'People in positions of responsibility are doing the right thing. But the tensions are out there in the neighbourhoods'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?