National Secular Society: Occasionally Agitated

Lingering prejudice in Britain can bring out the worst in people. Such attitudes are not confined to thugs in the EDL or the BNP, rather are often found on the periphery of the Hard Right, spoken in polite tones and impeccable English.

More importantly, there is denial about racism towards ethnic minorities in Britain. Denial of the facts.

Recent examples of this form of negation were Douglas Murray’s extended rant in the Jewish Chronicle and Charles Moore’s piece. Sadiq Khan deals with it.

Notable in this trend was Andrew Gilligan’s hack journalism. It sought to deliberately play down racism in Britain and deny the evidence. Tim Fenton’s ably picks it apart, Gilligan’s Islamophobia Goof:

“…Gilligan to put out an article without him getting called out for a mixture of falsehood and misrepresentation. This is probably because falsehood and misrepresentation is exactly what he indulges in. And today he has been at it again, twisting the available facts to fit the Telegraph’s narrative, that the “Islamophobia Industry” is getting above itself.”[My emphasis.]

In all of these articles the conclusions were long decided upon, even before writing and the supposed evidence was shoehorned into place, each according to the authors’ particular bias.

It is all the more annoying when these slanted pieces are used as good coin.

NSS1a

The National Secular Society made such a mistake last week, using Gilligan’s suspect form of journalism, Muslims must be protected. Islam must not.

They should know better than use singular and questionable sources.

If the National Secular Society are truly interested in the welfare of Muslims and ethnic minorities in Britain then they should contact the groups monitoring prejudice against them, Tell MAMA.

Picking a single source, that has a clear bias against an antiracist organisation, was a sign of poor judgement by the National Secular Society. They should know better.

I would recommend that the National Secular Society and secularists read the [PDF] report: Anti-Muslim Hate Crime and the Far Right By Professor Nigel Copsey, Dr Janet Dack, Mark Littler and Dr Matthew Feldman.

Update 1:Tell MAMA’s response to the original article, National Secular Society & the ‘Money’ Shot Which Never Was!

“Furthermore, the flippant manner in which anti-Muslim prejudice is discarded, does a disservice to victims such as this woman, or this one. What is the worst element of all of these discussions, is that the victim’s voice is drowned out by figures, numbers and statistics. It would do the National Secular Society a world of good, if they simply took a few minutes out to listen to the stories of these Muslim women. For Amina, she is starting to put her life together against after 14 months of anguish. For Jamilah, the scars will never heal.”

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SWP Warned About Their Collusion with Antisemitism In 2005

[Editor’s note: I have taken the liberty of re-publishing an article by David Aaronovitch from 2005. There may be minor typos, if so they are my fault. It deserves to be read and re-read.]

I remember reading it at the time and thinking: surely no one can ignore this warning of collusion with antisemitism?

Yet the SWP did.

They actively colluded with and promoted an antisemite, Gilad Atzmon. They fended off any criticism, any questions or any reservations for some five years.

Collaboration with a racist was not an idle mistake by the SWP. It was a result of their political orientation, how the SWP see the world and in particular how they relate to Jews. It is a lesson which they still have not learnt.

(The material is the copyright of David Aaronovitch/The Times newspaper)

“June 28, 2005

How did the far Left manage to slip into bed with the Jew-hating Right?
David Aaronovitch

WHEN I WAS YOUNG, smug centrists used to tell me that the extremes of Right and Left would, extended far enough, meet somewhere round the back. And I never quite believed it. But here’s a story that seems to suggest that it really can happen. Indulge me . . .

First a recapitulation. The Respect Party of George Galloway famously turned in the best performance by a far-Left party since the Communists won two seats in 1945. Respect itself is mostly though not entirely a front for the semi-Trotskyist organisation called the Socialist Workers’ Party, or SWP. SWP members made up just under half of Respect’s candidates, SWP activists form the party’s main cadre and it is the SWP that drives the strategy, tactics and political platform of Respect.

When I was at college, the local SWP used to drive around in minibuses looking for members of the far Right to beat up. In those days the party had an uncompromising attitude towards those it decided were racists and fascists, throwing politicians such as Sir Keith Joseph into an adjacent sub-category and trying to get them banned from making speeches.

Next week the SWP begins the annual festival at which members, supporters and friends are spoken at and sung to on topics revolutionary and progressive. Marxism 2005 features grizzled Trots from the 1970s, Tony Benn, George Galloway, a poet or two and, for the third year running, billed at No 13 on the speaker’s list, a chap called Gilad Atzmon.

And that’s where the trouble starts. Atzmon is a well-known jazz-musician, an Israeli-born Jew and as the SWP has previously described him also a deliverer of fearless tirades against Zionism. But the tirades have got him into trouble with more than just the Jewish community. A Palestinian musician told me a couple of years ago that she would no longer work with Atzmon because, in her opinion, he was an anti-Semite. He had, somewhere, crossed the line.

In 2003, for instance, Atzmon, who makes many speeches and runs a very substantial website, said this about the idea of a global Jewish plot: We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously.

Why? Because American Jewry makes any debate on whether the Protocols of the Elders of Zionitic forgery are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least.

So, he’s a silly boy advancing slightly dangerous arguments (or fearless tirades). And we might take no notice. It’s just that Atzmon does get about a bit gigs, meetings, university debates, and yet one of his heroes is an author and activist, Israel Shamir.

According to Atzmon, Shamir is a very civil and peaceful man and probably is the sharpest critical voice of Jewish power’ and Zionist ideology.

I first came across Shamir after I’d made a programme for Channel 4 on anti-Semitism in Islamic countries. In it I’d pointed out how the blood libel, the slanderous accusation that Jews killed gentiles for the blood, had travelled from medieval Europe to the Middle East. But was it slander? Shamir, who claims to be a Russian Jew from Jaffa, wrote a long article in response arguing that the Jews probably were guilty of kidnapping Christian children and drinking their blood. I was more than amazed.

Shamir both buys the world plot and has some very strange allies. For as long, he wrote, as Richard Perle sits in the Pentagon, Elie Wiesel brandishes his Nobel Prize, Mort Zuckerman owns the USA Today, Gusinsky bosses over Russian TV, Soros commands multi-billions of funds and Dershowitz teaches at Harvard, we need the voices of (David) Duke, (Justin) Raimondo, (Pat) Buchanan, (Horst) Mahler, (Nick) Griffin and of other anti-bourgeois nationalists. For those who don’t know, Mahler is ex-Baader Meinhof turned neo-Nazi, David Duke is a former leader of Ku Klux Klan and Nick Griffin is our very own Welshpool Duce.

And despite warnings about his true identity as a Swedish fascist, Shamir sits on the 16-person board of advisers of the international pro-Palestinian campaign organisation, Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), named after a Palestinian village destroyed and ethnically cleansed in 1948 by the Zionist terror groups, Irgun and the Stern gang. DYR organises events that many of the great and good of the pro-Palestinian movement attend.

As it happens the Jewish UK Director of DYR, Paul Eisen, is a fan of Shamir’s, describing him as a man who has no trouble whatsoever in calling a Jew a Jew . . .

And Eisen is of Atzmon and Shamir’s mind concerning Jewish power. Last year he expressed the view that Jewish influence in America was not over its muscle and sinew but over its blood and its brain . . . Lists abound (though you have to go to some pretty unpopular websites to find them) of Jews, prominent in financial and cultural life.

It seems to have been on one of these unpopular websites that Eisen made a fatal connection. He discovered the site of one Ernst Zundel.

Zundel, wrote Eisen, is a gentle, good-humoured man . . . Zundel understands people and . . . he understands history. Zundel, a German-born Canadian, is not just a modern saint, but also the distributor of the booklet, Did Six Million Really Die? And a co-publisher of the rather heroically titled, The Hitler We Loved and Why.

In an article published last December Eisen explained what he’d learnt from kindly Ernst. No one is able to show us, at Auschwitz or anywhere else, argued Eisen, even one of these chemical slaughterhouses. No one is capable of describing to us their exact appearance or workings. Neither a trace nor a hint of their existence is to be found . . . Nor would it be the first time that Jews have accepted and propagated stories, true, false or a mixture of both, of their suffering.

It was Eisen on the Holocaust that sent the balloon up for Atzmon at Marxism 2005. Because Atzmon firstly circulated Eisen’s Holocaust-denying article, then told critics defiantly that, my take on the subject is slightly different than Paul’s one. For me, Atzmon continued, cretinously, the Holocaust like any other historical narrative is a dynamic process of realisation and interpretation.

Not a few left-wing Jews who style themselves anti-Zionist have been horrified by the Atzmon-Eisen-Shamir business. And a couple of weeks ago they began to exert pressure on the SWP to disinvite the over-fearless tirader. But the SWP it of smash racism has refused. The party issued a statement. It was, it admitted, a bit worried about Atzmon, because: We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. But, it nevertheless concluded: We do not believe that Gilad should be banned’ from performing or speaking. No Platform’ is a principle that the Left has always reserved for fascists and organised racists.

There are a couple of questions left begging there. Are the readers, in the SWP’s usually magisterial and definite opinion, right to feel that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is being blurred, or not? And is Atzmon being exempted from banishment because he is merely a disorganised racist?

Or is it that an influential section of the far Left has, in this instance and on this issue, completely and disgracefully lost its political and moral compass?

david.aaronovitch@thetimes.co.uk”

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A Set of Experiences, President Obama: Trayvon Martin

Pundits across the Left, Right and Centre have discussed the Trayvon Martin case. Far from the US, in Europe and Britain it has not escaped comment.

Yet few have put their finger on the issue as President Obama does. This short clip touches on one neglected aspect: experiences.

An extract:

“I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case. “

Update 1: Trayvon Martin’s parents show immense dignity at this harrowing time.

Update 2: Huff Post has a poll on the outcome of the trial.

Update 3: Many see this latest injustice as another Emmett Till, Blair L.M. Kelley explains:

“This time we are mourning for a boy from Miami, visiting his father in Sanford, Florida, unaware of the racial terrain in a neighborhood with some crime and an overzealous neighborhood watchman, driven by assumptions. While I am almost sure Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton, talked with him about being cautious and respectful if approached by the police, I’m sure none of their advice prepared him for being followed by George Zimmerman.

We are mourning because Martin’s death at the end of Zimmerman’s gun was initially dismissed by the police as a “Stand Your Ground” case of self-defense, Florida’s version of an ALEC-sponsored law that, unlike most self-defense laws does not require that self-defense is the last resort of someone who cannot escape the altercation. We are mourning that any fistfight might turn into justifiable homicide.

We are proud that Martin’s parents had the courage to publicize their son’s death in order to push for a trial, but we are mourning because unequal justice still seems to be the norm. We are disheartened because we know a Florida woman, Marissa Alexander, is not allowed to stand her ground against an ex-husband with a documented history of abuse, but Zimmerman was found by the court to be justified in believing he needed to kill an unarmed stranger.

And sadly, despite all the changes that have occurred over the past five decades, many of us are mourning, worried about what we should tell to our children that might just keep them safe, as if some set of behaviors could prevent them from being perceived as a threat. We mourn for all our boys.”