The English Defence League: bigotry and hate

4 Jun 2010 by CST

Today's Jewish Chronicle reports that the English Defence League, like the British National Party, is trying to recruit Jews to its Islamophobic campaign:

The English Defence League, the extreme right-wing anti-Islamic-fundamentalism group, has launched a "Jewish division", encouraging members of the community to "lead the counter-Jihad fight in England".

It has signed up hundreds of followers on Facebook since the launch last week. Supporters include an ex-Community Security Trust volunteer who claims "a lot of Jewish guys want to get stuck in".

One follower wrote on Facebook "we are all Shayetet 13", in support of the IDF naval special forces unit involved in the Gaza flotilla incident.

But Jewish community organisations responded to the initiative with shock, saying the EDL intimidated Muslim communities and claiming its support for Israel was "empty and duplicitous".

The former CST member, Mark Israel, claimed Jews should back the EDL as an alternative to existing community groups.

For the record, Mark Israel has not been a CST volunteer for several years.

CST and other Jewish community leadership groups have consistently opposed the EDL's approach, and the JC included this in their report:

Mark Gardner, CST communications director, said: "The EDL intimidate entire Muslim communities, causing tension and fear. Jews ought to remember that we have long experience of being on the receiving end of this kind of bigotry."

Jon Benjamin, Board of Deputies chief executive, said: "The EDL's supposed 'support' for Israel is empty and duplicitous. It is built on a foundation of Islamophobia and hatred which we reject entirely.

"Sadly, we know only too well what hatred for hatred's sake can cause. The overwhelming majority will not be drawn in by this transparent attempt to manipulate a tense political conflict."

On Wednesday evening, reports emerged that the EDL might try to join a Zionist Federation demonstration at the Israeli embassy which was being secured by CST. The demonstration was organised solely by the ZF, not CST, but we were present to provide security as we do for around 1,000 varied events of all types in the Jewish community every year. The ZF made it clear that the EDL were not welcome and we insisted that we were not willing to have the EDL inside a demonstration which our volunteers were securing. For this reason, the police created a separate pen for the EDL but in the event, as the Jewish Chronicle reported, this was not necessary:

Israel Connect’s David Cohen  expressed his relief that the EDL did not make an appearance, saying: “We wouldn’t have stood for it, and nor would the police or the CST.”

What is particularly disappointing is that despite this, some Jewish anti-Zionists (for instance in this letter in today's Guardian) seem determined to make the allegation that the ZF happily stood alongside the EDL on a demonstration secured by CST, when this is not true, in order to make a political point.

We have made our position about the EDL and similar groups very clear in the past, in severalarticles on this blog and statements to the media. They present a divisive, hateful politics that demonises minorities (in their case, one particular minority) and damages social cohesion in a way that is never beneficial for society as a whole, or for Jews in particular. When a similar group, Stop Islamisation Of Europe (SIOE), demonstrated at Harrow Mosque in north west London last year, CST advised the mosque on their stewarding and security before the event. We did this because we believe that antisemitism and other forms of prejudice are best fought by bringing communities together, not setting them in conflict against each other.

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