Cries of anti-Semitism took another extraordinary turn yesterday after one of Britain’s leading advocates for the state of Israel insisted that the charge of Islamophobia was itself anti-Semitic in an article titled “Don’t fall for bogus claims of ‘Islamophobia’”.
This remarkable claim, which dismissed serious concerns over the rise in anti-Muslim racism, was made in the right-wing anti-Palestinian community newspaper the Jewish Chronicle by Melanie Phillips. According to the pro-Israel commentator, who only two weeks ago peddled the racist trope that Muslims are commanded by their faith to deceive, asserted that the “the concept of ‘Islamophobia’” is “profoundly anti-Jew”.
The article, full of invectives about Islam and the Muslim world that none would dare say about Jews and Judaism, declared that “anti-Zionism is the modern mutation of antisemitism”. Phillips, who was quoted at length by terrorist Anders Breivik in his manifesto before he murdered 69 people, added that the “the taunt of Islamophobia” was being used to “silence any criticism of the Islamic world, including Islamic extremism”.
Anti-Zionism, she suggested, is in fact a “modern mutation of antisemitism” and that critics of Israel were equally “deranged” and “demonic” as Jew haters. To the right-wing anti-Palestinian commentator there was no difference between opposing Zionism and “attacking Judaism itself”. The two along with “the land of Israel” are said to be “inseparable”.
Though there have been a series of high-profile public interventions recently by members of the Jewish community highlighting concerns over anti-Semitism, this is the first time that genuine fears amongst Muslims over the normalisation of Islamophobia, particularly within the ruling Tory party, has been dismissed in such a politicised manner. Suggesting that a minority community drawing attention to the racism it faces was itself a form of racism against another minority reaches a new level of hysteria.
The JC has a long track record in this regard. Prior to its publication of the article by Philips it led a campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn in the lead up to last Thursday’s election. For instance in November the paper urged Brits not to vote for the Labour leader, warning that British Jews would flee the UK because he was an anti-Semite.
This latest attack on the British Muslim community appears to buck the trend of the paper’s very own poor track record when it comes to Israel and Palestine. It appears to confirm many people’s fear that Boris Johnson’s commanding victory last week would open the floodgates of anti-Muslim hostility.
Johnson’s victory was not only cheered by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who also urged voters not to back Corbyn, Israel lawmakers have similarly been gushing at the prospect of five years of Conservative rule. At the same time Britain’s minorities are preparing for what is expected to be a tumultuous period coinciding with the rise of racism and Islamophobia.
Their faith in the new prime minister has been rewarded in earnest. One of the first measures to be introduced by Tories in what is expected to be a “revolutionary” government, are steps to protect Israel from the growing boycott moment targeting its illegal occupation of Palestine.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), one of Britain’s largest Muslim representative bodies is one of many groups warning of the spike in racism Britain’s minorities are expected to face. “There is a palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities around the country” and that Islamophobia was “oven-ready” for government, said the MCB following Johnson’s victory.
While hate crimes are generally on the rise in England and Wales with anti-Semitism plainly being an issue, Islamophobia has gone up at a staggering rate. Just under half (47 per cent) of religious hate crime offences between 2018-2019 were targeted against Muslims (3,530 offences).
Despite this alarming increase, attention to this issue has not only been paltry in comparison, it is also anti-Sematic to highlight this concern according to Phillips.
The problem of Islamophobia, as this expert pointed out in the Foreign Policy journal, “is more dire today than after the 9/11 attacks or the 2005 London train and bus bombings”. The majority of Brits want a reduction in the number of Muslims entering Britain, and an even greater majority, a staggering 62 per cent are said to believe that Islam threatens the British way of life.
The scourge of anti-Semitism is a serious issue and anyone claiming to be genuinely worried about its rise should think very seriously before undermining the fight against racism by dismissing the fears of other minorities.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.