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Muslim Anti-Semitism Needs to be Discussed

This article was first published in Ha'aretz.

BritisIn France, just a few days ago, 300 French dignitaries and stars wrote an open letter about the "quiet ethnic purging" of Jewish communities in the country and they cited Islamist extremism as being the root cause of this racial and demographic purge. They also lamented the fact that 11 members of local Jewish communities had been killed by Islamists since 2006 and with the most recent murder being that of Mireille Knoll, an 85 year old woman who had survived the Nazi round up of Jews in Vel d'Hiv in 1942, and where families, men and women were then transported to concentration and death camps. Only about 100 of the 13,000 Jews who were detained at Vel d'Hiv survived and Mireille Knoll was one of them. She was to end up being murdered in Paris, stabbed 11 times in an antisemitic murder and frenzy, which led to the arrest of 2 people, including a man of North African heritage.

The Community Security Trust monitors antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom and their 2017 annual report, makes for stark reading. Out of 1,382 antisemitic incidents in the year, they managed to obtain descriptors of the ethnic appearance of perpetrators in about 30% of cases. Of these cases, 107 involved perpetrators of 'South Asian' or 'North African' appearance and in proportion to cases with these identifying features, about 25% of the cases involved individuals from these backgrounds. There is a high probability that many of these individuals were of Muslim heritage.

The CST goes out of its way not to stress this fact, that a significant proportion of the perpetrators of street based cases, involved people who probably were Muslims. Add to that the fact that online hate which is reported to the CST now makes up about a fifth of their cases and where anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian sentiment in a large number of the tweets, cross into antisemitic tropes. Tweets with pictures of blood libel and with the Palestinian flag ensconced in the tweets, or with dead children with a star of David emblazoned on their bodies and with organs missing, all play to age old tropes of insidiousness, that have been thrown against Jews over the ages. Yet, troublingly, much of this rhetoric online was also circulated by British Muslims during the 2014 Gaza campaign and through Operation Protective Edge. The tropes, images and language still cycles through social media and through three different sets of activists, if we can call them that. These include through Islamist accounts and into the accounts of some British Muslims, a proportion of whom are not aware that the material is antisemitic and through the accounts of others who simply don't care. For the latter, defending the Palestinian cause means openly being antisemitic and not caring what impact this has on Jewish communities and the collective heavy baggage of history hoisted onto Jewish communities that has so deeply traumatized the communities. The second strand where this rhetoric finds recirculation and a home is amongst the far left, many of whom have attempted to rejoin and enter the Corbynite Labour Party, which in itself highlights some of those attracted to the opposition leader. The final element where it finds a home is within far right sympathisers and those who just hate Jews because of 'old-school' far right antisemitism.

Sadly, all three stick onto social policy issues such as the Palestine and Israel conflict like limpets, sucking on the lifeblood of the Palestinian cause, dirtying and muddying the cause of the Palestinians with their Jew hatred and their vile poison which means that no-one takes the Palestinian cause with any real political seriousness in Europe. For example, I remember, the campaigns for a free and viable Palestinian state in the 1980's which were mainly held by middle class liberal Brits who genuinely demonstrated for a space where Palestinian culture and life could flourish. Some of these demonstrators rallied in the belief that two states could mean a real solution for the region and few had antisemitism at their core. During the 1990's a steady array of Islamists joined the demonstrators, walking in clothing that was reminiscent of villages in Pakistan and with placards that caricatured Jews as puppet masters of the West. The Islamist extremist bandwagon had turned up and expropriated the Palestinian cause from Quakers, liberals and those 'Greenpeacers' who formed the backbone of the political left at the time. It was to be a matter of time before this Islamist extremism was to find a natural synergy and partner in the extreme left in Britain, something that is patently visible and obvious today as they smell the backdoors to power through a Corbynite government.

Yet, I have to admit, that I have even been taken in and duped by those who have tried to associate themselves with causes that are of interest to Muslim communities, probably just because of their antisemitism. Such is the twisted logic of these people, though they are determined and wily. As the Founder of Tell MAMA, the Muslim equivalent of the CST, individuals have tried to be helpful in reporting anti-Muslim hate and some have postured as though they were anti-racist campaigners. Taken at face value, they seemed reasonable and decent people. One in particular, turned out, after a wider investigation to be a full-on antisemite, something that shames me into admitting. It also means that antisemitism is a complex and much wider problem that many of us have previously thought, and sadly, depressingly, it comes from a wide range of areas, including within some sections of Muslim communities where it is entrenched and mixed up with 9/11, 7/7 and other geopolitical conspiracy theories.

It also means that antisemites will make approaches to organisations that work on issues of significance to Muslim communities, as anti-Muslim haters may make the reverse approaches to organisations working on antisemitism. Social polarisation in the UK means that the political left and right have re-aligned. Whilst this may be an overgeneralisation, there is some substance to this. The political left in the UK has taken up the cause of tackling anti-Muslim hate and racism. To many on the left, though, antisemitism is not seen to be racism, once again playing to tropes by making the assumption that racism is linked to power and hence, Jewish communities have power and so hate against them can't be racism. To those on the political right, antisemitism is a problem, though anti-Muslim hatred to many on this spectrum, has been brought upon Muslim communities because of their co-religionists and their involvement in terrorism. According to their logic and thinking, the mark of Cain has been brought onto Muslims by other Muslims. They may not say it, but anti-Muslim hatred is a by-product of their co-religionists and therefore, 'they kinda brought it upon themselves' is the internal voice and mantra which ruminates in many on the political right. Clearly, both political spectrums have their twisted reasoning.

As a British Muslim, I can honestly say that I have never seen such a fractured nation as I see now and where antisemitism is deeply rooted in some parts of British Muslim communities. I have lost count of the number of times I have been called a 'Zionist' for working with groups like the CST and those Jewish groups at the frontline of tackling hatred and prejudice. A convenient smear for some co-religionists to bypass the antisemitism charge by throwing out the term 'Zionist'. Many who throw this term out have hardly crossed their twenties and were not even born when the first Intifada even took place, yet their world view is that everything Jewish is bad and everything that they deem is Islamic, is good. Just don't ask them about minorities in Islam, since the minorities they don't like are deemed to be a threat to Islam. In their minds, the world is polar, with Muslims and Jews at opposite ends and it is people like this who are winning the hearts and minds of many young disaffected people in the country. On the other side, anti-Muslim hatred is growing within white working class neighbourhoods who see Muslims as the existential threat and where the appropriation of the Israeli flag and Jewish symbols are a means to bait Muslims.

We are truly at a dangerous juncture and it will take people of courage to speak out. At the very least, more Muslims can speak out and challenge the antisemitism within. If we fail to do so, we can forget ever talking about equality, justice and tackling racists. It is those who speak at times where things seem overwhelming, who can lead the way. God knows, we need them more than ever.