Category Archives: Fascism and far right

France24: The resurgence of antisemitism

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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.”

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The vicious circle of Islamist terrorism and far-right extremism

When most people think of the Bataclan these days, it’s not the venerated theater where rock bands have been playing since the 1970s which comes to mind. Rather, it’s Islamist terrorism, after 89 people were killed there during a concert in November 2015.

So when news spread this fall that a rapper named Médine, who once named an album “Jihad” and is openly critical of secularism in France, will play the Paris venue in the fall, the far right was outraged. “Is it normal that a militant, fundamentalist Islamist goes to the Bataclan to express his hatred and defend ideas that I believe are inciting crimes?” asked France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

An article in CS Monitor by  (Correspondent) and  (Staff writer). Colette interviewed me for the article. Here are the extracts with me in them:

“It’s partly about the politics of the spectacle of confrontation,” says Ben Gidley, a senior lecturer of sociology at Birkbeck, University of London who worked on a 2014 study on what drives extremism in British society. “Every time [a far right leader] is on television saying something inflammatory, that fuels the anger about extreme Islamism which gives an opportunity to the entrepreneurs of panic on the right to put their message into the public sphere. Once you have a spectacular appearance on one side, it gives a platform to the other.”

And:

Mr. Gidley in Britain says that labeling far-right violence “terrorism,” whether in political discourse, media coverage, or within civil society, is a solution to breaking the cycle. “It’s really important,” he says, “to challenge the association of terrorism and Islamism which contributes to the anti-Muslim discourses that feed the far right and to have clarity to challenge it properly, that there is a problem with right-wing terrorism.”

He also says policy makers need to create more space for cultural mixing and frank talk about people’s concerns amid demographic change. “There need to be more opportunities for people to air their grievances, to feel listened to,” he says. “If there are concerns about migration or foreign policy, instead of making them into taboo topics, create opportunities to allow people to feel listened to so they don’t get channeled into extremist ideology.”

I think in the first quote, there’s a slight leap out of context. I think where it puts “a far right leader” in square brackets, I was referrring to Anjem Choudary, the British hate preacher the UK mainstream media love almost as much as they love “Tommy Robinson”. My point was that each time he appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamism that feeds the far right (just as every time “Robinson” appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamophobia that fuels Islamism.

In the second quote, I am arguing that the far right and Islamists resemble each other in channeling real (as well as imaginary) grievances in dangerous directions.

These ideas are developed more fully in a chapter I wrote with David Feldman in this report.


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


Gilad Atzmon in Reading

I have published my first op ed in Ha’aretz. The title is theirs not mine. It’s online here, the opening below.

Opinion Why Are U.K. Progressives Still Celebrating a Grotesque anti-Semite and Holocaust Denier?
When a publicly-funded community center hosted the Jew-hating Gilad Atzmon, it blocked anti-racists on Twitter who challenged the decision. For many on the U.K. left, the denial of anti-Semitism has become a reflex

Ben Gidley Oct 30, 2017 10:30 AM Continue reading


VIDEO: Is Marine Le Pen a fascist?

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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