Category Archives: Europe

UK Jewish Film Festival: Why do they hate us?

Prompted by a series of deadly attacks in Paris in 2015 and his son’s query about why Jews were one of the targets, Alexandre Amiel, a French-Moroccan Jewish filmmaker, set out to make a trilogy of films whose aim is to trace the origins of modern xenophobia in France towards Jewish, Arab and Black communities. 

I spoke at the UK Jewish Film Festival’s London screening of the film on 14 November, as part of a panel with Marie van der Zyl, Thomas Godwin, and Rt. Hon Joan Ryan MP. 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js


Talking Europe/10 Gower Street: What the Halle shooting tells us about the European far right

The five features of the contemporary far right – Birkbeck Talking Europe vlogcast, episode 6

Accompanied by a blogpost at Birkbeck Politics’ 10 Gower Street blog.

Blogpost full text below the fold…

Continue reading


Talking Europe: The rise of the far right in Europe

Continue reading


Seed Meeting – Culture, Religion and Social Model: Paris and London in comparison

From the UK French embassy webpage:

Seed Meeting – Culture, Religion and Social Model: Paris and London in comparison

The Seed Meetings programme of the French Embassy in the United Kingdom aims to facilitate international cooperation between researchers in the UK and France.

The seed meeting “Culture, Religion, and Social Model: Paris and London in comparison” brought together senior professors and early career researchers in the social sciences and humanities from both sides of the Channel at the French Embassy in London to interrogate the premises and methodologies with which we might work as a network to conduct comparative work on religious minorities (particularly Muslims and Jews) in and across the two cities.

Researchers from Université de StrasbourgUniversité de ToulouseUniversité de PicardieEHESSSciences Po Paris and Sciences Po Bordeaux discussed the issue with colleagues from CambridgeSOASUCLKing’s CollegeWarwick UniversityBirbeck UniversityDurham UniversityUniversity of London Institute in ParisUniversity of Sussex and the University of Sheffield.

JPEG

Discussions included considering the texturing of urban space in relation to community-formation, architecturally, culturally, demographically, historically, and socially; the ways in which the image of the city, the neighbourhood and urban space gets curated, notably in museums and in the media, and the importance of civil society and associational politics in shaping these representations at the local and national level.

The group reflected freely about such “methodologies of encounter,” shining a light on the importance of walking, mapping, surveying and measuring by blending methodologies of ethnography, quantitative sociology, spatial syntax, archival research and social network analysis. They discussed the use of new technologies and digital art to elicit responses and track community and neighbourhood data and finally argued at length about scale of research, from the house, to the school, to the hospital, to the shop to the street, and about definitions of what, after all, is it to live in a community, religious, urban, national, or otherwise.

Through a successful meeting of scholars from a range of disciplines, the focused discussions uncovered several ways forward to sustain and develop the network in a seminar series in France and the UK, a workshop that would reunite those present in Sciences Po in spring 2020a scheme of writing in pairs France-UK for a journal, and the collective planning of micro pilot studies which would drive forwards a significant comparative research project.

Published on 24/05/2019


France24: The resurgence of antisemitism

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I was on France24’s “The Debate” with Francois Picard this week, talking about antisemitism in light of issues relating to the yellow jacket protests in France and the Labour Party in the UK.

Is France becoming more anti-Jewish? Or has hate speech become more uninhibited? After some Yellow Vests hurled abuse at Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, people are rallying in Paris against anti-Semitism. Last year, anti-Semitic incidents rose 74% in France. Is social media enabling hate speech and fostering a culture of violence? Is that violence born from a changing world order, with weaker institutions like trade unions that used to channel grievances and tone down extremes?

Here’s a link to the YouTube version. The other guests were Rubin Sfadj and Juan Branco.
Cain Burdeau wrote up the broadcast for Courthouse News:

“We’re living in a time when there’s been a crisis of trust in sources of authority, sources of information, sources of knowledge, and so people seek alternative truths,” Ben Gidley, a senior lecturer in psychosocial studies at Birkbeck, University of London, said during the France 24 debate. “Once you stop believing in truth, almost anything can be true.”

Juan Branco, a lawyer for the yellow vest protesters, acknowledged during the France 24 debate that some protesters were guilty of anti-Semitism. But he blamed those incidents on people connected to the far right and said the movement’s leaders rejected anti-Semitism. He added that there was an intense effort to purge racist views from the protest movement.

Gidley said the rise of anti-Semitism was a troubling sign for Europe and does not bode well for the state of democracy.

“Jews are often one of the canaries in the coal mine,” he said. “It’s not just Jews, other minorities as well. You can take racist attacks as a kind of good indicator on the health of a democracy. Jews and other minorities are the first victims of a sickness in democracy.”


Muslim News Book Review: Rediscovering a shared past and the possibilities of a new future

Lovely review by Ala Abbas in The Muslim News of my book with James Renton on antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Continue reading


Enquêter auprès de migrants.e.s : le cas français en perspective/Migrants’ studies: The French case in perspective

This event occurred at Sciences Po in Paris on Wednesday:

 

   

SYMPOSIUM “Enquêter auprès de migrants.e.s : le cas français en perspective”/Migrants’ studies: The French case in perspective organized by Elodie Druez, Sciences Po, CEE & Nonna Mayer, Sciences Po, CEE, CNRS

Mercredi 12 décembre 2018/Wednesday 12 December 2018, 14h – 20h, Sciences Po, Salle Goguel/Room Goguel, 27, rue Saint-Guillaume, 75007 Paris

Contacts : nonna.mayer@sciencespo.fr & elodie.druez@sciencespo.fr

En 2015-2016 l’Europe a connu un afflux exceptionnel de réfugié.e.s et de migrant.e.s, fortement médiatisé et politisé, propice aux rumeurs et aux instrumentalisations. Comment faire des enquêtes sur ces populations dans une perspective de sciences sociales ? Quels sont les problèmes méthodologiques et éthiques qu’elles posent ? Comment y remédier ? Ce symposium se penche sur ces questions en deux temps. Un retour critique sur une enquête comparative menée dans 5 pays européens, ‘’Antisemitism and Immigration in Western Europe Today: is there a connection?’’ coordonnée par David Feldman au Pears Institute (Birkbeck, Université de Londres) et financée par la Fondation allemande EVZ  (Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft/Mémoire, Responsabilité et Futur) sera suivi d’une table ronde croisant les regards de spécialistes des migrations et des migrant.e.s.

In 2015-2016 the EU experienced an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants, widely mediatised and politicised, favoring rumors and instrumentalisations of all kind. How can one conduct surveys on such populations in a social science perspective? What are the methodological and ethical problems they raise? How can one cope with them? This symposium addresses these questions in two steps. A critical revisiting of a comparative survey conducted in five European countries, ‘’Antisemitism and Immigration in Western Europe Today: is there a connection?’’, coordinated by David Feldman at Pears Institute (Birkbeck, London University) and funded by the German Foundation EVZ (Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft/Remembrance, Responsibility and Future) will be followed by a round table bringing together experts in the research field of migrations and migrants.

 

Programme

14h-16h : Presentation of the EVZ report

Introduction/Opening: Florence Haegel (Sciences Po, CEE)

Elodie Druez & Nonna Mayer
Antisemitism and Immigration in Western Europe Today: Is there a connection?
The case of France

Contrepoint des autres équipes/Counterpoint by the other teams

Allemagne/Germany : Mathias Berek (Technische Universität Berlin)
Belgique/Belgium : Muriel Sacco (ULB) & Marco Martiniello (Université de Liège)
Pays Bas/Netherlands: Annemarike Stremmelaar (University of Leiden)
Royaume-Uni/United Kingdom : David Feldman & Ben Gidley (Birkbeck, University of London)

16h-16h30 : Pause/Break

16h30-18h30 : Table ronde/Round Table

Virginie Guiraudon (Sciences Po, CEE, CNRS), Laura Morales (Sciences Po, CEE), Patrick Simon (INED), Hélène Thiollet (Sciences Po, CERI, CNRS), Catherine Wihtol de Wenden (Sciences Po, CERI, CNRS)
Enquêter auprès de migrant.e.s, problèmes méthodologiques et éthiques/Round Table Migrants’ Survey: Methodological and Ethical Problems

 

Crédit Photo/Credit Picture : ©davide bonaldo_shutterstock


Scott Ury on “Islamophobia and Antisemitism” book: “an incredibly important contribution”

A lovely short review of Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? by Scott Ury in Religious Study Review.

Biblical Translating and Interpreting

 

First published: 04 November 2018 | https://doi.org/10.1111/rsr.13612 | PDF link | Text below
ANTISEMITISM AND ISLAMOPHOBIA: A SHARED STORY?
Edited by James Renton and Ben Gidley. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. Pp. xii + 311. $32.00.
By juxtaposing studies of anti-Semitism to those addressing Islamophobia, this collection of ten articles makes an extremely important contribution to both of these fields as well as the growing effort to study the various intersections and influences between these two related yet distinct phenomena. 

Continue reading


From the archive: Passages Through Dark Times

Been going through some of my old stuff, and found some stuff from the CUCR magazine Street Signs (archive online here). This is from page 18-19 of Volume 1, Issue 5, Spring 2003. The issue also has a lovely interview with Paul Gilroy about The Streets, Fran Tonkiss on “inner city values”, Michael Stone on Laurie Grove in New Cross, Les Back interviewing M Y Alam, Hiroki Ogasawara visiting Walter Benjamin’s grave, and a beautiful celebration of Flemming Røgilds.

The article below describes my first proper academic conference, in Leipzig, and reflects on the relationship between Jews and the left in the darkness of the 20th century, and how that darkness is remembered by historians and leaves its traces in urban space. Since I wrote it, some of the people in it have passed away, including Arnold Paucker in 2016 (age 95).

Memhardstrasse and Rosa Luxemburg Strasse

Passages Through Dark Times
Ben Gidley talks about Jewishness, Memory and Urban Space in East Germany

“You who will emerge from the flood in which we were drowned remember when you speak of our weaknesses the dark time from which you escaped…
Remember us with forbearance.”
–Bertolt Brecht “To Those Born After Us”

“Even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and in their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and
shed over the time span that was given them on earth…”
–Hannah Arendt “Men in Dark Times” 

The transit bus from the airport into Leipzig arrived at the exact time given on the time-table. The bus glided through the flat monotony of the Saxon countryside, entering a zone of urban sprawl, in which it was impossible to distinguish which low-rise concrete box contained homes and which contained factories, warehouses, offices. The grey postindustrial landscape was punctuated here and there by Vietnamese signs, testimony to the historic links between East Germany and Communist Vietnam.

From the bus station, we crossed over the no-man’s land of a wide ring road (“good for tanks”, as my Yiddish teacher, Gennady Estraikh, pointed out – a fact he knew from the bitter experience of living most of his life in the Soviet Union) into the beauty of the baroque town centre. Since reunification, Leipzig has been a jewel in the East’s crown, receiving heavy regeneration investment. “Leipzig is coming” is the bizarre slogan of the tourist office, which describes it as a cosmopolitan, multicultural town (not something apparent from the faces of the people I passed on the street).

It was Autumn 2001. I was in Leipzig to participate in a conference, held at the Simon Dubnov Institute for Jewish History and Culture, entitled “Jewish Questions, Communist Answers”, about the historical relationship between Jews and Communist parties. I was anxious about giving my first proper conference paper – especially as I was scheduled into the opening slot, at 9 a.m., sharing a platform with some of the most distinguished scholars at the conference. As it turned out, post-September 11 fear of flying had kept away many of the American delegates, including the one I was most scared about sharing a session with. The absence of Americans, however, also meant that the dominant language shifted from English to German, leaving me feeling a little marginal – something non-English speakers regularly experience in the often American-centric academic world. As with many European academics, most of the conference participants were able to slide with ease between languages. But the multi-lingualism of the conference delegates was part of something different. Continue reading


Anya Topolski on race after the Shoah

issue cover imageA really insightful and provocative review essay by Anya Topolski on Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? edited by James Renton and me, and Whites, Jews, and Us: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love by Houria Bouteldja. Some really nice words, and makes some important criticisms too.

Opening extract:

Race remains a taboo term and topic in Europe today. This post-Shoah silence is both political and, until very recently, academic.1 The two books under review aim to break this silence by tackling the complex and entangled questions of antisemitism, islamophobia, and white (Christian or secular) supremacy and to demonstrate that racism in Europe cannot be separated from the question of religion (and I would add well beyond Europe). The essays collected in Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, edited by James Renton and Ben Gidley, provide the rich histories and complexities concerning the race-religion intersection, in terms of [End Page 280] the shared stories of antisemitism and islamophobia, in Europe.2 Whites Jews and Us: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love, by Houria Bouteldja, is a passionate political appeal for action against the violence, exclusion, and power games experienced by excluded groups in Europe today.3 Read together, these two books offer a theoretical and applied analysis of racism in Europe today.

Let me first provide the reader with a summary of the contents. When Renton and Gidley selected and edited this volume, based on the proceedings of a 2008 conference, what was their ambition? With the nuance of erudite scholars, nuance sometimes lacking in Bouteldja’s book, Renton and Gidley refuse to take up the question of the complex relationship between antisemitism and islamophobia in a reductive or simplistic manner. Is it possible to focus on similarities without sacrificing differences or vice versa? The approach chosen by the editors is, in this vein, judicious. “We have to excavate and concentrate on a shared story of evolution; in short, we need a diachronic framework, in which we can identify moments of beginning, change, separation (6).” The aim is thus to focus on how this relationship has changed or unfolded over time which leads to the four-part diachronic structure of the book: Christendom, empire, divergence and response. While I welcome the aim, it might have been too ambitious as it would have required more active engagements with the respective contributions and an editorial conclusion. As it is, several of the essays feel rather misplaced. This is unfortunate as the structure and aim creates possibilities that would have been both timely and relevant. One concrete example is that of antizyganism. While the editors, and several authors, mention discrimination against the Roma, none consider how the exclusion and persecution of Roma might be related and entangled in this relationship—precisely because of the diachronic structure, this might have been possible.

READ THE REST.

Details: Continue reading


VIDEO: James Renton on antisemitism and Islamophobia

Details:  Continue reading


Parliamentary event: Understanding Islamophobia and Antisemitism in Europe and the UK in 2018

10 January 2018 10 am-11.30

This event presents recent academic research findings, based on the book Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, newly published by Palgrave Macmillan and edited by Dr James Renton (Edge Hill University/European University Institute, Florence) and Dr Ben Gidley (Birkbeck, University of London). The discussion, aimed at politicians, policy-makers and civil society, will focus on questions such as:

  • How have antisemitism and Islamophobia related to each other in different European contexts, historically and today? How can we understand this connection?
  • How did the term “Semite” come to refer to the Jews, and how is it connected to the term “antisemitism”?
  • Is Europe a secular continent – or a Christian one? And what does this mean for Jews and Muslims?
  • How can we combat antisemitism and Islamophobia together today? What historical resources can we draw on in building solidarity against racism?

For details of the book, see http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9781137412997.

Hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. Co-organised by Monitor: Global Intelligence on Racism, based at the Robert Schumann Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.

The event introduced and chaired by Nusrat Ghani MP, will include a short presentation of research by the co-editors, followed by a panel discussion and questions. Panellists will be Omar Khan (Runnymede Trust), Karen Pollock MBE (Holocaust Educational Trust) and Danny Stone MBE (Antisemitism Policy Trust).

Please email Ben to register to attend.


James Renton: Does Europe’s Far Right Hate Muslims the Same Way They Hate Jews?

By my co-author James Renton in Ha’aretz. Extract:

Protesters carry Polish flags and a banner declaring 'Islam = Terror' during a rally organized by far-right nationalists to mark 99th anniversary of Polish independence in Warsaw. November 11, 2017

President Donald Trump’s retweeting of anti-Muslim videos propagated by Britain First has made millions more people around the world aware of the European far-right’s crude Islamophobia.

Is this racism a retargeting of familiar tropes of anti-Semitic hatred? Or does anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hatred have a more complex relationship, both in history and in our current moment?

Prejudice toward Islam and Muslims is endemic in the Europe of 2017. The “Muslim Question” is central to the politics of the far right, which has achieved success unprecedented since WWII at the polls this year, from France to the Czech Republic via Austria and Germany.

More significantly, the fear of Muslims as potential terrorists has become an integral part of mainstream European politics and the European security state, as has been identified by Amnesty International, among others.

Several commentators and academics have argued that this groundswell of Islamophobia, which began in earnest with the “war on terror” after 9/11 and has gathered pace since 2015, has made Muslims the “new Jews” of Europe. They contend that today’s emergency is redolent of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, or of the late 19th century.

READ THE REST.

For all posts on our book Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Storyclick here.


Pourquoi les progressistes anglais célèbrent encore un grotesque antisémite et un négationniste ?

A French translation of my Ha’aretz op ed is published here.

Full text: Continue reading


Florence event: Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe

NYU Florence:

Oct 26, 2017 / 18:00 – 19:00 / VILLA SASSETTI

Are today´s Muslims Europe’s “new Jews”? Is Islamophobia the same as, or an aspect of, Antisemitism? Controversy over this question has raged over the last decade or so. From a historical point of view, is there a dynamic relationship between Antisemitism and Islamophobia and, if so, how has it evolved over time and space? Religion, empire, nation-building and war, they have all played their part in the complex evolution of this relationship. What does Europe have to say about the fact that Jews and Arabs were once called Semites, but are now widely thought to be on two different sides of the “War on Terror”?

Historian James Renton and the EU Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, will debate the relationship btween the two racisms and Europe’s response to it.

Moderated by Marcella Simoni, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Moderator


VIDEO: Is Marine Le Pen a fascist?

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

From politics.co.uk:

Tomorrow France goes to the polls in an unprecedented election between Marine” Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. But is the National Front candidate really an old school fascist? We talk to Ben Gidley, senior lecturer at Birkbeck, about the far-right’s attempt to rebrand itself and secure electoral success. You can follow him on Twitter here.

VIDEO LINK HERE

Interview by Ian Dunt

Filming & production by Alex Frois


Humanity at Sea

I recently spoke at this event at the Columbia Global Center in Paris:

Humanity at Sea Maritime Migration and the Foundations of International Law, 1945-2015

Below the fold, a video of the event. At some point I’ll post the text of what I said.

photo Roni Horn

Photo: Roni Horn

February 8, 2017

This lecture will attempt to connect the dots between the current “refugee crisis” and several of its relevant historical precedents: actions of Jewish migrants to Palestine after WWII, Vietnamese ‘boatpeople’, Haitian refugees seeking to reach Florida, and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees bound to Australia. Through its engagement with history, the talk will outline a novel theory of human rights modelled around an encounter between individuals in which one of the parties is at great risk.

Continue reading


France and England on the verge of a nervous breakdown

From Kenan Malik’s Pandaemonium:

The French journalist Ilana Navaro has made a superb four-part radio documentary series for France Culture on social policies towards immigration and integration in France and Britain. Entitled La France et L’Angleterre au bord de la crise de nerfs (‘France and England on the edge of a nervous breakdown’), the documentary visits a ‘theological cafe’ in Paris and the Cambridge Muslim College, a sharia council in Birmingham, Goutte d’Or, an area in the 18th arrondissement in Paris with a large North African and sub-Saharan population, Brick Lane in East London, and Walsall, in the English Midlands. Among those interviewed are the anthropologist Sam Everett, the sociologists Ben Gidley, Amine El Yousfi and Benoit Coquard, the historian Nazneen Ahmed, Amra Bone of the Sharia Council of Birmingham, Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters, Shaista Gohir of the Muslim Women’s Network, the Parisian imam Mohamed Bajrafil, the religious historian and trainer, Samia Hathroubi, and myself. (My interviews are in episodes 3 & 4.)

Kenan posts the audio too, illustrated by some beautiful Arabic calligraphy.

Here’s episode 3:

https://www.franceculture.fr/player/export-reecouter?content=b93feec0-b60a-4b38-9070-8287ec083796


Sharia Councils: a user’s guide

From France Culture:
Réécouter La France et l’Angleterre au bord de la crise de nerfs (2/4):
Sharia Councils, mode d’emploi
55min | 17.01.2017

Exporter https://www.franceculture.fr/player/export-reecouter?content=eea81f3a-f459-47a8-8d47-5934677510da


LONDON/PARIS JEWS/MUSLIMS

From the Woolf Institute blog:

Woolf Institute research in Paris: “Religion, social action and urban policy: London and Paris face to face” by Junior Research Fellow Dr Sami Everett

Critical comparative perspectives are key to thinking afresh about an object of study. This is why I organised a unique event called “Religion, social action and urban policy: London and Paris face to face” that drew together academics from across disciplines and actors of civil society working on or through faith. Each panel was carefully selected to give expert reflection on the differences and similarities between France and the UK (Paris and London) in terms of managing urban ethnoreligious diversity. Given the heightened suspicion of faith in Europe today, and in particular Islam, the event focused on attitudinal change. It quickly became apparent that central to this discussion is the vexed question of French secularism (laïcité), a key aspect of assimilationist policy, and its relationship to contemporary interaction between faith communities and religious discrimination.

[READ THE REST]

Here’s me:

Capturing faith and ethnicity statistics is another fundamental difference between the UK and France. French Republican ideals of neutrality and equality do not allow for such granularity in census data. Omar Khan Runneymede Trust director (London) gave a statistical overview of racial and islamophobic discrimination in employment using UK census data as a way of appealing to policy makers. By contrast, and in spite of having no data, Estelle Barthelemy, founder of Mozaïk RH  (a recruitment agency of diversity in the Paris region) works with to try and increase the number of ethnically and economically disadvantaged young people in upper tier (graduate) employment. Discrimination though, is also discursive (it permeates peoples’ political speech)  and paradoxically while important work has been done to limit  Islamophobic and anti-Semitic (but not only) hate speech, barrister Arié Alimi  and ethnographer Ben Gidley alerted us to the fine line between what at times people say and their behaviour i.e. people can work together and enjoy each other’s company yet speak in a prejudicial manner about one another.

ben-hanane

Ben Gidley and Hanane Karimi

 

The event was funded by the PSL-University of Cambridge partnership that seeks to strengthen intellectual collaboration between the UK and France. The Woolf Institute and the Faculty of History of the University of Cambridge organised the event with the French National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) laboratory Groupe Religions, Sociétés, Laïcités (GRSL).

Read the GSRL blog post by Sami Everett and watch the conference videos here.

psl-conf