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Controversy at London Seminar on Anti-Semitism

Bob Pitt of Islamophobia-Watch reports on the conflict that erupted over anti-Muslim bigots Bat Ye’or who we profiled in the article, “Bat Ye’or: Anti-Muslim Loon With A Crazy Conspiracy Theory Named “Eurabia” and Manfred Gerstenfeld at a symposium sponsored by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism in London.

Some shocking revelations in this article:

Controversy at London seminar on antisemitism

The Jewish Chronicle has published a report on conflicts that arose during a one-day symposium sponsored by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism which was held at the Wiener Library in London last weekend.

The controversy was prompted by contributions from two of the speakers. One was Bat Ye’or (the pen name of Gisèle Littman) who informed her audience that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is “the source of antisemitism” and that “Islam is denying the root of Judaism and Christianity with a profound belief in Jihad”. Another speaker, Manfred Gerstenfeld, asserted that Muslim culture is inferior to Western culture.

David Hirsh, editor of the pro-Israel, anti-boycott website Engage, was so outraged that he even “left the room during Dr Gerstenfeld’s lecture”. Hirsch told the JC that he was “appalled” by Gerstenfeld’s views. Other participants who reportedly walked out were David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute, and Philip Spencer, director of research in politics at Kingston University.

Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust, who was also a speaker at the event, went so far as to offer the penetrating insight that Gisèle Littman’s remarks “could be construed as Islamophobic”. Another leading figure in the CST, Mark Gardner, stated at the conclusion of the seminar that “a minority of speakers said things about Britain, Europe and Muslims that we found to be incorrect, unacceptable and self-defeating”, adding that “we made our concerns clear with a number of interventions”. There is no indication that the CST representatives joined any walk-out.

However, Gisèle Littman was hardly some randomly invited speaker. She is on the editorial board of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (along with the likes of Daniel Pipes, Andrew Bostom – and Philip Spencer, for that matter). Nor can the views she expressed have come a surprise to the CST or any of the other participants at the seminar.

Littman is a notorious Islamophobe, one of the most signficant figures in the so-called counter-jihad movement. She is the author of the “Eurabia” thesis – a conspiracy theory according to which European governments have done a secret deal with the Arab world to facilitate the Islamic takeover of Europe, which will result in non-Muslims being reduced to a state of “dhimmitude”, treated as second-class citizens subservient to their Muslim conquerors. This paranoid fantasy has been dubbed “The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca” and indeed the parallels with classic antisemitic conspiracy theories scarcely need underlining.

The Eurabia theory was a major source of inspiration to Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, whose manifesto contains over 1,500 references to it. In fact Breivik includes “implementation of the EU’s Eurabia project” on his list of the “recent and ongoing acts of treason” that led him to carry out the massacre on Utøya. (Typically, Littman’s response was to issue a statement suggesting that Breivik’s manifesto was likely to be a fabrication and that the police might well have allowed him to go ahead with his murders as part of some plot to suppress criticism of Islam.)

As for Manfred Gerstenfeld, his opinions are hardly a secret either. Earlier this year he contributed an op ed to the Israeli newspaperYedioth Ahronoth in which he complained that it was regarded as “highly politically incorrect” to point out that “while Western culture is problematic, contemporary Islamic culture is inferior to it”. He added that Western Muslims should be happy to accept his views on the inferiority of their culture:

“If the two cultures were equal, the West could theoretically act toward Muslims in their countries like many Muslim countries behaved toward their Jews in the decades after the Second World War. If the West acted in a similar way, it could restrict civil rights and confiscate the Muslims’ passports and belongings. Thereafter, it could force them out. If the West followed the 1967 Libyan acts against Jews they could even kill some.”

Yet Dave Rich, Mark Gardner, David Hirsh and others happily attended a seminar that included these speakers. It’s not difficult to imagine how different their response would be to a seminar featuring individuals who asserted that Jews are conspiring to take over Europe or made claims about the inferiority of Jewish culture. The CST would demand that the speakers should be banned or that the institution hosting the event should cancel it. But when it’s a case of Zionist extremists promoting bigotry against Muslims, then the CST evidently thinks it’s enough to go along to the seminar and politely raise their “concerns” that such hate-speech is “incorrect, unacceptable and self-defeating”.

Finally, let us note that the JC also reports that another speaker at the seminar, disgraced former MP Denis MacShane, was “given an award for his work in fighting antisemitism”. MacShane is no stranger to Islamophobic fantasies himself. He was jointly responsible for the 2006 All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, which made the ridiculous claim that a dangerous alliance had been forged between fascists and Islamists on the basis of a common hatred of Jews and Zionists – at a time when it was clear that the far right in Britain was increasingly embracing Zionism and even proposing an alliance with right-wing Jews on the basis of a common hatred of Islam and Muslims.

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  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch


    I think you are in fact mixing up a couple of things while also making gross assumptions about our so-called “tendencies.”

    Bob Pitt is not referring to some freak occurrences here and there in some quarter of Chezch or with some off-shoot of Le Pen’s party (all of which pales in comparison to the Fascist anti-Muslim Islam bashers such as Wilders, Le Pen, BNP, etc.) he’s talking about Britain and how it is “ridiculous” that while there was an obvious embrace by Fascists of Zionism and proposal of an alliance with Right-wing Jewish groups based on a mutual hatred of Islam and Muslims Denis McShane was fantasizing about an alliance between Fascists and Islamists–that is not a weak point.

    Did you follow the link at all that is provided above?:

    “A sinister alliance has developed between far-right groups and Islamist extremists who are united in their hatred of Jews, Israel and zionism and are contributing to increasing anti-semitism in Britain.
    At least that’s how Ruth Gledhill of The Times reported the findings of the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism.

    The report had expressed “particular concern about a new, ‘symbiotic’ relationship between the traditional perpetrators of anti-semitism – the far-right and some Islamist extremists – who are united in their hatred of all things Jewish,” she continued.

    In fact, the only example of this supposed alliance offered by the report is that some material has appeared on the website of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK) and also on far-right websites, though there is no indication that the material was anti-semitic rather than anti-zionist.

    MPACUK may have an obsession with zionism which some of us would regard as counterproductive, but it is hardly an “extremist” organisation. Its primary concern is to encourage young Muslims to engage with the political process in Britain. And the suggestion that MPACUK enjoys a “symbiotic relationship” with fascism is preposterous.

    The fantasy about an alliance between fascists and Muslims in promoting hatred against the Jewish community also ignores the fact that the dominant far-right organisation in Britain, the British National Party, has now almost entirely abandoned public anti-semitic propaganda in favour of inciting hatred against Islam.

    This does not mean that the BNP has suddenly rid itself of anti-Jewish bigotry. The party’s basic cadre remains a gang of unreconstructed Hitler admirers and Holocaust deniers.

    However, after Nick Griffin took over the BNP leadership from John Tyndall in 1999, he launched a process of “modernisation” that set out to transform the BNP’s political image with the aim of making the party electable.

    In an article published in the fascist magazine Patriot shortly before he deposed Tyndall as chairman, Griffin explained his new strategy to the BNP membership.

    “Of course, we must teach the truth to the hardcore, for, like you, I do not intend this movement to lose its way. But, when it comes to influencing the public, forget about racial differences, genetics, zionism, historical revisionism (Holocaust denial) and so on – all ordinary people want to know is what we can do for them that the other parties can’t or won’t.”

    In 2005, in an interview for the right-wing zionist website Think-Israel, Griffin “explained” that his party no longer promoted “the old fantasies about learned elders of Zion controlling the world and the rabid anti-semitism that they reflect and incite.” He added: “The idea that ‘the Jew is the enemy’ is simply over for us now and not a moment too soon, because now we can get on with the real struggles.”

    And, for Griffin, the most important of these “real struggles” is against Muslims.

    In an article posted on the BNP website earlier this year, Griffin stated emphatically: “To even hint of making common cause with Islam – or put ourselves in a position when opponents can suggest to the masses that this is the case – is political insanity.”

    He rejected the arguments of “those ‘hardliners’ who would rather attack the Jews than the Muslims,” condemning them as “people whose one-track concern about ‘the Jews’ is blinding them to the clear and present danger of resurgent Islam.”

    Griffin argued that, rather than attacking the Jewish community, “We should be positioning ourselves to take advantage for our own political ends of the growing wave of public hostility to Islam currently being whipped up by the mass media.”

    Significantly, Griffin has justified his party’s anti-Muslim policy by referring approvingly to the writer Bat Ye’or, whom the New York Times has described as one of the “most extreme voices on the new Jewish right.”

    Ye’or is the author of a book entitled Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, the thesis of which has been summarised by journalist Johann Hari as follows.

    “Europe is on the brink of being transformed into a conquered continent called Eurabia. In this new land, Christians and Jews will be reduced by the new Muslim majority to the status of ‘dhimmis’ – second-class citizens forced to ‘walk in the gutter.’

    “This will not happen by accident. It is part of a deliberate and ‘occult’ plan, concocted between the Arab League and leading European politicians like Jacques Chirac and Mary Robinson, who secretly love Islam and are deliberately flooding the continent with Muslim immigrants.”

    Hari characterises this as “a conspiracy theory about Muslims that teeters very close to being a 21st century Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.”

    As Griffin told Think-Israel, “We are deeply concerned about the mainly – though not exclusively – French elite project to morph the EU, Turkey and the Maghreb into Eurabia. Bat Ye’or is 100 per cent right about this.

    “If this now far-advanced scheme comes to fruition, then it would in turn lead to the Islamification of the whole European continent. A generation ago, the revival of the historic Islamic threat to Europe would have been unthinkable. Now, it is clearly destined to be the great issue and decision of our time. For us, the closely linked threats of mass Third World immigration and Islamification outweigh all other considerations.”

    In line with this approach, the BNP is also reassessing its public stance on zionism. In an article on the BNP website posted during Israel’s war against Lebanon, BNP legal adviser Lee Barnes wrote:

    “As a nationalist, I can say that I support Israel 100 per cent in their dispute with Hezbollah. In fact, I hope they wipe Hezbollah off the Lebanese map and bomb them until they leave large greasy craters in the cities where their Islamic extremist cantons of terror once stood.

    “The 21st century is the Islamic century. Unless we start to resist the threat of Islamic extremism, then, within 100 years, the West will have become Eurabia.”

    An accompanying article offered Barnes’s piece as evidence that “The BNP has moved on in recent years, casting off the leg-irons of conspiracy theories and the thinly veiled anti-semitism which has held this party back for two decades.”

    The “real enemies of the British people,” the article continued, are liberals, leftists and “the Crescent Horde – the endless wave of Islamics who are flocking to our shores to bring our island nations into the embrace of their barbaric desert religion.”

    Along with its public renunciation of anti-semitism, its readiness to take ideological inspiration from a Jewish author and its support for Israeli military aggression against Lebanon, the BNP even has a councillor of Jewish origin – Patricia Richardson, who was elected in Epping Forest in 2004.

    It remains to be seen how the BNP will continue to evolve under Griffin’s leadership. However, given its current political trajectory, the possibility of the BNP making a pitch for the support of a right-wing minority within the Jewish community on an anti-Muslim programme, as the far-right party Vlaams Belang has successfully done in Belgium, cannot be excluded.

    Indeed, BNP member and veteran fascist John Bean recently made the point that, “minus the anti-semitism,” a section of the Jewish community will “like much of what we have to say. The mere fact of our opposition to the Muslim threat, which lusts to wipe them off the face off the earth, guarantees some do.”

    Such an alliance is, at any rate, a lot more likely than the so-called “symbiotic relationship” between the BNP and Muslim extremists that exists only in the imagination of the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism.”

  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    Sorry but if you invite loons such as Bat Ye ‘or What can you expect ?
    Sir David

  • SarahAB

    I agree with you essentially, but I’ll add a few caveats. i think this is simply crossposted from Islamophobia Watch. I find IW less palatable than LW although it flags some important stories. There do seem to be some far right parties in Europe which support Israel and I remember this being flagged on HP once quite recently. Sometimes this may be opportunistic but not always. Jobbik, however, is seriously anti-Israel in a way one might associate more with the far left in the UK.

  • Sarka

    Bat Ye’or is on the batty side over Eurabia, but I fear Loonwatch is indulging here is in its usual error of mixing up reasonable points with rather weak ones.

    Why is it per se “ridiculous” for someone to say that fascists and Islamists sometimes make common cause? Just because the far-rightist of the BNP (like Marine Le Pen’s party) have done an about-turn in recent years and tried – pretty unsuccessfully – to woo Jewish support by pro-zionism, this hardly means that other far-right groups all do likewise. In the country where I live (Czechos), the Neo-nazi right, which is mostly interest in Jew-hating and Roma-baiting (not anti-Islam stuff), there’s plenty of support for Al-Qaida (one leader was arrested for this by police here). In France, a splinter group from the Le Pen party (extreme Catholics in the Action Francause clerico-fascist French line), have been openly co-operating with the extreme Islamist organisation Forsanne Alizza – the organisation that helped to radicalise the Islamist killer of Jews and Muslim soldiers in Toulouse, Mohammed Merah.

    I’m sorry if it offends your simple view of things that such unpleasant stuff can be true, but the far right (and the extremist left too) are not monolithic and any expert on extremism (right, left and Islamist) knows that there are all kinds of cross-overs between them. Loon watch would be a much more credible site if didn’t have a tendency to assume hat anything unflattering said about Islamists is ipso facto untrue. You can point out anti-Muslim bigotry without going that far…in fact if you go that far, it lessens your credibility on serious issues.

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  • SarahAB

    My take on this from yesterday with a further update from Alan.

    Whatever you think of the CST, I would like to reiterate that they have cooperated with TellMamaUK (roughly their Muslim equivalent) and seem (like Engage) to do a very good job at being consistently anti-racist.

    Hey – you’ve just switched to disqus too – spooky.

  • Reynardine

    You invite in something you know isn’t housebroken, don’t be surprised if it #2 on the rug and people hold their noses, get up, and walk out.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    This fact is also disturbing,

    “She is on the editorial board of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (along with the likes of Daniel Pipes, Andrew Bostom…”

  • Just_Stopping_By

    While people like Bat Ye’or should never have been invited in the first place, I am glad that others walked out and even challenged her at the conference.

    Inviting Bat Ye’or and those with her views was a mistake that could have been avoided if their public writings had been properly scrutinized by the organizers. But, thankfully some participants made public statements and actions to express their disgust and disapproval when they heard what the Islamophobes were saying. It’s easy to just be quiet or, alternatively, to become so rude as to encourage sympathy when one hears bigots speak. Hopefully, the audience, other participants, and those who read about this all got the message about rejecting bigotry.

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