13 Comments
Nov 12, 2023Liked by Joshi Herrmann

Thanks for the article but, as so often, the generalisation of "Jewish community" was used. I am one of many Jews who don't feel included or represented by "the Jewish community".

We, in growing numbers of Jews, march with, and are welcomed by, Muslims and a very wide range of people in Greater Manchester in support of Palestinians and their right to be free, after 75 years, in an equitably shared homeland, "from the river to the sea". This plea is not anti-Semitic, nor a threat. To be free is the hope of peoples around the world.

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Thanks Steve. It's a bit of a shorthand, I don't think the piece suggests there is one amorphous body of Jews who all think the same. It mentions Jews attending marches etc. But thanks for the feedback.

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Nov 12, 2023Liked by Joshi Herrmann, Mollie Simpson

Just to say thanks for writing this. It is so important to have well informed pieces like this in the midst of the ‘bought and paid for’ views promoted in the mainstream press.

So essential that we have opportunities to make local sense of national/international events.

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Thanks very much

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Nov 12, 2023Liked by Joshi Herrmann

This is an excellent piece. I didn’t volunteer to be interviewed as I have no firsthand information. However as Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester I helped to issue the statement at the link.

Subsequently I have given a number of interviews about the vital need to avoid importing the Israel / Palestine conflict into our city.

https://www.muslimjewish.org.uk/Past-events/Gaza-statement-2023-10-11.html

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Thanks Mohammed, will give that a read.

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I'm a fan and longterm subscriber to The Mill, despite my reservations about some previous editorial stances. This might be my last week as a Mill subscriber, however, if work isn't done to address the bias in this article. Let's go through the issues:

1) this article frames concerns about Palestine/Israel as issues of 'inter-community' tensions between Jewish people and Muslims. Given there are more Evangelical Christian Zionists in, for eg, the USA then there are Jews full stop in the USA, and given that plenty of non-Jewish people support Israel whilst plenty of Jews do not (including those organising the 'Jews for Gaza' demonstration this coming Thurs in St Peter's Sq), we should be able to recognise that this is not an issue that is about tensions between 2 large, diverse and amorphous religious and racialised groups. That framing itself does a disservice to the actuality of the situation. Where there are 'tensions,' it is important to recognise which actors within the respective 'communities' are speaking about said 'tensions,' and to what ends.

2) The narrative your article produces is 'British Jews feel under threat, on edge and alienated by British political consensus [irregardless of the reality, which is that many British Jews do not feel an investment in Israel and that, for those who do, almost the entirety of the English political establishment is not only turning a blind eye to Israel's genocide of Palestinians but also actively supporting it, obfuscating on whether Israel has breached international law, etc], whilst British Muslim community leaders are concerned about the threat of British Muslims being antisemitic and/or perpetrating Islamist terrorism [a deeply racist and longstanding trope].' You write: 'Pook is by no means the only source within the Muslim community in Greater Manchester who we have spoken to in the past week who has expressed concerns about the dangers of anger and frustration tipping over into extremism or even violence.' I know Muslim Manchester residents, some of whom I suspect you may have spoken to, who would absolutely refute this as a realistic or justified anxiety, and would rightly name it as an Islamophobic anxiety that you are insinuating. You expend no fewer than 5 paragraphs *explicitly* discussing this perceived threat (several others implying it heavily), whilst glancing over the grief, anger and trauma that the Palestinian - and other Middle Eastern - residents of Manchester are likely feeling, with whole families and communities they know/have connections with having been murdered in the last month. (Recall: the death count in Gaza alone, as of yesterday, is over 11,000. Recall that Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth with a population of over 2 million, and it the metric tonnage of the airstrikes on it are now more than that which was dropped on Hiroshima. Recall, too, that Israel has bombed hospitals, schools, refugee camps. Don't forget that the WHO says that, at present, 1 child is killed by Israel every 10 minutes in Gaza. Recall, also, that the West Bank is facing near-unprecedented levels of aggression, with unprecedented airstrikes on the Palestinian population, and ethnic cleansing and killing of Palestinians.)

3) 'Middle Eastern flavour of its congregants' is a pretty orientalising choice of language. Middle Eastern people are people, not food?

4) Whilst a Holocaust scholar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mZMkNJYr-0&ab_channel=DemocracyNow%21) and many others (https://opiniojuris.org/2023/10/18/public-statement-scholars-warn-of-potential-genocide-in-gaza/), alongside the UN (https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/10/un-expert-warns-new-instance-mass-ethnic-cleansing-palestinians-calls) and similar human rights + international law bodies, have named what Israel is perpetrating as genocide, you have put the word genocide in quotation marks.

5) You repeatedly conflate the Israeli community with the international Jewish community, such as when you say: 'The Jewish community had not experienced a trauma anything like this for decades — perhaps going back to the middle of the last century, when Jews from his parents’ generation grappled with the very real possibility that Israel would be wiped out by successive invasions from the Arab states.' For many non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews, this was not a trauma other than that they were routinely (and antisemitic-ly) associated with Israel and/or might have family in Israel for whom they feared.

6) You quote several Jewish people who are explicit Zionists ('Goldman, a Jewish man who lives in north Manchester and strongly supports Israel' and 'Bloom, [...] a co-chair of North West Friends of Israel'). North West Friends of Israel object to boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli state and Israeli-produced goods. That is an explicitly peaceful tactic. They self-declaredly '[advocate] for Israel.' These are not good faith nor moderate actors; they have an agenda in suppressing Palestinian voices and solidarity, and in presenting Jewish people as all invested in Israel, and Israel and Jewish-people-as-related-to-Israel as all under threat. Did you consider reaching out to Jewish anti-Zionists in organisations like Jewish Voice for Labour, the Jewish bloc who are organising to attend Palestine solidarity marches, the Jews For Gaza demonstration organisers, etc? Or were you only interested in talking to Zionist Jews? What does it say about how you regard Jewish people that you only substantively quoted Zionist Jews with extremely strong pro-Zionist commitments, despite the substantial dissent within Jewish communities on these subjects?

7) You demonstrate an astounding lack of knowledge/recognition of the history of the region. Tiberias is not 'a historic Israeli city;' it pre-existed the establishment of Israel by over 400 years. Shlomo Sands, and other Israeli historians, write excellently and with a strong evidence base on the subject of Israeli projection onto the past of Israel's existence and how, in fact, Israel never existed as either a state nor a proto-state-like formation prior to 1948. Tiberias is, in fact, an historic Palestinian city now in what is considered Israel (or, by Palestinian liberation movements, 48 Palestine, ie the land that was all Palestine until the Nakba of 1948).

8) You perpetuate misinformation about Palestinian solidarity movements, such as uncritically quoting one Zionist interviewee (he is literally a co-chair of a 'friends of Israel' organisation!) saying: '“From the rivers to the sea” at pro-Palestinian marches, it can only mean one thing: “For me, that means the genocide of the only Jewish state in the world. It means my 83-year-old mother to be pushed into the sea.”' Here is Jewish Currents on the history of that slogan: https://jewishcurrents.org/what-does-from-the-river-to-the-sea-really-mean?utm_source=pocket_saves

9) A Muslim friend of mine spoke to you of the fear he feels in Britain at the moment; his sense of alienation from the elite political consensus (Conservatives, Labour, much of the mainstream media, including yourselves now), and his anxiety at being labelled a threat (in the way this piece implies Muslims see themselves). None of that is reflected in your article's chosen narrative.

10) I want to end by, once again, reiterating that this is NOT a religious conflict and media perpetuating the Jews vs. Muslims narrative is deeply harmful. Treating this issue as though it is primarily a matter of religious-ethnic differences, whilst also implying Muslims are a security threat, and refusing to dwell on the grief, suffering, anxiety and anger of British Palestinians, Palestinians residing in exile here, and those who have relationships with Palestine and Palestinians, shows a deep moral failure in your editorial stance. I look forward to a serious acknowledgement of the failures of this piece, a published form of accountability on them, and articles published in The Mill that take Palestinians's perspectives seriously. If I don't see these things being enacted, I will gladly be cancelling my subscription and calling on my friends, communities and organisations to also do so.

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Hi there - thanks for sending such a long and detailed comment. I'm not ignoring it - I want to read it again and digest and I'll post a reply later on. Thanks for engaging.

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Thanks, I appreciate this. A piece interviewing Palestinians in Manchester about their experiences (written by someone with some understanding of Palestinian history/politics ideally) would probably be a more interesting, sensitive and accurate write-up than the usual 'Muslims vs. Jews' framing that much of the British media insists upon. I have heard from 2nd and 1st hand sources of some Palestinians in Rochdale coming under threat from the state after attending a protest, a trade unionist with Muslim heritage being reported to Prevent by his employer after he said 'Free Palestine' in 2021, and a Palestinian student at (I believe) UoM being threatened with having their student visa revoked apropos of nothing after Oct 7th. These are stories that are underreported and much more specific than the generalised, racialised and trope-heavy stories about Muslims that abound in the media at present.

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Hey again - apologies for it taking so long for me to reply.

Firstly, the stories you've just mentioned ("Palestinians in Rochdale coming under threat from the state after attending a protest, a trade unionist with Muslim heritage being reported to Prevent by his employer after he said 'Free Palestine' in 2021, and a Palestinian student at (I believe) UoM being threatened with having their student visa revoked apropos of nothing after Oct 7th") sound very serious and we would be very interested in reporting on them. Please do ask those people to contact us if they want to.

I'm sorry that you are considering cancelling your Mill sub over the story above - or perhaps you already have. We tried our best to make it a fair and sensitive piece that took in lots of viewpoints and considered the experiences of a range of people, but of course, I didn't expect a story on this topic to please everyone and I've had a couple of emails criticising the piece from exactly the opposite angle from which you have found fault with it.

You say many Jews do not "support Israel" but you didn't define what you meant by that (don't support the state's existence? Don't support its recent foreign policy) so it's hard to engage with that comment. But you're right that many people who are not Jewish or Muslim feel strongly about what's currently going on. However, this was a piece about how people who feel they have a close connection to the conflict in Greater Manchester are feeling and what they are experiencing. We're not a foreign policy website, we cover one city region.

I'm taken aback by your suggestion about an "Islamophobic anxiety that you are insinuating". The story quotes several Muslim sources who express this concern - the story in those parts is led entirely by what those people told us. Then you say the story is "glancing over the grief, anger and trauma..." when that is just obviously false. Read it again. Count how many times the trauma and upset about the killing of Palestinians is mentioned. I'm really surprised you missed these references.

On the phrase 'middle eastern flavour' - thanks for pointing this out. I didn't consider it a problematic phrase (flavour is used is many contexts outside of food) but since you said it was, I was more than happy to remove it.

Re: genocide, I know many people consider what's happening in Gaza to be a genocide but personally I don't think that's the right term and as an editor, I have to make these calls. Four of my great grandparents were killed in the Holocaust and I think we need to be careful about applying that term too widely.

I don't agree that the article conflates the Israeli and Jewish communities. There are many, many Jews in the UK who are not Israeli but who feel very strongly about events like the attack on Israel on October 7th, and I think it would be bizarre not to reflect that, especially in a story where such Jews are quoted.

About reaching out to specifically anti-zionist Jewish groups: I didn't reach out to any Jewish groups. I spoke to about half a dozen Jews in Greater Manchester and asked them for a couple of recommendations of community figures who they thought I should speak to, and a few of them mentioned Goldman. I think that's a totally fair reporting method. Again, we're not a foreign policy magazine. This story was about the experience of people in Greater Manchester. Why would an article like this tend to quote Jews who have a greater connection to Israel? Because it's an article about how the war is impacting people in GM, and those people with strong ties to Israel are more heavily impacted.

On Tiberias, it is an Israeli city and it is very historic. In fact, it has a long history of Jewish life. Wikipedia: "It became a major political and religious hub of the Jews in the Land of Israel after the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of Judea during the Jewish–Roman wars. From the time of the second through the tenth centuries CE, Tiberias was the largest Jewish city in Galilee, and much of the Mishna and the Jerusalem Talmud were compiled there".

As you know, from the river to the sea is a heavily contested chant. It's ludicrous to claim that my quoting a Jewish man who doesn't like it is "perpetuating misinformation".

Re: your friend who spoke to us, out first draft of this story had several quotes from him, but then he emailed me asking not to be quoted by his real name. That meant that we reduced his presence in the story. It's one thing to have influential politicians off the record, but for regular interviewees, if people are not on the record, we tend to use them much less in stories. It has nothing to do with the article's chosen narrative.

Again, we did not treat this issue "as though it is primarily a matter of religious-ethnic differences". We did not imply "Muslims are a security threat, and refusing to dwell on the grief, suffering, anxiety and anger of British Palestinians, Palestinians residing in exile here, and those who have relationships with Palestine and Palestinians,". And I utterly reject your claim that this story "shows a deep moral failure in your editorial stance."

I always appreciate robust feedback from our readers, and I've tried to engage with your comments here. But I have to say, I found your threat at the end ("If I don't see these things being enacted, I will gladly be cancelling my subscription and calling on my friends, communities and organisations to also do so") pretty repulsive. I dare say it also exposes a certain lack of confidence in your own arguments too. Anyone who reads The Mill will have read this story, and if your "friends, communities and organisations" were as outraged by the story as you think they are, they probably would have cancelled their subscriptions already without being prompted to do so by you.

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Hi Joshi,

This comment is an excellent prompt for me to cancel my sub. I'm afraid that, whether or not you found my 'threat' to do so 'repulsive,' it's the little leverage I have as a loyal Mill reader when I think you and your publication have overstepped a line.

As it is, there are several lines you've overstepped.

1) Conflating Jewish and Israeli histories again (re Tiberias: the Jewish history of the city is irrelevant to it presently being Israeli, given Jews =/= Israel, and it's a form of semantic pedantry to argue that 'historic Israeli city' most likely reads as saying that Tiberias is a city that is both 'historic' and '[presently] Israeli,' rather than historically not Israeli.).

2) Genocide denial: you entirely overlooked the authoritative references I offered, instead preferring to reference your family's suffering (which is truly terrible and I offer my sympathy and solidarity for all those impacted by the Holocaust, antisemitism and other forms of fascism, state oppression, ethnic cleansing, racism and genocide, presently and historically) as grounds for dismissing the claim that what Palestinians are experiencing is genocide, a claim made by leading scholars on genocide, amongst others.

Let's hear it in the Israeli gov officials' own words: https://www.aljazeera.com/program/the-listening-post/2023/10/22/israel-gaza-genocidal-rhetoric-and-the-fog-of-war, and from an associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies: https://jewishcurrents.org/a-textbook-case-of-genocide.

3) Denying you don't present or perpetuate an Islamophobic narrative but not substantiating your argument. This is specious when your pull quotes on Twitter/socials were all about the Manchester arena bombing, an event that indelibly links Muslims in Britain to terror attacks in people's minds. You might be interested in reading a bit more on the media's relationship with Islamophobia: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1464884921990223 and chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/413/1/Fleur%20Allen%20new.pdf, as well as listening to the famous NYT Trojan Horse Affair podcast if you haven't already: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/podcasts/trojan-horse-affair.html

You also claimed that the reason you chose the quotation from my friend, who went by an alias, is because you 'tend to use [those who don't use their actual names] much less in stories' rather than to do with your chosen narrative. It's odd to me that the sentence you selected from what he sent you was pretty much the *only* line that he'd included that wasn't about the experience of heightened Islamophobia, etc in Britain at present.

Given all the above - plus your defensive tone regarding 'Middle Eastern flavour of [people]' - there is no way I'd be putting you and your publication in touch with Palestinians - or those in solidarity with Palestine - who are in precarious positions.

Anyway. So long. It's been nice having a local publication that did meaningful journalism but if such journalism insists upon commenting on terrible ongoing violations happening on a global level then denying responsibility for thorough research/knowledge on the basis of being a local paper, that seems a pretty good reason for me to return to more credible sources.

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Afzal Khan has of course had to apologise for making antisemitic statements in the past. He would have been booted out of the Labour Party were in not for the fact that his then boss Jeremy Corbyn was himself quite happy to downplay antisemitism whilst cosying up to his friends at Hamas.

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Nov 15, 2023·edited Nov 15, 2023

disappointing journalism from the mill here, feels really uncomfortably both sidesy in the face of an attempted genocide where the 10,000 slaughtered palestinians are over 99% civilians and mostly women and children. what is the justification for a focus on the fear of /potential/ antisemitism in that context? why not focus on people in the city with actual dead friends and family? it feels like it’s perpetuating a horrific devaluation of palestinian lives endemic in uk journalism

how can you be anything but horrified and heartbroken at an army killing thousands of children?

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