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November 7, 2011 7:48 am

Lost In Translation – Dancing with the Devil

avatar by Adam Langleben

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English Defense League flags and an Israeli flag at a demonstration. Photo: Lionheart.

To my shock, I woke up on this morning to read the news that Ron Prosor, Israel’s envoy to the UN, and former Ambassador to Britain had attended a reception, spoke to and posed for a photo together with Marine LePen, the leader of the far right French National Front and presidential candidate, whilst she was in New York.

The Foreign Ministry have insisted that this was a chance meeting and they were under the impression that this was a French mission meeting. Having met Ron Prosor on several occasions, I am certain that this was probably the case and it was just a mistake.

However, this yet again raises a serious concern that I, and many Jews must share. Who should Israel and supporters of Israel get into bed with?

In London over the past two years, we have seen the emergence of the English Defense League – an anti-Islamic group of mainly white, working class men who campaign against Sharia law being forced onto our society. The EDL also boasts a Jewish Division. They have gained some popular support and march in an aggressive manner in cities and areas with large Muslim populations – arrests always follow. It is provocative behavior and there is little difference between the behavior of these thugs and that of Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts of the 1930’s – they even wear matching outfits and badges, proudly showing which division of the EDL they come from. The main difference is that this time, we, the Jews are not the target.

As well as being known for their far right anti-Muslim views, they are also increasingly vocal about their Pro-Israel credentials. They often campaign outside the Israeli Embassy, always as a counter to an anti-Israel demonstration. Once again, this is used as a way of provoking anti-Israel campaigners, many of whom are Muslim. Creating an environment of hate.

What seriously concerns me has been a lack of strong action and leadership from the Israeli embassy, and more worryingly – some Jewish supporters of Israel seem to be willing to stand side by side with them. In fact, a Vice President of the Zionist Federation has been accused of this, something that he contests, claiming that it was coincidence.

After a year, the Union of Jewish Students finally led the charge in opposing these bigots, by starting the Not in our Name campaign, which brought together leading organizations from our community to stand together and say that these people are no friends of Israel and no friends of the Jewish people.

This problem is not confined to Britain. In Eastern Europe, many of Israel’s strongest allies are homophobes, anti-Semites and racists. In Lithuania, the Government is pursuing a policy of erasing the legacy of the Holocaust from their national history and arresting Holocaust survivors on war crimes charges because they fought for the Soviets against the Nazis. In Latvia, SS Veterans march every year to the voices of senior politicians boasting of their pride in serving Latvia in the SS during the Second World War – and other Eastern European, former communist states are re-writing history to suit their own narrative.

It is understandable, that in times like this, when Israel’s friends seem few and far between, we might be willing sacrifice our own values for a bit of friendship, but I would urge everyone to remember that these are people that Israel, Jews and supporters of Israel need to keep at an arm’s length. Embracing such organizations and ideologies is an insult to our own past.

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  • Dzintars Davis

    Nevermind the special circumstances leading Latvia to side with the Nazis in WWII… Latvia was kind of, you know, situated between the two major European powers, and had to make a choice or be half-destroyed like it was in WWI. In addition to this, Russia has made a concerted effort at the cultural genocide of Latvians since the 1700’s. Even now, Russians make up a majority in Latvia’s own capital. There isn’t a lot a people will not do to protect their homeland. I would think Israelis could identify with that.

  • American in Europe

    Firstly, the flag of St George is, more to the point, the flag of England. Do we castigate the Scots for flying the Cross of St. Andrew? Or forbid the Swiss their standard?

    The EDL is undoubtedly Islamophobic. But given their outreach to other non-English minorities they (or their leadership at any rate) isn’t racist by any traditionally held standard.

    Should Jews be careful about nationalist groups in Europe. Darn tootin’. National Front, Jorg Haider and BNP are all no goodniks. (Frankly I think a piece exposing BNP would have been better). Vlaams Belang is on probation in my book. But the piece was basically suggesting that the EDL were a bunch of Nazis and I would argue that’s unfair and unjustified. Soccer hooligans? Possibly. Crusing for a fight? Undoubtedly. Coarse and brutal in their defense on England? Arguably yes. Enemies to the Jews? Nah.

  • Life Peace

    Mr Langleben,

    Excellent article. Keep up the good work.

  • Life Peace

    American in Europe,

    You are right – we should be careful with how we label people, and it is always good to differentiate between things that are different. But given that the spokesperson of the EDL admits that he got the job because the last spokesperson was islamophobic, it is safe to say that members of the EDL are islamophobic. Friends of mine have been to EDl protests and report that while the official line is not racist, there are many racist members. There have been many violent riots attached to their protests and each of their protests costs the UK taxpayer 100s of 1000s of pounds in policing costs. One doesn’t need to compare them to anything to know that they have a very narrow definition of Englishness and believe in England for the English. As such they are a threat to all Jews in England. In the ironic picture that accompanies this blog post, the writing on the flag over the christian cross of St George says North East Infidels – I don’t know what that means, but I assume they are claiming that Islam calls them infidels. The great irony here coming when one remembers that in the name of that flag and that cross, it was from Christian England that the crusades departed to destroy Jewish Europe and conquer the holy land from Muslim, and why? Because they were infidels. I notice the photo was taken by some going under the moniker Lionheart. How appropriate.
    The EDL are an English Supremacist organisation, if not a white supremacist organisation, though there is nothing to suggest their Islamophobia is the limit of their bigotry. As an Israeli, I am ashamed to see my flag held at one of their rallies.

  • American in Europe

    I think it is important to maintain a nuanced view of European politics, just as surely as we would wish our friends here in Europe to not paint North American politics with a broad brush. The English Defense League is not the same as the British National Party, for instance, and neither one is similar to the United Kingdom Independence Party, and all the above are different than the Blackshirts. The EDL has made strides in promoting a (relatively) broad-based English identity that crosses religious, subcultural and ethnic barriers. Not only do they have a “Jewish Division” but they also have a Sikh and a gay division as well. There is much to disagree with in their platforms, but to suggest they are Nazis is a gross mischaracterization (at best). And are they wholly without cause? Islamic groups in the UK and elsewhere around Europe have acted stridently at times (to be generous). When Islamic activists start hanging signs around London proclaiming Sharia Law in effect, is it not unthinkable that there will be a reaction? Sorry. The EDL are much better friends to British minorities than some of the governments in charge, and frankly it is slanderous to compare them to Latvian Nazis.