Self-defeating Hayek saga only serves the far-right

Mosque defaced with a swastika and the term 'EDL' (Via Jewish News)
Mosque defaced with a swastika and the term 'EDL' (Via Jewish News)

Ensuing conversation about comments by JNF Chairman Samuel Hayek has brought to the surface the ugly face of Islamophobia in the British Jewish community.

A recent resurgence of the far-right across Western Europe and North America has accompanied spiking levels of anti-Muslim racism (or vice-versa). However, far-right islamophobia is not just found in neo-Nazi group slogans or anti-migrant rallies, it is also a narrative, which, cloaked in mainstream language, is finding increasing purchase in our own Jewish community.

This far-right does not look like it did 75 years ago; it has cleaned up both its image and its language, appealing to people who do not consider themselves to be racist and digging its claws into the mainstream through claims that it is “only speaking the truth” or “saying what others are too scared to”. This permits people to inadvertently spread conspiracy theories, such as fixations on Muslim birth rates, without considering themselves to be racist.

Terminology such as “dhimmitude”, used by a Jewish News letter writer to refer to the alleged othering of non-Muslims in Arab societies, was popularised by Bat Ye’or in her conspiratorial and racist book Eurabia. The Eurabia conspiracy theory stipulates that a monolithic Muslim force is attempting to control or invade Europe; it is the starting point for antisemitic conspiracy theories such as “The Great Replacement”, and a foundational text for movements such as Defence Leagues (such as the EDL). What, then, is a typical far-right trope doing in a Jewish person’s writing?

While neo-Nazis remain a small section of the far-right, there is a wider, looming threat, where online forums sow conspiracy theories and attempt to pit minority communities against each other. All the while, far-right philosemitism attempts to attract Jews in the promise that it both understands and opposes antisemitism, and is forgiven for its sins with a cursory claim that “well, they’re good on Israel”.

Just over the channel, a Jewish far-right polemicist is running for the French Presidency, armed with a string of convictions for hate crimes and the knowledge that his Jewish identity will protect him from serious accusations of racism. The Vice-President of the Representative Council of French Jews (CRIF) Yonathan Arfi, described Eric Zemmour as a “double punishment”; firstly for the covert antisemitism that he espouses, and secondly for the blame which the community are facing on his behalf. While many question how a candidate like Zemmour could have possibly arisen, we can find the answer no further than in the pages of our own Jewish papers.

There are ways in which we can raise concerns about antisemitism in the Muslim community, just as we do with antisemitism in other arenas, without leading to the vilification, homogenisation and stereotyping of an entire community. As a community that has been vilified, homogenised and stereotypes for centuries, we know the consequences.

Those who view anti-Muslim hatred as the only solution to rising antisemitism are failing to see a wider picture of far-right activity across Europe. While far-right islamophobic forums and networks may appear to offer easy solutions and a scapegoat for rising anxiety in the Jewish community, they are also rife with dogwhistle antisemitism, and only serve to perpetuate anti-Jewish hatred.

The way in which we tackle these issues matters for wider society; in some respects, the success of the radical right hinges on Jewish complicity.

Clumsy, offensive and frankly incorrect generalisations serve to help neither Muslims nor Jews; only the far-right.

Our community has a very long way to go to root out the foundations that the far-right has lain. Let this incident be the start of conversations in our synagogues, youth groups and community institutions.

About the Author
Hannah Rose is a Research Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and PhD candidate in War Studies at King’s College London. She also holds an Associate Fellowship from the Institute for the Freedom of Faith and Security in Europe. Her research focuses on far-right antisemitism, philosemitism and its relationship with rising islamophobia. Hannah is a former President and current Trustee of the Union of Jewish Students.
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