Take me on? You don’t have the guts

Surfing rabbi uses EDL platform to challenge critics

By Jessica Elgot and Jennifer Lipman, October 27, 2010
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Odd company: A bearded Rabbi Nachum Shifren fronts a noisy English Defence League demonstration

Odd company: A bearded Rabbi Nachum Shifren fronts a noisy English Defence League demonstration

Nearly 300 members of the far right English Defence League were joined in London on Sunday by an American rabbi for a demonstration planned “to oppose Islamic fascism”.

Speaking outside the Israeli Embassy, Rabbi Nachum Shifren, a supporter of the American Tea Party movement, said he was there as someone “who loves freedom”.

Rabbi Shifren, who is standing for the state senate in California, said: “To all my Jewish brothers who have called me a Nazi…I say to them, they don’t have the guts to stand up here and take care of business.”

The former lifeguard known as the “surfing rabbi” said the EDL was the only group in England with moral courage and that politicians would not admit that “because of the Arab petrodollars”.

He said: “We are still waiting for the Islamic world to make peace with each other. They eat each other alive, like the dogs that they are.

“We will not let them take over our countries. We will never surrender to the sword of Islam.”

Shaking his fist in the embassy’s direction, he shouted in Hebrew: “Anyone one who has written against me is not a true Jew”, telling the crowd: “You won’t understand but you will feel my meaning.”

Tommy Robinson, the EDL’s founder and leader, denied that the EDL was a violent organisation.

But he said: “I will protect myself against anyone and I will stand up to anyone and that’s what you’re seeing.
“It will be lads; you will see lads who are not prepared to back down.”

Mr Robinson, a carpenter from Luton, said that around 30 counter-demonstrators, present in a separate pen, had been “paid to come by this government”.

Counter-protesters included people from Unite Against Fascism, Jewdas, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and two strictly Orthodox anti-Zionists. Earlier, a speech by Roberta Moore, leader of the Jewish division of the EDL, was interrupted by an anti-fascist demonstrator who threw water over the public address system.

Hordes of EDL supporters broke ranks to chase the man down Kensington High Street, followed by several police officers. Ms Moore said: “Someone is trying to silence us. Our message is sticking.”

After a brief tussle with some anti-fascist demonstrators, several EDL members were searched by police but no arrests were made.

But at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, later in the afternoon, Rabbi Shifren was heckled by Muslim protesters. Three men from the EDL were arrested and charged with public order offences and affray.

Yossi Bartal, an Israeli student living in Brighton, said: “It’s funny that this rabbi is the one Jew they have found that will support them.”

Mark Gardner, spokesman for the Communities Security Trust, said: “Rabbi Shifren’s behaviour shows why he is shunned by the rest of American Jewry. Abusive anti-Muslim racism is entirely different to support for Israel, or opposition to terrorism.

“It is stupid, counter-productive and immoral, and only drives more people into the arms of Islamist extremists and their white nationalist counterparts.”

Stephen Shashoua, director of the Three Faiths Forum, said: “The EDL are always trying to divide communities, and this was a really low way to do it.”

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, commented: “The community should be in no doubt as to who and what lies behind the EDL and their attempts to pitch minorities against each other whilst sanitising their own radical ideas.”

Last updated: 9:53am, October 29 2010