Monday, 3 September 2018

The Jewish community has a problem with Muslims

Whisper it quietly, but the Jewish community has a racism problem of its own. Recently, I was expelled from the Facebook group Jewish Britain. My 'crime'? Arguing that the Jewish community should not be a home for Muslim haters. Arguing that it is possible to call Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party out for antisemitism without resorting to Islamophobia. Essentially, my crime is that I do not hate Muslims and I don't think you should either.

Unfortunately, this is not a view shared by at least a noisy minority in the community and what seemed like the vast majority of the Facebook group. Certainly, its admins were Islamophobes and/or tolerant of it. And then there are the justifications. I don't hate Muslims, but Islamophobia is a term created by the PC media to prevent criticism of Islamic extremism. Or, I cannot be an Islamophobe, I am not scared of Islam and/or the fear is rational. Or, but Islam is not a race, so I am not racist. Or, there is a serious problem with Islamic extremism so it is not Islamophobic to say that Muslims are dangerous. And so on, and so forth. The excuses are as plentiful as they are pitiful. Then there is the 'other'-ing. Defines Muslims as some sort of different species but denying this can be Islamophobic. It is in some way justified.

And where have we heard all this before? Oh yes, the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite. The majority of his top team are antisemites, the NEC is populated with antisemites. And then there are the MPs that are antisemites and the noisy minority (we are repeatedly told its a minority, but it feels, as a Jew, to be a scary majority) of the party's members. Sound familiar? What about the excuses? It isn't antisemitism, it's a smear because Jeremy is pro-Palestine and/or, what counts as antisemitism is merely fair criticism of Israel that you're trying to shut down. Jews aren't a race, so it can't be racism. Jews aren't the only Semitic people so I cannot be an antisemite. Israel does terrible things, so this is not antisemitism. And on and on and on and on.

There have been some wonderful things coming out of social media. Rabbis and Imaans standing together against the hatred targetting their respective communities. Jews condemning the Tory Party's Islamophobia problem and Muslims condemning the Labour Party's antisemitism problem. It's heartwarming and we need more of it because we are stronger together. Hatred against one community, discrimination against one community undermines our democracy entirely and must, absolutely must, be considered hatred and discrimination against all. You cannot claim to be anti-racist if discrimination against one community is ignored or okay. If you're Islamophobic, you may as well be an antisemite for all I care. Jews, then, need to face up to what is happening in our community. It is absolutely correct that Labour is a cesspit of antisemitism and we correct to be scared. Jews have seen this before. We know where this goes. Don't tell us we're being dramatic or exaggerating. It is instilled in our DNA. Jew hatred, wherever it has manifest has led to dreadful, dreadful things for Jews.

But that means we must be more vigilant when it comes to discrimination against Muslims and other communities. Precisely because we know how it feels to be demonised and othered and attacked just for being Jewish. We know better than anyone else where it leads. So it pains me when I see Jews so easily being Islamophobic as if it is somehow different. It destroys my soul when I read Jews attacking Islam and claiming not to be racist using excuses that Corbyn and his cronies use when they are antisemitic. It sickens me when Jews use rhetoric against Islam that the Nazis used against Jews in the 1930's and that Labour now uses in a painful throwback. It upsets me when I call people out on Islamophobia and receive hatred in return as if I am somehow less of a Jew for believing that antisemitism and Islamophobia are both wrong. And it disgusts me when I get removed from a group for calling out its admins for tolerating Islamophobia, being Islamophobic themselves or endorsing Islamophobes.

But it strengthens my resolve because I refuse to let us disgrace our values and traditions. We disgrace the memory of the relatives we lost in the Holocaust when we are Islamophobic. We disgrace the memory of never again, we undermine its meaning every time we defend or justify what is a blind and disgraceful hatred of Muslims. Just because the Labour Party is doing its best to recover the rhetoric that the Nazis used does not mean we have to stoop to their level. Just because Jeremy Corbyn refuses to accept that he is an antisemite that endorses Jew-hatred and supports the genocidal maniacs that wish to see all Jews across the world dead, does not mean we need to reject another community's struggle against discrimination. Just because the Labour Party has become a safe space for antisemites; racists; conspiratory theorists; terrorist, Iran, Putin, genocidal Jew-hater and Assad apologists does not mean we should deny Islamophobia. Just because the Labour Party has undermined its values, destroyed the party and lost its soul does not mean we need to do the same.

We should know better. We do know better. Let's be better.



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