There has been a strong response the latest column by Melanie Phillips in this week's JC. Here, Edie Friedman and Adam Rose from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, present their response.
Melanie Phillips’s article in today’s JC contains some misleading and dangerous notions. Not one of the recent terrorist attacks has been perpetrated by an asylum seeker. In fact, according to a new study from the European University Institute, “at present and using the best available evidence, the main terrorist threat to Western countries does not come from recently arrived refugees, but from home-grown extremists.” What Melanie has written is a dangerous myth.
She also criticises a letter from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality to the then Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him to offer a lifeline to a small proportion of some of the 95,000 unaccompanied children currently languishing in unspeakable conditions in mainland Europe - in line with and in support of Lord Dubs's amendment to the Immigration Bill.
Her criticism is based on things we never said. At no time have we ever said that the experiences of today’s refugees are the same as those fleeing from Nazi persecution – what we do say is that the experience of today's refugees resonates with ours in the past - and in the letter to David Cameron we clearly wrote “the situation is different today”.
We certainly do not 'instrumentalise' (whatever that means) the Holocaust, but nor should she instrumentalise the recent terrorist attacks. The world is facing difficult and challenging issues, but stirring up animosity towards Muslims and driving a further wedge between Muslim and Jews is not the way to respond to these challenges.
Facts matter and so does language. If we expect people to understand the existence of antisemitism then we can hardly deny the lived experience and the facts of what is happening to Muslims today. As we in the Jewish community do not believe that others have the right to define what constitutes antisemitism, then by the same token , we should not be defining what constitutes Islamophobia.
Incidents of anti-Muslim abuse and attacks in public areas of the UK rose by 326 per cent in 2015. And following the London Bridge attacks anti-Muslim hate crimes have immediately increased fivefold as reported by the national police chiefs.
As the Board of Deputies has reminded us in their Jewish Manifesto written for the General Election “The UK’s Jewish population is largely an immigrant community, having arrived in the UK as either economic migrants or refugees fleeing persecution. As such, the Jewish community takes a particular interest in the plight of immigrants and asylum seekers, and shares a discomfort in loose, pejorative language that stigmatises new arrivals in this country.”
These are words all of us would do well to heed.
Dr Edie Friedman is the Executive Director and Adam Rose is the Chair of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality