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UK Jewish body sets conditions for government engaging with MCB

UK Jewish body sets conditions for government engaging with MCB

Categories: Latest News

Friday September 25 2009

  There’s a further article in the Jewish Chronicle this week which is disconcerting.

The paper reports that the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) has, in its joint submission with the Community Security Trust to the Communities and Local Government Inquiry into ‘Prevent’, said that:

Any future engagement with umbrella groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain must be contingent on them representing a greater range of views than those of the Islamists, and firmly rejecting violence in all circumstances, including in overseas conflicts.

The BoD cites the Istanbul Declaration and Dr Daud Abdullah, the MCB deputy secretary general’s, signing of it.

It goes on to state that:

There is no long-term value in building partnerships with those whose attitude towards violent jihad is contingent upon circumstance.”

“The issue is confronting an extremist and alien political ideology which promotes the supremacy of Islam over other faiths and democratic political systems, a core belief in antisemitism and the use of violence to achieve its ends.”

There’s much in what the Board of Deputies of British Jews has written to the CLG that is of concern.

Firstly, the BoD’s demand that engagement be based on greater internal pluralism in the MCB is amusing, especially when you consider that the MCB is undoubtedly the UK’s largest and broadest based Muslim organisation with affiliates who come from all the main Islamic schools of thought.

We wonder what the BoD would think if UK Muslims were to write to the CLG demanding that the government break off relations with them until they represent a wider base of British Jewish opinion than they currently do as a condition to government engagement with it?

And what if the MCB were to lambast the BoD leadership as ‘Zionist’, in the same way that the BoD calls the MCB’s views ‘Islamist’?

Second, the BoD’s claims that the MCB’s view, or at least that of its deputy secretary general, on violent jihad ‘is contingent upon circumstance’, and that it must ‘firmly reject violence in all circumstances, including in overseas conflicts’ is disingenuous.

Dr Daud Abdullah and the MCB have already made very clear that it in no way ‘supports the targeting or killing of British soldiers anywhere in the world.’

What is interesting is whether the BoD itself abides by these conditions. During Israel’s criminal aggression against Gaza – now widely recognised as war crimes – the BoD supported a rally in Trafalgar Square in support of Israel. The question to be asked now is whether, given the extensive documentation (Breaking the Silence, Amnesty International, UN) of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, the BoD itself should be critiqued for its allegiance to a state guilty of perpetrating them? And what ‘long term value’ does the BoD suppose will emerge from its stance on overseas conflicts?

Lastly, there is something sinister in the BoD’s accusation that the violent ideology of Muslim extremists possesses ‘a core belief in antisemitism’.

From the trial of the three Muslims recently convicted of plotting the airline bomb plot, and from video messages left by other violent extremists who have gone on to commit terrorist atrocities, what has undoubtedly been a motivating factor has been the injustices they have witnessed and experienced, the results of western foreign policies abroad, including in Israel.

In suggesting that violent extremism is antisemitic the BoD conflates the case of Israel with Judaism itself making it next to impossible for conscientious objectors to western support for Israeli aggression to frame their concerns in language that will not automatically be designated antisemitic. It is such perversions that feeds the ideology of violent extremists and makes difficult the prospect of speaking out against bad foreign policy decisions that are contributive to the problem of violent extremism.

We hope the CLG committee, in reviewing the BoD and CST’s joint submission, will look closer and more critically at these flawed arguments.


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