Spare a thought for the racists. They’re having a really hard time lately. They keep trying to oppress Muslims in a liberal, rational way but accidentally end up looking like Nazis.
Take, for example, recent discussions of banning halal meat. On the surface, it looks perfect for the racists. It involves animals, which everyone loves, so they can dress up the issue as about the welfare of cuddly sheep and, because making meat tends to involve killing animals, they can blow up the issue so it looks like killing animals is an exclusively Muslim practise.
They feign outrage at halal slaughter – you can’t kill an animal by slitting its throat! You’ve got to chase it through woods and have it ripped apart by dogs! That’s the civilised way of doing things.
But, the thing is, Jewish and Muslim methods of butchery are pretty much identical. The traditions barely diverge at all, except for the languages in which prayers are said. Personally, I’m happy to see halal as basically the same as kosher and, unless a rabbi is willing to sanction a chicken house that will give me six nuggets and a can of Coke for £3, I won’t be convinced otherwise.
What that means is that racists – when they do try to attack Muslim eating habits – end up attacking Jews’ too. This puts them in quite an uncompromising position. When Jewish News recently asked UKIP how they could justify banning Jews from eating meat, their agricultural spokesperson, Stuart Agnew, stammered over the phone: “This isn’t aimed at you – it’s aimed elsewhere – it’s aimed at others. You’ve been caught in the crossfire; collateral damage. You know what I mean.”
Oh yes, Mr. Racist, yes we do. You’d like to persecute Muslims but – oops – some Jews just got in the way and made you look, well… like a racist.
I’m under no illusion that the racists don’t want to appear anti-Semitic because they actually like Jews. Far from it. They still hate us. It’s just that now we’re not numerous enough or obvious enough to be the principal target of their ire. Think that might be because we went through a bit of a genocide seventy years ago that we’re still trying to cope with.
And that’s why the racists don’t want to appear anti-Semitic. Everyone schoolchild learns the facts of the Holocaust and how awful the toxic combinations of nationalism and capitalism can be. Everyone – well, almost everyone – now agrees that it was one of the worst things Europeans have ever done. Jews are living reminders to those racists of where their policies actually lead. They can’t get away with doing it to us, because it just makes them look too obviously like Nazis.
Perhaps that’s why Scotland Yard were so quick to say that the white supremacist Joshua Bonehead probably couldn’t march through Stamford Hill. The police’s response was that “it is unlikely to faciliate an event that would itself faciliate someone breaking the law. Using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour… can be prosecuted as a criminal offence.”
Oh really? Where was this application of the law for ten years of English Defence League thugs storming through British streets? Why wasn’t that the case when the BNP and the National Front wanted to march?
I’m sure Bonehead’s White Power clan will still have a go at marching anyway, and I’m sure we’ll need to resist them anyway, but the utter hypocrisy from the police is astounding. On anti-fascist marches, I’ve seen police forces throughout the country casually facilitate racist thugs walking past mosques, through mixed residential areas and across town centres using plenty of threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour. In nearly every case, it was the people who came out to oppose them that were arrested, not the fascists.
I’m glad, I genuinely am, that the police want to take action to stop neo-Nazis in London. It makes a welcome change from them joining in and helping out. But it pains me that this policy is applied only to attacks on Jews, and not to all of Britain’s minorities.
This goes far deeper than obviously racist organisations like UKIP, National British Resistance and the police. Every lie in the establishment press that is told about Muslims today was told about Jews in the 1930s. Now, I’m not trying to be a hipster about this and say they’re copying our style, but the evidence speaks for itself.
The lie that Muslims are trying to take over the country? Told all the time about Jews in the 1930s. So pervasive was that belief that George Orwell dedicated an essay to debunking it.
The idea that Muslims are trying to impose their own laws here? Yeah, that’s exactly what the Jews were accused of too.
Even the claims of paedophile grooming gangs and gangsters are a re-hash from previous centuries. Dickens’ character of Fagin was based on pretty much that exact anti-Semitic trope. (Obviously there are Jews and Muslims who do such unspeakable things, as there are from literally every group on the planet – but if you’re looking for a private club that does them then colludes together to cover it up, I’d take a look at the Houses of Parliament and the Royal Family, rather than Britain’s minorities.)
Intelligent people would now never fall for such smears against Jews. They’ve learnt their history and they understand its lessons. So why do people continue to believe these lies about Muslims?
I think it’s clear that Jews need to step in to defend against the virulent Islamophobia in Europe. At every turn, we need to make clear that racists all begin in just the same way and that it will end up in just the same way. We need Jewish communal organisations to be at the forefront of fighting prejudice against Muslims. And if you’re not convinced by every moral and ethical argument there is, just remember: they’ll come for us next.