Easy parallels between today’s terrorists and yesterday’s immigrants distort history
Are Muslims â€” as is sometimes stated â€” the “new Jews”? In his hybrid documentary, The Enemy Within, broadcast last week on Channel 4, Joseph Bullman draws exact parallels between the historical experiences of the two communities. The comparison is superficially attractive and the JC’s own Jonathan Freedland was seduced by it in his column of September 18.
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The programme’s narrator informs us that, in the 1890s, Britain was undergoing an influx of “foreign asylum seekers” including “anarchists â€” a group of fundamentalists being expelled from their own countries in Eastern Europe”. Bullman thus blurs the immigration of Russian Jews fleeing poverty and oppression in the Tsarist Empire with the movement of political Ã©migrÃ©s to safe havens such as Victorian London. The confusion is deliberately increased by use of the word “fundamentalist”. Yet the Jewish immigrants were neither fundamentalist in a religious sense nor, for the most part, anarchistic.
True, there were anarchists and revolutionary socialists among them. But how Jewish were they? Jewish anarchists were anti-religious. On Yom Kippur, they held a feast outside the Great Synagogue: hardly a sign of fundamentalism. Unlike today’s terrorists who act in the name of Islam, Jewish revolutionaries were driven by a secular ideology.
Moreover, Jews were fleeing a tyrannical regime and a large part of British society, especially the Liberals, sympathised with their fight against Tsarist autocracy. Contrast that to the situation today. Whatever their personal beliefs, British Muslims are popularly aligned with Islamic countries that threaten British interests, like Iran, or where British troops are battling Jihadist militants. Whereas many British Muslims with family roots in Pakistan return regularly, Russian Jews gladly cut their ties with the “old country”. .
Bullman argues that foreign anarchists found a welcome among disenfranchised British workers who were on the brink of revolution. Few historians of Victorian Britain would recognise this picture.
And what of the Jews? According to Bullman, “in the Jewish neighbourhoods, revolutionary sentiment [was] on the rise”. In one passage echoing right wing anti-Jewish propaganda, Bullman’s narrator pronounces that the “Anarchist movement was dominated by Jews”. This would have come as news to Prince Peter Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, and Enrico Malatesta. It would have bemused Rudolf Rocker, the German who led London’s East End Jewish radicals for 20 years.
The British press certainly did conflate the revolutionary movement with the Jews, but this was a fantasy. If Bullman is trying to persuade us that the linking of Muslims with terrorism today is equally fanciful, sadly his own witnesses proclaim the opposite. Imtiaz and Hanif Qadir and Omer Butt all testify to the widespread radicalisation of young Muslims.
This is not to deny that Jews were involved in violent criminal acts for political ends. In January 1909, two Jewish Bolsheviks raided a payroll van in Tottenham, killing two people and wounding 20 others, including seven policemen. The fugitives were eventually killed in a shoot-out.
In December 1910, police interrupted a group of Jewish revolutionaries breaking into a jewellery shop in Houndsditch. An exchange of gunfire left three policemen dead and two wounded. The gang was later traced to Sidney Street, in Stepney. When the fugitives fired at police officers sent to arrest them, the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, authorised the use of troops. Two Jews died in the assault on their hideout.
This mayhem in London’s Jewish district empowered the bigots who denounced “alien” immigration and reinforced the canard that Jews were revolutionaries. But Jewish anarchists were mostly pacific. The worst violence was committed by Marxist revolutionaries and they were not trying to overthrow the British government, as Bullman alleges, but seeking to fund the cause in Russia.
British Jews denounced the radicals; there was no hint of sympathy or justification for their acts. The Jewish immigrants were no less hostile. Jews in Whitechapel used their votes to elect a succession of impeccably respectable Liberal Jewish MPs to represent them. Unlike today’s voters for Respect, they eschewed religious fundamentalism and political dissidence.
If anything, Jewish radicalism, and the response to it, proves the very opposite of what Bullman intends to show us about Islamic extremism. Despite superficial similarities between the Jewish experience and the position of Muslims now, it is only possible to create a parallel by distorting history.
David Cesarani teaches the new MA in Public History at Royal Holloway that explores the use and misuse of the past.
Here’s a particularly annoying article that pushes the same BS propaganda:
Swiss fall to racist panic: Banning minarets on Muslim mosques ‘the modern version of 1930s anti-Semitism’
Last month, after a blitz of xenophobia, scaremongering and racism by the hard right People’s Party, Swiss voted 57% in a referendum to ban further construction of mosque minarets (small, narrow towers). The People’s Party claimed the ban would stop the threat of “Islamization of Switzerland” and defend women’s rights from alleged Muslim oppression. Switzerland has only four small mosques.
Europe’s hard, anti-Muslim right rejoiced. France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, Italy’s former fascists and French neo-fascist, Jean-Marie Le Pen, lauded the racist vote.
You can see where this is going. Margolis is using every register of Mohammedan BS prop. But there are hardly any buyers:
A Michael Hunt tries to set him straight:
…total fail in anti-Semitic comparison. The Jews just wanted to be left alone to live in peace. Muslims want the exact opposite. I wish the liberals stepping up to defend Muslim rights would spend some time talking to a disaffected woman from a Muslim country, any Muslim country. I’ve spent time in Turkey and Egypt and, being of an atheistic bent, learned more about their religion than most Muslims know themselves. Here are some of the basic, incontrovertible tenets of Islam:
Only Islamic men are fully human, everyone else is a lower animal.
It is every Muslim’s duty to Islamicize the world through genocide and forced conversion.
Non-Muslims are to be discriminated against, heavily, in any Muslim society, to the extent of tattooing them at birth. (This is a fact. Ask an Egyptian Christian–s/he’ll have a cross tattooed on hir hand. Upper-class ones get it tattooed on the underside of the wrist so as to be able to blend in better.)
Any Muslim who leaves the fold is to be executed by vigilante squads that will never be punished, as is anyone considered to have “led them away from Islam”. Torturing them to death to “drive out the demons” is still accepted practice. Don’t laugh, it’s true.
A man’s honor is dependent not on his actions or inactions but on how well he controls the sexuality of his female relatives.
All people must subsume themselves absolutely to the authority of anyone higher up the religious food chain, up to an including killing someone who has broken Sharia law.
Oh, and all Jews must be killed for failing to recognize Mohammed as the true prophet.
Not that this is in any way different from 15th century Christianity, but the difference lies in that it was a serious perversion of, say, the Sermon on the Mount to introduce the Iron Maiden to religious worship whereas the worst abuses of Christianity are codified in Islam.
Islam is a political movement more than a religion, and as a political movement it most accurately resembles Nazi Germany. The genocide of the Jews is the clearest parallel, but the hierarchy and authoritarianism are also applicable.
The great Western mistake being made today is that we’re extending tolerance to the intolerant. It’s a stated goal of some Islamic thinkers to infiltrate Western democracies, outbreed them, and Islamicise them from within. It’s a shame that the pushback against this is spearheaded by wrongheaded bigots, but the pushback has to happen or we will have Sharia law across Europe within fifty years.
This is not to say that Muslims can’t be good people. I’ve met plenty. But they are good people in direct proportion to their ignorance of their religion.
As an aside, societies have a collective age. America is in its late teens or early twenties–what in some is the idealistic age but in others is the self-destructive age (I think we can agree which path America chose). England is in late middle-age, stolid and dependable with an ongoing midlife crisis. The Islamic world is about fourteen years old, and male. If anyone out there has ever been a fourteen year old male, I want you to think back to that age and imagine you had the keys to an army. Were you capable of running a country?
Last anti-Muslim note: ask any Western woman who has spent time around Muslims if they aren’t really sexually creepy. The level of sexual depravity in a society that doesn’t even acknowledge homosexuality (and murders its practitioners) is astonishing. Like the Catholic church, which is the branch of Christianity closest to Islam, the more you suppress the sex drive the more disturbed the people turn out to be.
I’ve spent my time in the more liberal Muslim countries. I can only (but safely) assume that the atrocities I’ve witnessed and heard about are worse in a serious theocracy. Read the book “Cruel and Usual Punishment” by Nonie Dawlish for more detail. She escaped Egypt and, although a little bombastic and overly pro-Christianity for my taste, accurately expands on the points I just made.
Now go ahead and flame me for being a racist. I prefer the term “realist”. My ex-Islamic friends who grew up in that culture would enthusiastically agree with everything I just wrote.
Those who are aware of history are still doomed to repeat it because the ignorant are in charge.