Melanie Philips Criticised by Board of Deputies for Islamophobia Article in Jewish Chronicle

Oh the irony! Melanie ‘Mad Mel’ Phillips, Daily Mail hack, author, and determined opponent of anti-Semitism and Islamism, has been slapped down for an article she wrote in the Jewish Chronicle denying Islamophobia. According to her highly informed opinion (sarcasm), islamophobia is simply a made-up term used to close down criticism of the Islamic world, including Islamic extremism.

According to Zelo Street, without any trace of irony or self-awareness,  Phillips started the piece off by conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism, she declared, was merely the latest mutation of anti-Semitism. The two, according to her, share ‘the same deranged, obsessive falsehoods, demonic conspiracy theory and double standards. It is furthermore an attack on Judaism itself, in which the land of Israel is an inseparable element.’ This is twaddle. Zelo Street points out that Zionism and Judaism certainly aren’t the same, because how else can you explain Christian Zionism? It’s a good question, especially as Christian and non-Jewish Zionism often stemmed from anti-Semitism. Many genuine anti-Semites and Fascists supported the foundation of a Jewish state as a way of clearing Jews out from their own countries. This attitude was so strong that, when one German aristocrat was approached by the Zionists c. 1920 and asked why he didn’t support the creation, he replied that he did, but didn’t want to make it public in case people thought he was an anti-Semite. The Nazis and other European Fascists considering setting up a Jewish homeland in Madagascar, and the were similar schemes among British Fascists for Uganda. This was succeeded by the infamous and short-lived Ha’avara Agreement between the Zionists and the Nazis, in which the Nazis smuggled Jewish settlers in Palestine, then under the British Mandate. But mentioning this, according to the Israel lobby in this country, means that you’re an anti-Semite. Look what happened to Mike when he did in his long piece defending Ken Livingstone, The Livingstone Delusion.

The identity of Zionism and Judaism is also highly dubious. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, such as the Haredi and True Torah Jews, passionately reject the state of Israel for religious reasons. They believe that Israel can only be founded by direct divine action through the Messiah. Modern Israel was founded by secular atheists, and so to them is an abomination. Before the Second World War, most Jews throughout the world, whether in America or Europe or wherever, simply wanted to be equal citizens of the countries, where they had lived for centuries, if not millennia. They regarded these as their real homelands.

As for the accusation that anti-Zionism is based on conspiracy theories, well, there is a mass of very strong evidence showing that the attacks on anti-Zionists and critics of Israel as anti-Semites are very much instigated and supported by the Israeli state through its Office of Strategic Affairs. And recognising that is very different from believing idiotic, murderous myths about the Jews controlling capitalism and trying to destroy the White race.

Philips then went on to declare that ‘Islamophobia’ was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood to mimic antisemitism’. Er, no. Zelo Street states that the term was invented before 1923, citing the article in Wikipedia, which suggests that the term was first used in a 1918 biography of the Prophet Mohammed by the painter Alphonse Etienne Dinet and the Algerian intellectual Sliman ben Ibrahim. The Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t founded until 1928. Philips then went on to claim that  “‘Islamophobia’ appropriates to itself the unique attribute of antisemitism – that it is deranged – in order falsely to label any adverse comment about the Islamic world as a form of mental disorder”. Zelo Street succinctly demolishes this absurd claim by stating that the term is simply used to describe anti-Muslim bigotry. Which is correct. I haven’t heard of anyone seriously suggesting that anti-Muslim prejudice is a form of mental illness, or demanding that those who allegedly suffer from it should somehow need psychiatric treatment to cure them. Philips then continued “The concept of ‘Islamophobia’ is thus profoundly anti-Jew. Islamophobia’ is not equivalent to antisemitism. It facilitates it”.

The Board of Deputies found these sentiments to be unpalatable, and issued the following statement in professed solidarity with Muslims and others suffering racism. the Jewish Chronicle’s “fearless journalism has been at the forefront of tackling antisemitism & its denial. The publication of this piece was an error. Anti-Muslim prejudice is very real & it is on the rise. Our community must stand as allies to all facing racism”.

The Muslim Council of Britain also wasn’t impressed. Zelo Street quote a tweet by Miqdad Versi, describing how the Jewish Chronicle has a lot of previous in stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment, especially with articles by Philips. Versi said

We should not be surprised by the Jewish Chroncile – it’s not the first time. When many Muslims were reeling after the massacre in Christchurch, they published a similar hate-filled piece by Melanie Phillips.They lied about the [MCB] & had to correct their lie … They lied about a Muslim charity, falsely linking it to terrorism, necessitating an apology and paying libel damages … When Baroness Warsi speaks up against Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, its editor tries to slur her … In one of a *number of articles* intending to undermine the definition of Islamophobia, it made false claims of links to extremism, about Professor Salman Sayyid, which it had to retract … This latest article is not a one-off but part of a pattern of behaviour – an editorial line on Muslim-related issues as the thread shows”. 

Zelo Street concludes that at least the Board of Deputies has called the Jewish Chronicle out on this one. It’s just a pity that it won’t have any effect on either Philips or the editor, Stephen Pollard.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/board-of-deputies-calls-out-jewish.html

I also find the Board’s statement somewhat hypocritical.

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group stated in one of his articles that when he was growing up in the 1980s, the Board of Deputies did not want Jews such as himself attending any of the anti-racism marches or protests by organisations like Rock Against Racism. The ostensible reason was that they were trying to stop Jewish youth from hearing anti-Zionist propaganda. But others on the Left thought the real reason was simple racism on their part. Whatever the reason, some of the meetings held by Jewish anti-racists had to be held in non-Jewish venues, like Quaker meeting houses and church halls, because the Board forbade synagogues to allow them to meet there.

The Board of Deputies is a Zionist organisation. It’s in their constitution. And as such, it has absolutely no qualms accommodating real Islamophobes. Let’s take their mass demonstrations with the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish Labour Movement against Jeremy Corbyn last year or so. The former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has led a group of British Jews to participate in the annual March of the Flags in Jerusalem. This is when Israeli super-patriotic bovverboys parade through the city’s Muslim quarter waving the country’s flag, vandalising Arab property and terrorising the neighbourhood’s people. Liberal Jewish organisations asked Sacks not to go. But he went anyway. As far as I am aware, there was not a peep of criticism from the Board, and they were happy to join the attacks on Corbyn by Sacks and his successor, Ephraim Mirvis, who may also have participated in the March. I also remember that among the protesters was one young man wearing a Kach T-shirt. Kach are an Israeli far-right organisation, which was banned under their terrorism laws. I am similarly aware of no criticism of this man by the Board.

In my experience, the issue of the Palestinians looms very large amongst this country’s Muslims. I studied Islam at College in the 1980s and early ’90s. I once came across the equivalent of a Christian parish magazine put out by one of the mosques. Among its articles was coverage of the closure of a mosque and a nearby church by the Israeli authorities. The Israeli state has a policy of closing down unauthorised non-Jewish places of worship as part of the general pressure and discrimination against the Palestinians. And certain sections of the Muslim community in this country were very aware of it. My guess is that the mosque that published the article wasn’t alone in its concern for its coreligionists in the Holy Land, and that this attitude is general and persists to the present day. That does not mean that they all hate Jews or want to see Israel destroyed and its people massacred. It does mean, though, that they want the religious and ethnic persecution of the Palestinians stopped. But the Board of Deputies flings around accusations of anti-Semitism in order to stop criticism of Israel for its actions against the Palestinians.

If the Board of Deputies is really serious about standing in solidarity with Muslims against racism, then one excellent place would be to start protesting against the treatment of Muslims – and by extension Christians – in Israel.

Until that happens, the Board is just being hypocritical.

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