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?
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.”
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
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:
I spoke recently at a Runnymede Trust event “Redefining Integration“.
Here is a blogpost about it by Lester Holloway:
As Dame Louise Casey’s report throws the definition of integration into sharp relief, to a mixed chorus of unbridled gleeful and concerned criticism, Runnymede Communications Coordinator Lester Holloway looks back at our timely Redefining Integration conference last week.
With Donald Trump the president-elect of America, Brexit in Britain and the threat of the far right National Front winning the French presidency, what is the role of integration today? That was one of the questions debated by an experienced panel of academics and thought leaders at Redefining Integration.
The central focus for debate was how we define integration and its role in bringing communities together. You can watch a video (15 mins) here.
Photogallery on Facebook
This wonderful event, organised by Lyndsey Stonebridge and Becky Taylor for the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism in association with the University of East Anglia, as part of the , is now available as a series of podcasts via Backdoor Publishing. The event is part of the Refugee History project based at UEA.
I just saw this at Hari Kunzru’s website:
Anyone interested in political history or theory should visit Christie Books, the publishing house and anarchist archive run by Stuart Christie, would-be assassin of General Franco and author of the entertaining memoir My Granny Made Me an Anarchist. The site contains a great deal of audio and video, including a documentary I made for BBC Radio 3 in 2008 called The First War on Terror. It’s about the anti-anarchist panic that gripped Europe in the late Victorian period, and the responses by writers (from pulp novelists to greats like Conrad and Chesterton) to the fears of a social order without gods or masters. Listen to the program here.
I feature (fairly briefly) in the programme, taking Hari on a walking tour of East London, including Freedom Books, which was firebombed this week, probably by fascists (and not for the first term), along with Clive Bettington of the Jewish East End Commemoration Society (far more radiogenic than me), talking about Joseph Conrad, Rudolf Rocker and more.
Here’s the BBC’s page on it:
Novelist Hari Kunzru explores how pulp fiction writers and great novelists got to grips with the UK’s first major ‘war on terror’ – against the Anarchists of Victorian and Edwardian times. These ‘scare novels’ responded to the Anarchists’ wish to abolish the State by depicting outlandish scenarios such as political assassinations and large-scale bombings.
He also explores the world of the real anarchists in London’s immigrant communities – most of whom were peaceful and cultured East End Jewish activists, trying to improve conditions in the garment trade – in contrast to these terrorists the novelists imagined and the popular press feared.
Bringing the programme up to date, Hari and literary scholars Laurence Davies and Deaglan O’Donghaile also briefly consider the modern response to 9/11, asking whether novels on terrorism ever get it right.
My paper “Faith Communities and Racism: Some Reflections from the Anglo-Jewish Experience” has been included in the newly publication by the Runnymede Trust, “Runnymede Perspectives: Secularism, Racism and the Politics of Belonging”.
This publication is a collection of papers that were presented at conferences in 2010 and 2011 co-organized by the Runnymede Trust and CMRB – the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London. The contributors address issues of migration, racism and religion. The publication is edited by Professor Nira Yuval-Davis and Professor Philip Marfleet, University of East London.
Read the Conference Report by Mary Sutton. Listen to an embarrassing mp3 of my oral presentation. And even more embarrassing youtube of my paper, part 1 and 2.
My video for the Oxford Diasporas Programme. Not my finest moment:
Ben Gidley on the Diasporas of East London from Ann Cowie on Vimeo.
Read about the project here.
At the Migration Observatory:
Nearly half of the UK’s migrants live in London and a third of London’s residents were born abroad. This primer discusses the policy challenges arising from the diversity and scale of immigration in London.
Read the briefing.