Category Archives: Antisemitism

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

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James Renton: Does the World Really Need More Experts on Racism and anti-Semitism?

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

In our current age of populism, the expert is much maligned. The UK government minister and Brexit champion Michael Gove famously declared in 2016 that “People in this country have had enough” of them. In the United States and on the world stage, Donald Trump’s presidency is the embodiment of anti-intellectualism. Shooting (quite literally) from the hip is the order of the day.

The side-lining, or absence, of experts in public debate has been particularly marked in the furor over anti-Semitism and other racisms in the last few years. This is no coincidence; populism is a result and vehicle of multiple crises of racism around the world.

We (the experts) must respond. As a big step in this direction, the European University Institute in Florence, Italy has launched an online magazine to bring academic expertise on racism to global public debate, collaborating with NGOs, policymakers, and public institutions such as museums….

Earlier this year, our magazine co-organized with the All-Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism an event at Westminster on anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim prejudice. The research briefing emphasised the complexities of how these two racisms have been connected (but also distinctive) over the last millennium.

This research shows that focusing on only one racism in one political party in one country means missing a crucial context: a much bigger, inter-connected European and global picture of multiple racisms across political divisions. This is the sort of expertise that could change completely public debate, and it needs to be known.

READ THE REST.

 

 

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


MONITOR Event Report: UK Houses of Parliament – Islamophobia & Antisemitism

From Monitor:

In 2017, antisemitism and Islamophobia were, along with other racisms, on the rise around the world. In Charlottesville in the United States, far-right militants marched chanting against the world Jewish conspiracy. In Myanmar, Muslims fled for their lives to Bangladesh. In the UK and Europe, these racisms also continue to flourish. But are they connected? In the aftermath of 9/11, controversy has raged about whether Islamophobia is the new antisemitism.

MONITOR chose this pressing issue for its first public event. The location: the UK’s Houses of Parliament, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

The magazine aims to bring cutting-edge research into global public debate, and this collaboration was the ideal place to start. The Editor, Monica Gonzalez Correa, flew in especially from Florence.

[READ THE REST]

Podcast:


Video: On my Monitor parliamentary event report on Islamophobia and antisemitism

This is a trailer for my article in the new website Monitor:

Follow the Monitor YouTube channel.


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.


Reply to Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon wrote – and Ha’aretz published – a reply to my op ed about him. Here is my reply to his reply, which I did not send to Ha’aretz.

Gilad Atzmon starts his letter by calling me a “Zionist”. Normally, I would reject that designation, but Mr Atzmon has called my friends in the (anti-Zionist) Jewish Socialist Group “anti-Zionist Zionists” because their commitment to Jewish culture and identity marks them out as “tribalists” and therefore “Zionists”, so maybe from him I should take it as a compliment.

Tellingly, he continues that I “failed to properly source a single accusation” against him, and that I instead cited “opinions printed in extreme Zionist and Jewish outlets”. My article indeed cited a couple of Jewish outlets, such as the Jewish Chronicle and the Community Security Trust, although to most people these wouldn’t count as “extreme” Jewish outlets. But mainly I cited anti-racist and left sources: the anti-fascist Hope not Hate, Socialist Unity’s Andy Newman, the former SWP activist Richard Seymour, and Palestine solidarity campaigners such as Ali Abunimah and As’ad AbuKhalil. Anyone who thinks those are “extreme Zionist and Jewish outlets” has, well, issues.

Mr Atzmon continues “in my entire career I have never referred critically to Jews or anyone else as a race, biology or people”. The “as a race, biology or people” bit is essential, because his attacks on what he calls “Jewishness” are not framed biologically, but as attacks on “Jewish ideology”, “Jewish identity” and “Jewish power”. However, his writings tend to short-circuit rapidly from this distinction to race. For example he has written that “I contend that all forms of Jewish politics are ethno-centric and to a certain extent, racially driven.”

And he uses all the standard tropes of racial antisemitism when he talks about Jewishness: in his Reading talk he spoke of Jewishness as “following mitzvot” and said the “Jewish lobby is a cosmopolitan lobby”. In his other recent writings, he has repeatedly insisted that “Jewish power is the capacity to silence the discussion of Jewish power”. He obsessively uses the word “tribal”. He repeats alt-right conspiracy theories, for example muttering about “[George] Soros’ funded front (Antifa, Black lives Matter, LGBTIAP groups etc.)”.

As the legacy of the Holocaust has left explicit raciology toxic in our culture, many racists on the far right have avoided openly using the language of race science, preferring for instance to dwell on “cultural” rather than racial difference and to use terms from the classical lexicon of racial antisemitism or names like Soros as code-words for the deeper agenda. Atzmon’s writings on “Jewishness” fit well into this paradigm.

On one point Mr Atzmon concedes my charges are “correct”: that his writings “are circulated by some right-wing and conservative outlets and thinkers”. That, however, is not a charge I made. I said they are “widely circulated on far right websites”. It is not mainstream conservative websites who like Atzmon, but Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

He qualifies his concession: “they are at least as popular within left-wing outlets and progressive circles.” I am curious which outlets he refers to, as his views have become increasingly toxic to the point where even those few left sites which once gave him a platform, such as the Socialist Workers Party, now seem to find him an embarrassment.

Ben Gidley, London


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


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


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


CALL FOR PAPERS: (UN)MAKING EUROPE – Islamism and the right; Antisemitism and racism

 The European Sociological Association has issued its call for papers for the 2017 conference, (Un)Making Europe: Capitalism, Solidarities, Subjectivities, which will be in Athens in September. The closing date is 1 February. The whole call is here.

This post is to draw your attention to the semi-plenary and stream organised by Research Network 31 (RN31), the network on antisemitism and racism. Here are those calls:

SP10 – Right-Wing Extremism and Islamist Extremism in Europe: Similarities and Differences

Coordinator: Karin Stögner, University of Vienna, Austria karin.stoegner@univie.ac.at

Right-wing extremism and Islamist extremism have a strange relation. While political right-wing extremist agitation often focuses on Islamist terror and instrumentalizes it for an agitation against Muslims and migration in general, Islamist-extremist movements refer to a “war of the West against Islam” in order to mobilize against the West in general. Despite these obvious differences, the two movements show striking similarities, such as antisemitism, homophobia, discrimination of women, homogenizing collective identity constructions, antidemocratic orientation, and authoritarianism. Both movements engage in an authoritarian rebellion against the ruling system and give themselves an anti-elitist image. Conspiracies and scenarios of impending doom play a major role in both. The “Jew” as the universal foe is central in both ideologies, just as a strict gender-binarity and a reactionary gender regime. Against this background Islamist extremism and right-wing extremism need to be viewed as competing authoritarian movements rather than opposite ideologies. For this semi-plenary session we call for contributions that explicitly relate the two movements to one another, referring to the similarities no less than the differences.

Issues that could be addressed by submission include: Antisemitism in right-wing extremism and Islamist extremism, including the image of Jews and Israel in both ideologies. How do the two movements relate to collective identity constructions, the nation and the Ummah? What is the role of gender-relations and gender-images in both ideologies? Which conspiracy theories can be found in both ideologies respectively? How do these issues contribute to a more general authoritarian and anti-democratic orientation within both ideologies? What are the historical, religious and socio-economic contexts in which the movements emerged and how are they connected?

RN31 – Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

Coordinator: Karin Stoegner, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria karin.stoegner@univie.ac.at

The ESA Research Network 31: Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism invites sub-missions of abstracts for presentations at the 13th ESA Conference. We will hold sessions that focus on theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects of research on antisemitism and racism. This will include comparative studies. The network’s perspective is to bridge an exclusive divide between the understanding of antisemitism and of racism, exploring the correspondences and affinities, but also the differences and contrasts. Our over-arching question is to understand the material conditions and the social, political and historical contexts shaping variations of antisemitism and racism across time and across different European and global contexts.

In particular, we will focus on the role of antisemitism, ethnic relations and racism in current threats to democracy and democratic values in Europe; how antisemitic, xenophobic and racist myths, narratives and discourses circulate in the digital “post-truth” age. Specific questions might include:

– How can we explain the relationship between authoritarian populism, right-wing extremism and Islamism, three of the main dimensions of antisemitic, racist and xenophobic narratives? How can we explain anti-Muslim and anti-refugee hatred in Europe today?

– What are the gender politics of these formations?

– How can sociologists considering these questions intervene in debates on free speech, academic freedom and hate speech?

We are also interested in submissions exploring philo- as well as antisemitism, and ostensibly liberal and critical forms of racism, nationalism and intolerance. For example, how does Israel figure in both antisemitic and philosemitic discourses of the Jewish other?

What kind of racist, intolerant or antisemitic views exist on the part of discriminated minorities? And does the discrimination faced by minorities in turn feed these views?

We also welcome presentations that highlight neglected forms of racism and racialisation (including anti-Roma discrimination or “anti-Gypsyism”) and presentations that explore the intersection of different racisms or of racisms with other axes of difference and power. We particularly welcome contributions that offer a comparative framing (e.g. cross-nationally or from the perspective of different European regions), presentations that offer a multi- or inter-disciplinary framing (e.g. drawing on history), and papers that offer theoretical and methodological innovation in studying our questions.


Coming soon!

Very excited that two book projects that have been very close to my heart for some time are both moving towards publication. First, in a few months, Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, edited with James Renton (actually he did far more of the work than me) will be out with Palgrave.

This is the first book to examine the relationship between European antisemitism and Islamophobia from the Crusades until the twenty-first century in the principal flashpoints of the two racisms. With case studies ranging from the Balkans to the UK, the contributors take the debate away from politicised polemics about whether or not Muslims are the new Jews. Much previous scholarship and public discussion has focused on comparing European ideas about Jews and Judaism in the past with contemporary attitudes towards Muslims and Islam. This volume rejects this approach. Instead, it interrogates how the dynamic relationship between antisemitism and Islamophobia has evolved over time and space. The result is the uncovering of a previously unknown story in which European ideas about Jews and Muslims were indeed connected, but were also ripped apart. Religion, empire, nation-building, and war, all played their part in the complex evolution of this relationship.  As well as a study of prejudice, this book also opens up a new area of inquiry: how Muslims, Jews, and others have responded to these historically connected racisms.

The volume brings together leading scholars in the emerging field of antisemitism-Islamophobia studies who work in a diverse range of disciplines: anthropology, history, sociology, critical theory, and literature. Together, they help us to understand a Europe in which Jews and Arabs were once called Semites, and today are widely thought to be on two different sides of the War on Terror.

Here are the contents:

1 Introduction: The Shared Story of Europe’s Ideas of the Muslim and the Jew—A Diachronic Framework | James Renton and Ben Gidley

Part I Christendom

2 Ethnic and Religious Categories in the Treatment of Jews and Muslims in the Crusader States | Andrew Jotischky

3 Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Conspiracy Theory of Medical Murder in Early Modern Spain and Portugal | François Soyer

Part II Empire

4 Fear and Loathing in the Russian Empire | Robert D. Crews

5 The End of the Semites | James Renton

Part III Divergence

6 The Case of Circumcision: Diaspora Judaism as a Model for Islam? | Sander L. Gilman

7 Islamophobia and Antisemitism in the Balkans | Marko Attila Hoare

8 Antisemitism and Its Critics | Gil Anidjar

Part IV Response

9 Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Search for Common Ground in French Antiracist Movements since 1898 | Daniel A. Gordon

10 The Price of an Entrance Ticket to Western Society: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heinrich Heine and the Double Standard of Emancipation | David J. Wertheim

11 The Impact of Antisemitism and Islamophobia on Jewish–Muslim Relations in the UK: Memory, Experience, Context | Yulia Egorova and Fiaz Ahmed

Further in the future, my first sole-authored monograph, Citizenship and Belonging: East London Jewish Radicals, has a publication date with Manchester University Press in the Racism, Resistance and Social Change series edited by John Solomos, Satnam Virdee and Aaron Winter.

Racism, Resistance and Social Change is committed to providing a forum for the publication of challenging and innovative scholarship on questions about race, racism and ethnic relations. We have seen intense debate about these issues both globally and within particular geopolitical environments. Our main objective in this series is to provide a forum for scholars from a range of theoretical and political perspectives to publish their work and to develop a dialogue that has an international and multidisciplinary focus. We aim to publish both theoretically driven research as well as research with a more historical and empirical frame.

 

Authors will be asked to address at least one central theme:

  • Mapping the changing forms and nature of racism in the contemporary age
  • Understanding racism over the longue duree, or re-connecting the present to the past
  • Anti-racism as intellectual and social movement

Forthcoming Books in series:

  • Margarita Aragon, African and Mexican American Men and Collective Violence, 1915-1965: Racial problem headaches (Autumn 2017)
  • Ben Gidley, Citizenship and belonging: East London Jewish Radicals 1903-1918 (winter 2017)

Series Editors: John Solomos, Warwick University, Satnam Virdee, University of Glasgow and Aaron Winter, University of East London,

 


Yulia Egorova on Jewish-Muslim relations

At the LSE Religion and the Public Sphere blog:

Jewish-Muslim relations are often constructed in the public discourse as problematic due to the conflict in the Middle East. Based on her recent study conducted with Jewish and Muslim participants in the UK with Fiaz Ahmed, Yulia Egorova suggests that Jewish-Muslim relations are instead shaped by and, at the same time, reflect wider public attitudes towards ‘minority communities’ in general and towards Jews and Muslims in particular.

synagogue.and.mosque_670x335

It appears that for many British Jews and British Muslims, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia constitute a significant factor that determines their place in the vexed picture of Jewish-Muslim relations in Europe, and it can be argued that the social hesitation that some British Jews and British Muslims have against each other is a symptom of wider problems in the way ‘minority’ groups are perceived and treated in society.

Both personal and historical experiences of discrimination were frequently referred to in our respondents’ accounts of their view of Jewish-Muslim relations and of their perception of the other group. In the case of the Jewish communities, historical and personal memories and experiences of discrimination, combined with exposure to public and mass media discourses that construct Muslims as a security threat in general, and a threat for Jewish persons and organisations in particular, forces some members of the Jewish constituency to view Muslims with suspicion. The responses that we received from our Jewish interviewees about their experiences of interactions with British Muslims were positive, however, almost every respondent talked about the concern present in their congregations. It is clear that some of their hesitation stems from the rhetoric of the ‘war on terror’ that is common in the mainstream mass media and public discourse, and is not at all limited to the Jewish constituency.

READ THE REST

This article is based on a paper by Yulia Egorova and Fiaz Ahmed, “The Impact of Antisemitism and Islamophobia on Jewish-Muslim Relations in the UK: Memory, Experience, Context” in Ben Gidley and James Renton, eds., Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? due out in December. 

About the author
yuliaDr Yulia Egorova
is Reader in Anthropology at Durham University and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture, Society and Politics.

 


Antisemitic anti-Zionism: the root of Labour’s crisis

Alan Johnson’s submission to the Labour Party’s Chakrabarti inquiry on antisemitism and other forms of racism, published by Fathom, quotes my work. Here are some extracts:

Antisemitism is the most protean of hatreds and it has shape-shifted again (Gidley 2011). … Continue reading


James Renton: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are Dynamic Phenomena

At Promosaik blog:

by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V. – My interview with Dr James Renton

Dr James Renton is Reader in History at Edge Hill University, UK, and co-editor, with Ben Gidley, of Antisemitism and Islamophobia: A Shared Story?, which is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan.

Milena Rampoldi: How would you define anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Which are the common aspects, what are the main differences between them?

James Renton: At base, we can use the terms anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as straight forward labels for anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms. But can we offer a fixed definition of these two fields of prejudice? The histories of the terms themselves tell us something of value in this connection. Within these stories, we find helpful insights into the complex relationship between the two: their differences, similarities, and, significantly, connections. It is essential, however, that any such discussion of this subject acknowledges that European ideas about Jews and Muslims, about Judaism and Islam, do not stand still. They are dynamic, like any field of human thought. We must not treat them as fixed prejudices that operate outside of time, or indeed place. Certainly, both racisms possess very powerful continuities, which are hugely important. But the interplay between these underlying structures of thought and the dynamism of cultural, political, social, and economic change must not be ignored.

The word ‘anti-Semitism’ was invoked at the end of the nineteenth century, at a time in which the pseudo-science of race predominated in European political thought. Jews and Judaism were at the forefront of Europe’s imagined political problems in this period— or Questions to use the terminology of the day— that demanded solutions. The process of Jewish emancipation (incomplete as it was) in central and Western Europe became a focus of ire in these zones as societies grappled with profound economic and political crises and transformation: from depression and warfare in Europe (particularly Germany’s defeat of France in 1870) to concomitant escalating conflict between European imperial states over resources and territory in Africa and Asia.

READ THE REST


How EasyJet and anti-Zionism are turning British Jews into Israelis

Ben Judah and Josh Glancy have been writing a fascinating series, A Polite Hatred, on Jews and antsemitism in Britain, for the US-based Jewish magazine The Tablet. Part 5, “We Are All Zionists Now: How EasyJet and anti-Zionism are turning British Jews into Israelis“, was published on 30 April.

Ben Judah interviewed me for it. The article is really interesting. Here is the two sections that quote me:

benjudah-tablet20april2015These two kinds of Jews—heritage Jews and hummus Jews—increasingly struggle to grasp each other and may end up on opposing sides of the debates, especially at times of war in Israel, which means that British Jews are moving in two opposite directions at once. Ben Gidley is one of Britain’s leading experts on Jewish sociology. “What we saw in the last census,” he said, “was that there was an increasing concentration and an increasingly dispersion of Jews in the U.K. For the first time there are Jews in every local authority in Britain. For the most part those Jews thinning out are living religiously unaffiliated, assimilated lives, with practically nothing to do with Israel.”

“However,” he continued, “there is also a parallel greater than ever concentration of Jews into North West London—where they are living more than ever in some kind of bubble. What media Jews are reading plays a big part of that bubble: they are increasingly reading transnational Israeli or American English language Jewish publications.”

[…]

“The trouble for British Jews is the British don’t understand Jewish ethnicity,” said Ben Gidley. “Is it a race? Is it a religion? Are they the same ethnicity as the Israelis? Or is it racist to associate them with Israelis? The British don’t understand.”

It may well be the case that many British Jews don’t fully appreciate the complexity of their new identity either. Or what the implications of this will be if Israel does indeed become a pariah state to Europeans, as many of its detractors hope it will.

Continue reading


Thoughts on the forthcoming Southampton Conference

I wrote this piece for Engage – read the original here. Scroll to the bottom for some updates.

In the last decade or more, working in British universities, I have witnessed the growth of a zeitgeist in which antisemitism is not taken seriously by people who, in every other way, would be regarded as exemplary anti-racists. It has become common currency among many anti-racist academics to claim that allegations of antisemitism are made in bad faith, that such allegations are a way of closing down criticism of Israel – a manoeuvre my former colleague David Hirsh has aptly named “the Livingstone formulation”. Continue reading


After Gaza: Contemporary antisemitism

My contribution to the latest report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism was quoted in, of all places, RT_com.

An extract: Continue reading