vicious cycle of quick judgement and biased perspective.

In the debate about religious intolerance, these tendencies are exacerbated by the perceived immutable nature of God’s wisdom, and the various manifestations of holy utterances. Yet the mistake is to attribute these immutable qualities and infallibility to the very mutable and fallible human nature and all its manifestations and conflicts. It is no coincidence that when learned people: imams, rabbis, priests, philosophers, and others deliberate as a group, after studious reflection, their conclusions are inclusive and moderate.

So we should learn from the likes of Socrates, reflect on the conclusions of the Amman Message and The Bahrain Declaration on Religious Tolerance, and draw strength and perspective from the moderate sides of the argument, who are measured in their statements not out of weakness, but because of a strong and compassionate understanding of the inability of mankind to adhere to the perfection of God, Truth, and Justice. The emphasis is then on the process of seeking a path, rather than the appropriation of a predetermined, inflexible way.

In conclusion the way we really fight prejudice is by dismantling its complex structures into their small, often seemingly innocuous pieces. We must do this because human beings are intrinsically creatures of prejudice and coming to terms with it will help us navigate the small actual differences that divide us, and recognise the vastity of the common traits we share.

Lou Fioravanti is a Senior Researcher with Muslims Against Antisemitism

 

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A Socialism Which Is a Hatred of Jews: This is Not the Socialism I Want

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Reduce the world to binaries and moral absolutism and everything can be processed with extreme simplicity. Intellectual legwork is never required, introspection deemed unnecessary, when dealing with complex situations because rhetoric around imperialists, anti-imperialists and capitalism has created an immutable moral framework for the world. In this the protagonists and antagonists are clearly defined and context and political nuances become irrelevant.

Within politics this creates intellectual trappings where some fail to progress beyond the material they studied in colleges and universities, imprisoned in a hate of America and capitalism that might have seemed a bit more rational had it not been set against their silence towards politically inconvenient atrocities and adoration for communism. If you’re a leftist, you are automatically good. If you are on the right, you are the scum of the earth, allied with imperialists and capitalists. And no one for sections of the far left are worse than Jews and Israel.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on the Palestinian conflict. As an ethical socialist, I regard it as a moral necessity to protest against Israel’s human rights abuses, just as we should protest against any country that abuses these rights. But the intellectually impoverished far left do not stop there. And it’s their view of capitalism and Israel that needs to be understood when looking at the sharp rise in left-wing anti-Semitism in Britain today.

In their world of clearly defined antagonists, Jews, or at least the wealthy ones, are posited as one of the chief threats to equality and fairness. They are the schemers and plotters who control the media, who are behind atrocities. The rhetoric around Israel drips in contempt that extends far beyond activism for Palestine. After all, if it was the case that they sincerely cared for the Palestinians they would protest Assad’s bombing of the Palestinian camps in places like Yarmouk.

Virulent anti-Semitism has often been tolerated under the guise of being an anti-Zionist. In the name of battling for Palestine and being against capitalism, terrible tropes about Jewish people have been allowed to filter through in left-wing spaces. Sometimes the tropes are not immediately recognisable, dressed up in anti-capitalist, pro-Palestine messages. Bankers are seen as the embodiments of capitalism but in far-left discourses, also posited as being Zionists. Israel are seen as behind everything, the puppeteers dangling us all. It plays on the classic trope where Jews are the masters manipulating everything.

For Illuminati or freemasons, read Jews. For controlling the media, see Jews. Labels of establishment and the elite exist across the far left and far right and both are seeped in racism. On the far right, it speaks scathingly of liberals who hold soft views regarding immigrants, refugees and Muslims. But on the far left, concealed behind the discussions on capitalism and its flaws, it implies Jews.

This has flared sharply on the left within the Labour Party recently and has been poorly handled. The political tribe that once recognised racism as something to defeat today views it as a smear against the left, and more specifically, against Jeremy Corbyn. A movement that builds itself around the man rather than the idea will always fall apart when he does. And so it has happened here when accusations around Corbyn’s laxness towards anti-Semitism didn’t galvanise the left to combat racism but instead accuse Jews of whipping up a conspiracy against him.

From sharing platforms with Holocaust deniers, defending a racist mural, laying wreaths for anti-Semitic terrorists, Corbyn has done little to fight anti-Semitism and shown very little sincere interest in fighting it. Bring this up and you hear talks of Cable Street and lifelong campaigning against racism. Anti-racism isn’t something you say but something you do, and where it has concerned him at the most pivotal point in his political career, Corbyn has failed miserably.

His allies have spoken of fighting anti-Semitism and yet at every turn been more concerned about free speech than fighting bigotry. They have continuously absolved him at every turn whilst maintaining the pretence that the left consistently fights racism.

Part of the problem is the premise that racism is a combination of power and prejudice, and as Jews are seen as powerful, cannot ever be victims. So when Jews are attacked or abused, sympathy for them is not what it would be say for blacks or Asians.

This is not what socialism looks like. This not what it should ever look like.

Rabbil Sikkdar is a British Muslim writer and has previously published in the New Statesman, Independent, I and Left Foot Forward.

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You Can Stand Firmly Against Antisemitism & for Palestinian Human Rights says Rabbil Sikdar

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Society today is notable for its inconsistency over racism. Some are less affronted by racism and more aware of an opportunity, seeing it either as a weapon for them or against them. Within Britain, both the Conservatives and Labour are increasingly specialists in selective outrage. Labour were once seen as the party that opposed racists and fascists but increasingly has become suffocated by the stench of its unwillingness to address anti-Semitism. The Tories happily point this out whilst allying with anti-Semites in Europe and dismissing Islamophobia.

Unfortunately, treating racism as something requiring moments of outrage depending on whether the wind is blowing against you or your opponent is no stranger to the rest of society. Anti-Semitism remains a scourge in our country, with British Jews visibly abused and assaulted, though the receding mention of this in the newspapers suggests how normalised it has become.
The Community Security Trust (CST) warned that over a 100 anti-Semitic incidents were being recorded on a monthly basis in Britain, stating that bigots were becoming increasingly emboldened to express their views. Children had been physically assaulted while graffiti had stained homes and synagogues, while MPs had been targeted with abuse for speaking out.

Chief executive David Delew said the findings “continue a trend that has now lasted for over two years. This anti-Semitism is not a random event, it reflects the state of British politics and wider society.”

The hostile environment towards British Jews is encapsulated by Labour’s implosion on this matter. But what about amongst British Muslims? How rife, or non-existent, is the issue of anti-Semitism amongst Muslims?

A study by CST found that British Muslims as a demographic were significantly more anti-Semitic than the general population, measured by their agreements or disagreements with a series of statements. When presented with the statement that a British Jew was as British as any other person, 61% of British Muslims agreed compared to 78% of the general population. And while 61% of Britons viewing Jews as making a positive contribution to society is a depressingly low number for one of Europe’s more tolerant societies, amongst Muslims it polls as low as 37%. Other statements which display prejudice towards Jews amongst many British Muslims include ‘Jews think they are better than other people’ and ‘Jews get rich at the expense of others’. The most harrowing statistic is that 27% of British Muslims believe Jews have too much power compared to 8% of wider society.

These numbers represent an unavoidable problem that must be addressed. But a reassuring takeaway, or perhaps simply an indicator of low standards, is that there are plenty of Muslims who reject prejudice towards Jews. Often when confronting issues amongst British Muslims, many commentators, tempted by their own internal biases and prejudices, resort to blanket statements regarding British Muslims. But likewise, silence serves no-one, least of all British Jews.

As Labour lurches from crisis to crisis on this issue it’s not uncommon to find the post of a prominent British Muslim activist on social media labelling accusations at Jeremy Corbyn as simply smears concocted by the establishment. Increasingly people associated, presently or formerly, with notable British Muslim organisations have been firmly insistent that anti-Semitism is just a conspiracy conjured to derail a Labour Party wedded to Palestinian liberation.

Understanding why British Muslims are relatively muted on anti-Semitism compared to other forms of racism requires understanding of how much of a burning issue the Palestine-Israel conflict is amongst British Muslims. As a community (plural more than singular) we are not the most politically active, and our energies are limited to issues that directly affect those of Muslim identities. Foreign affairs is a big talking point amongst British Muslims, and it’s common to find someone outraged (and rightly) over the Iraq War and Assad’s butchery in Syria.

But it is Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians which sparks the most anger and activism. Yet as seen in the numbers mentioned earlier, it has resulted in many British Muslims regurgitating old anti-Semitic tropes. They see Israel behind everything, blame them for trying to undermine the fabrics of the Islamic identity in the Middle-East. Jews are seen as the rich, invisible puppet masters of the world. And because Jews are seen as powerful, sympathy for those abused in Britain becomes low. Anti-Semitism is regarded as a distraction from focusing on Palestine, a form of racism that isn’t a real racism. It’s as though anti-Semitism died with Hitler and since then it’s been cosy for Jews. Combine that with Jeremy Corbyn’s impassioned stance on Palestine and racism, any criticisms of him regarding anti-Semitism is often decried by leading British Muslim activists.

Islamism is rooted in anti-Semitic beliefs but this is not the cause of its prevalence. Most British Muslims are happy to live in a secular state like Britain and are not agents for Islamist reform in the country. Anti-Semitism doesn’t owe itself necessarily to Islamism but a mutation of activism for Palestinian justice. Tackling it requires an acceptance that Jews are also ethnic minorities in Britain, something many on the left don’t consider when discussing BAME communities. Many Jews might be wealthy but that doesn’t mean they have any significant level of power and influence in British society. British Indians after all are a prosperous minority in the country, yet few would consider them to be immune to racism.

Many Muslims can sympathise with the notion that Israel was created as a refugee state for a group of people persecuted and hounded by white supremacists. They can see the powerful concept of a Jewish homeland and separate it from Israel’s awful treatment of the Palestinian people. Campaigning for a dismantlement of the illegal settlements in West Bank is a basic humanitarian obligation. But it doesn’t contradict the need to talk up more about anti-Semitism. This is basic solidarity that victims of racism should show each other.

Look to Pittsburgh in America where a white supremacist gunned down Jewish worshippers in a synagogue and the local Muslims responded with acts of compassion and kindness. That is the Islam that is preached in the Quran. Not one that advocates silence when Jews are facing bigotry on the streets of our home.

Rabbil Sikkdar is a British Muslim writer and has previously published in the New Statesman, Independent, I and Left Foot Forward.

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