Ari Soffer of Arutz7 is in the UK right now and he’s taken the chance to interview the new head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. It’s a long interview but I’ll highlight some interesting parts.
Since I left the UK I’ve watched in dismay: the timid leadership of British Jewry has cowered through two defensive wars by Israel, apologising for the evil settlements and hoping against hope that Bibi would be deposed. Wiill Jonathan Arkush turn this around and start asserting clearly that Israel exists by right as the home of the indigenous Jewish people?
Jonathan Arkush, a lawyer by trade, won a shock victory in last May’s leadership elections, which came on the heels of a backlash by British Jews towards communal organizations many accused of weakness in the face of last summer’s explosion of anti-Semitism.
He is a little different to what has come before him, but he’s still wholly sold on the idea that if he just talks to enough Muslims, he’ll convince them to overlook the Jew hatred baked into their holy texts.
And he also emphasized the progress made in the struggle against anti-Semitism over the past decades, viewing as particularly positive the fact that Britain’s far-right is today “politically irrelevant” — unlike its ideological cousins elsewhere in Europe — as the recent failed attempts by neo-Nazis to intimidate the Jewish community proved.
But he also admitted the growing threat from a contemporary “odd alliance” between the far-left and Muslim extremists, which has by now far outstripped the threat to the Jewish community from the extreme-right.
He accused the far-left of “using Israel as their whipping boy” to stay relevant in the post-Cold War era, and in doing so empowering today’s religious fascists standing at the forefront of anti-Semitism in Europe.
“I don’t think they have a genuine interests in the Palestinians — they certainly don’t have an interest in real human rights abuses elsewhere in the world. So I think you can see Israel is more of a pretext to attack what they really despise, which is western liberal values,” he says of the European hard-left.
“Last summer we saw how they have come together in a very odd alliance with extremist Muslims,” who are themselves gaining ground among young British Muslims in particular.
I find this interesting. Back in 2006, almost a decade ago, I was reading books like “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam And the American Left” by David Horovitz. I think 9 years of fore-warning would say that this is now a normal alliance rather than an odd one.
Arkush emphasized that while anti-Semitism in Britain is emanating largely from extremists within the Muslim community, most British Muslims are “reasonable, law-abiding and decent people, who if they have any feelings at all about the Middle East aren’t very extreme about it.”
I’m glad he manages to find comfort in his own assumptions, I find most of the polling information that comes out about the level of support for Hamas or Hezbollah or even ISIS in the UK rather more troubling. Especially amongst the youth.
“We have a common agenda regarding shechita and halal, and circumcision — both of which are under concerted attack – and defending faith schools from the aggressive secularism that is there all around us in British society,” Arkush pointed out, although he cautioned that more oversight was needed to ensure extremism wasn’t being taught in Muslim schools.
I’ve written at length on why shechita and halal are completely different issues. That the head of Britain’s Jewish community doesn’t know this shows both a deep lack of knowledge about his own religion and Islam. Jewish and Muslim male circumcision are also completely different and thank heavens that the frighteningly common female genital mutilation in the UK is completely abhorrent for Jews.
“We’ve had 2,000 years’ experience of living as a minority – Muslims have had almost none,” he said. “They need to undergo and build a set of values that adjusts to that status. We’re at a very early stage in that process.
“I am not excusing any of the extremism or anti-Semitism at all, but I am simply pointing out a cultural and social reality that they are new to this game.”
Arkush believes that via engagement, British Jews — who overcame their status as impoverished immigrants to thrive as a community — can impart their hard-learned lessons to their Muslim fellow citizens, and in doing so play an invaluable role in the wider fight against Islamic extremism.
And there in lies the biggest problem of all. The totally bizarre assumption that Islam and Muslims will follow a similar path to Jews and assimilate nicely into a non-Muslim majority. Perhaps Jews always had a very different “set of values” built into Judaism which explains why Jews never try to impose Jewish observances on anyone but Jews.
He seems to base his belief in a possible forthcoming reform of Islam, unicorns and mermaids on nothing but dreamy thinking. He is right: an entire Islamic society has never really lived as a non ruling minority within another culture. He would do well to learn some of the history of Islam because he may find some answers there.