Battle over the truth of Muslim Ring of Peace around Oslo synagogue
February 23, 2015 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Emailing Breitbart is a retort by journalist Martin Grüner Larsen to Breitbart's Jordan Schachtel calling the Muslim-initiated Ring of Peace a media hoax . After the horrific shootings in Copenhagen and Paris, young muslims in Oslo wanted to show their solidarity with the Jewish community, saying that if anyone wanted to hurt the Jews they would have to go through the Muslims.

This has been misrepresented on sites like Breitbart and FrontPageMag. SImilar stories are writtenby World Media Watch (German) and Israellycool.

Times of Israel writes about the misinformation.

Rabbi Michael Melchior on Facebook.

Some more links in English:
Hope not Hate: “Allah hu akbar,” cried the rebbe...
NRK: 1.300 people formed «Ring of Peace» outside Oslo synagogue after young Muslims initiative
Haaretz (behind paywall, might not work): Thank you, Muslim friend

Similar initiatives in Stockholm and Copenhagen.
posted by magnusbe (56 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Breitbart has been really shitty since the start (not hard when your founder and namesake is professional liar and scoundrel the late Andrew Breitbart), but between this and their efforts to exploit Gamergate to build a younger generation of sexist, racist conservatives they seem about as shitty as they've been since Andy kicked it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Emailing Breitbart is a retort by journalist Martin Grüner Larsen to Breitbart's Jordan Schachtel calling the Muslim-initiated Ring of Peace a media hoax .

There's a dangling modifier in that sentence that led me to read it a bit inside-out at first.

Just in case someone else reads it that way and can't be arsed to click the links before jumping into the thread: Breitbart's Jordan Schachtel is the one who said it was a hoax.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:17 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't remember why specifically, but the name "Breitbart" sends off the alarm bells in my head to not trust anything their media or they say.
posted by GoblinHoney at 4:22 PM on February 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Sys Rq, thank you for writing that. I can see how my sentence could be misread.
posted by magnusbe at 4:36 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't remember why specifically, but the name "Breitbart" sends off the alarm bells in my head to not trust anything their media or they say.

Maybe it's because they're a bunch of small-minded, destructive, mean-spirited people who have no real agenda other than to lie and foment hatred of anyone too smart to adopt their scared little worldview.
posted by holborne at 4:36 PM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


In the past couple years I have realized there is nothing quite so galling as a situation where a person/people do a good thing for a good reason (or even a meh-thing for a meh-reason) only to find someone grossly reality to make it look like a horrible thing done for a wicked reason...to advance their own axe-grindy agenda.
posted by K.P. at 5:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't remember why specifically, but the name "Breitbart" sends off the alarm bells in my head to not trust anything their media or they say.

Andrew Breitbart's most notable protege was James O'Keefe, so I'd say your instincts are good.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:13 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe (probably) I'm just getting older and more curmudgeonly, but it seems like people, in general, are getting louder and louder, and smaller and smaller.

And, good on these Muslims.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:47 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


It does my heart good to see James O'Keefe has done nothing of note since 2012.
posted by Iridic at 5:54 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


For me, the worst part is the transparently Islamophobic motive. "Wait, Muslims did something admirable? Fuck! I have to poke a hole in that story before anyone thinks that Muslims might not be a monolith of evil!"
posted by Etrigan at 5:57 PM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


It does my heart good to see James O'Keefe has done nothing of note since 2012.

Me too, because whenever his misdeeds made the news I would always wince because we shared the same alma mater. He was a shit back then too, not surprising.
posted by theartandsound at 7:14 PM on February 23, 2015


I don't expect that they'll read it here, but I'll say it anyway:

Thank you, Brietbart tools, for making me aware of the genuinely positive and hope-inspiring "ring of peace" stories. If it hadn't been for your bigotry and ignorance, I might not have heard of them.

Increasing awareness of this story is officially the second positive thing Breitbart has accomplished. (The first being the existence of their "big hollywood" sub-site, which permitted Scott Lemieux to refer to it as "Stalinist Aesthetics for Dummies".)
posted by Zonker at 7:46 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm with Marc Goldberg on this one; it's a silly, patronising stunt that shows how incredibly low we have come to set the bar for Muslims.

According to the JTA and many other reputable media organisations, the Norwegian Jewish community wasn't entirely enthusiastic about it either. One of the organisers was Ali Chishti, who had to walk back an anti-Semitic lecture he gave a few years ago: After uproar, organizer of Oslo synagogue ‘peace ring’ retracts past anti-Semitic remarks

So, after Chishti was called on his public talk (title: "Therefore I Hate Jews and Gays") he came out with this:
“I was angry,” he told Verdens Gang. “I have since changed my views.” But he also said he “dislikes” people who support “an occupying force that has been condemned in several United Nations resolutions.”

“I think it is important to distinguish between being critical of Israel and anti-Semitism,” he also told Verdens Gang.
A person with his history has no business leading a anti-racist event, even if he now says that he has changed. But I don't believe that's true: he's just learned that he can get away with saying that he "dislikes" an amorphous group of people who happen to be Jews if he pretends that his position is political, not prejudicial. But it isn't, of course: he hated them before, he hates them now. They're the same people; the reason hasn't changed; it didn't have anything to do with the UN before; it has nothing to do with the UN now.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:46 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not disagreeing with you necessarily, Joe, but I can't help but wonder why someone who hates Jews in his secret heart would establish something to protect them and demonstrate (at least superficially) some kind of outreach? It seems kinda weird to me.

I dunno, I tend to look at what people say and do as a better guide rather than speculating about what they may or may not think.
posted by smoke at 3:23 AM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm with Marc Goldberg on this one; it's a silly, patronising stunt that shows how incredibly low we have come to set the bar for Muslims.

When was the last time you cleared that bar by standing outside a house of worship of a religion different from your own and saying "I am here to protect these people."? I mean, if it's an incredibly low bar, it must be one that you're clearing all the time, right?

A person with his history has no business leading a anti-racist event, even if he now says that he has changed.

Once a racist, always a racist, eh? We certainly can't learn anything from someone who ever disagreed with us, can we.

But I don't believe that's true: he's just learned that he can get away with saying that he "dislikes" an amorphous group of people who happen to be Jews if he pretends that his position is political, not prejudicial.

You're an established "anti-Israel = anti-Semite" thinker, but we rarely see it stated quite so baldly.

They're the same people; the reason hasn't changed; it didn't have anything to do with the UN before; it has nothing to do with the UN now.

Of course it's not about the UN -- that's like saying the OJ Simpson trial was about knives.
posted by Etrigan at 4:33 AM on February 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


So what do you want, Joe in Australia? What could possibly muslims do to make you happy?
posted by magnusbe at 4:35 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't see how it's any more patronizing than, say, attending a rally. In fact, this action is a lot more concrete than that. Sure, obviously, it was symbolic -- to actually keep terrorists out you'd need a SWAT team rather than people just standing outside holding hands -- but so what? Unless you automatically equate "symbolic" more or less with "intrinsically and deliberately useless," I don't see why you'd dismiss what they did as patronizing. That seems awfully cynical to me.
posted by holborne at 7:51 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm an American Jew in the UK and I was really moved when I read about the ring of peace in Oslo, I think in Ha'aretz. As a data point.
posted by mgrrl at 10:17 AM on February 24, 2015


A person with his history has no business leading a anti-racist event, even if he now says that he has changed. But I don't believe that's true: he's just learned that he can get away with saying that he "dislikes" an amorphous group of people who happen to be Jews if he pretends that his position is political, not prejudicial. But it isn't, of course: he hated them before, he hates them now. They're the same people; the reason hasn't changed; it didn't have anything to do with the UN before; it has nothing to do with the UN now.

What you are claiming goes against the entire abundance of evidence staring you in the face. Please rest assured that this is 100% you, Joe In Australia, doing that thing you always do where you equate all criticism of Israel -- and his is a very specific criticism -- with blanket antisemitism.

Do you realize that every time you do that, you are the one conflating Israel and Zionism and Judaism and Jews? What ends do you mean to achieve by such means? And if all criticism of Israel is antisemitism, and now apparently all antisemitism is uncorrectable, why on earth do you bother?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


When was the last time you cleared that bar by standing outside a house of worship of a religion different from your own and saying "I am here to protect these people."? I mean, if it's an incredibly low bar, it must be one that you're clearing all the time, right?

You do get that this was a symbolic act; that they're not going to actually protect people in a synagogue? It draws its meaning from the fact that there are people (like the late Dan Uzan) who protect synagogues from actual threats. Without an actual threat and actual guards there's no symbolism. It's not even symmetrical: the symbolism exists because Jews are in danger in a way that Christians or Muslims are not.1 Jews pretending to guard a church or a mosque would still be exposing themselves to danger, because that's simply what public Jewish life means nowadays.

It's like, would you say that Black critics of White commitment to integration should have showed their bona fides by protecting the right of White kids to go to school? That would just be silly. It would impose a double demand on people that are oppressed: that they not only have to protect themselves against oppression in their daily life, but they have to spend their time and risk their safety by doing stunts before they can even be heard.

Once a racist, always a racist, eh? We certainly can't learn anything from someone who ever disagreed with us, can we.

People can change, sure, but taking anti-Semitism seriously means demanding some actual evidence of change. Here's what Chisti said in 2009:
Jeg hater ikke alle jøder, bare de som forsvarer Israels okkupasjon av Palestina, sa Chisti.
[I don't hate all Jews, only those who defend Israel's occupation of Palestine, says Chisti.]
Here's what he said last Saturday:
– Kan man si at du fremdeles misliker de som støtter Israel?
[– Would you still say you dislike those who support Israel?]

– Ja, de som støtter en okkupant som er blitt fordømt i flere FN resolusjoner, de misliker jeg.
[– Yes, I dislike the supporters of an occupier that has been denounced in many UN resolutions.]
There's not very much difference, is there? It's the easiest thing in the world for an anti-Semite to say "Oh, it was wrong of me to say I hated Jews. Now I just hate people that oppress Palestinians!" This is, sadly, a standard tactic among Jew-haters; it's no more credible than someone saying that he doesn't hate Blacks, he just doesn't like criminals.

1 More than 60% of religiously-inspired hate crimes recorded by the FBI in 2013 were against Jews, who are about 2% of the US population. [source] I don't have similar stats for Norway, but I have good reason to think they're even more lopsided.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2015


More than 60% of religiously-inspired hate crimes recorded by the FBI in 2013 were against Jews, who are about 2% of the US population.

More than 13% of religiously-inspired hate crimes recorded by the FBI in 2013 were against Muslims*, who are about 0.5% of the US population.

Do the math, then tell us again whether "Jews are in danger in a way that... Muslims are not."

* -- More precisely, they were due to anti-Muslim bias, not necessarily because the victim was actually Muslim; the same applies to the numbers about anti-Jewish motivation.
posted by Etrigan at 2:25 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's not very much difference, is there? It's the easiest thing in the world for an anti-Semite to say "Oh, it was wrong of me to say I hated Jews. Now I just hate people that oppress Palestinians!" This is, sadly, a standard tactic among Jew-haters; it's no more credible than someone saying that he doesn't hate Blacks, he just doesn't like criminals.

Zionists and anti-semites agree: Zionism = Judaism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:51 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel like there's a pretty big difference between hate and dislike, Joe. I abhor Israel's actions in relation Palestine, but that doesn't make me an anti-semite (maybe it does in your eyes, I don't know).

But really; the bloody Rabbi of the synagogue in question was touched and inspired by the message, as were many many other Jewish people - in Norway and elsewhere. Did you even read the links??

I get that you don't think much of it Joe, but forgive me for putting more weight on what the leader of the church in the country in question who actually participated in this thinks, than you, halfway across the world grinding this poor dead horse of yours into subatomic particles.

It's exhausting watching you do this over and over again. It really stifles discussion and constrains it to a narrow and polarised territory when there is much more to talk and think about. You should take a leaf out of the Rabbi's book, mate.

Given the widespread Islamaphobia in the west at the moment, I think it's quite amazing that young Muslims are prepared to step up in such a highly visible way to confound cliches. It must be exhausting to have to constantly demonstrate that you're one of the "good" Muslims; if it was me I would be bitter and resentful. Our own Prime Minister just this week called on Muslims to "do more" to call out extremism (Which is appalling given that Muslims presumably were the people who called our 'terrorism hotline' 18 times in regard to the person who committed the last terrorist-ish attack here. Who was, in fact, widely ostracised from said community). I think it takes courage and endurance to break through the tribalism in such a way, and connect in spite of disagreements, recognise there's something bigger and as important. You should try it, buddy.
posted by smoke at 3:08 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, the Chief Rabbi of Norway (who is actually the father of the rabbi there) had some nice words to say about the event - that's his job. There was no prospect of him doing anything else. Other community members had a different view.

Incidentally, Rabbi Melchior senior emigrated to Israel and was formerly a member of the Knesset. The synagogue's president describes the synagogue as "avowedly and publicly Zionist". So when Ali Chisti says that he "dislikes" people that support Israel, he's actually referring to the Jewish community itself, including most of its members at that very event.

It must be exhausting to have to constantly demonstrate that you're one of the "good" Muslims; if it was me I would be bitter and resentful.

I'm pretty damn sure that it's more exhausting to stand outside a synagogue for hours all day and every night. It's certainly a heck of a lot more dangerous. Are you aware that there are security guards (both paid and voluntary) at Jewish institutions here in Australia too? The Jewish community keeps pretty quiet about it, as they do elsewhere, but there are frequent attacks on Jews and Jewish sites here in Australia, as there are in Norway and basically everywhere else in the world. That's a real reason to feel bitter and resentful, not some hypothetical instance of "what if someone asked me to denounce anti-Semitism, why should I be expected to do that?"

Yes, fifteen Muslims took part in a photo opportunity. Good for them. Nobody (including me) expects them to actually guard the synagogue, but there are smaller-scale things they could do that would be actually useful. Ali Chishti was reportedly (some years previously) part of a mob shouting "død over jøder", "death to the Jews". I'm sure he knows people who still feel that way. Why isn't his group doing something about that? Why is their engagement limited to a photo opportunity where everybody is going to cheer them on and say how wonderful they are? Why do other Norwegians think that this goes some way to addressing anti-Semitism in Norway?1

1 Norway is the most anti-Semitic of all Scandanavian countries, despite the fact that it only has around 1,500 Jews.[source] According to this report, the most common insult in Norway's schools is "Jew".
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:51 PM on February 24, 2015


*turns off this episode of the Joe in Australia show, encourages others to do the same*
posted by Etrigan at 5:31 PM on February 24, 2015


I'm pretty damn sure that it's more exhausting to stand outside a synagogue for hours all day and every night. It's certainly a heck of a lot more dangerous

Joe, what is wrong with you? What does that have to do with anything? I was not and am not comparing the peace ring to literally performing guard duties outside synagogues. Are you incapable of assessing this demonstration for what it is?

You are able to ignore everything the Rabbis in question are saying, oh that's just their jobs, secretly they totally agree with me cause I can read minds. Also, dude is symbolically protecting a synagogue despite the fact he dislikes their support of zionism, is not that more upstanding, not less?

Well congratulations, I'm sick of your bullshit in these threads, and I'm staying out of them until the mods start giving a shit. Enjoy your bitter righteousness.
posted by smoke at 5:52 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


How would you like it if a bunch of MRAs decided they wanted to symbolically protect a women's clinic? Without explicitly disavowing any of their views? Should it be acceptable for someone with a vile history of bigotry to decide they want to ride the coattails of current events like this, in a way that will rehabilitate their reputation, without a more complete disavowal of their past statements (not just about Israel, but about All Jews. And gays, for that matter.) Did any Jews ask this guy to do this? It comes off as a bit of a stunt.

I don't fully agree with Joe, but I'm not sure what to make of the gesture coming from this guy.* I'm not sure what to think. It does feel a bit odd to me. Some skepticism about motives is perhaps appropriate, and of course it's not going to come from someone in an anodyne PR spokesperson role, whose job it is to be positive, even if they are a rabbi.

*don't care much for this blog's framing but at least it has some text
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:06 PM on February 24, 2015


Or, in simpler terms, I want to go to a synagogue being 'protected' by this guy about as much as I'd expect my girlfriend would like to go to a Planned Parenthood being 'protected' by a bunch of GamerGator sealions and open-carry wizchan incels.

If he wants to make a gesture that will protect Jews, let him give a talk walking back some of his hatred and asking for forgiveness, say that he was wrong to demand "jew-criticism" when what he really wants is "criticism of the occupation of palestine," give interviews about it that he can't control.

That's a lot harder, more meaningful and will have more impact than participating in a 'circle of peace' while the cameras are on. I don't agree that it's a media hoax, but clearly it's a kind of media event.

Also maybe non-Jewish people could try and refrain from lecturing Jews on what is a sufficient disavowal of antisemitism by a proud bigot to warrant abandonment of skepticism regarding his motives. We just had a pretty long Meta about this. (And I'm sure Zarq would say it better.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:23 PM on February 24, 2015


If he wants to make a gesture that will protect Jews, let him give a talk walking back some of his hatred and asking for forgiveness

You mean kinda like the one he did give?

RTFA, FFS.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:31 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I thought I had. The 'misinformation' one? It mentions he apologized but not about what or how. Did I miss a link? I'll go over them again...
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:00 PM on February 24, 2015


If he wants to make a gesture that will protect Jews, let him give a talk walking back some of his hatred and asking for forgiveness, say that he was wrong to demand "jew-criticism" when what he really wants is "criticism of the occupation of palestine," give interviews about it that he can't control.

... and kick this football through this goalpost. No, not this goalpost -- that one over there. No, not that one...

Seriously, no one's asking you to invite this dude into your home and let him sleep in the bottom bunk. Just maybe don't immediately jump to "IT'S JUST A PUBLICITY STUNT THIS GUY STILL TOTALLY HATES JEWS."
posted by Etrigan at 7:01 PM on February 24, 2015


I said skepticism, not dismissal. Please don't tell me how to feel about an avowed antisemite.

Is that so fucking hard? Would you ever use this phrasing with a woman skeptical of the participation of an advocate of misogyny in a women's rights event?

I'm not moving any goalposts. You don't know where my goalposts started and you don't get to tell me where to place them.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Please don't tell me how to feel about an avowed antisemite.

An avowed antisemite who has disavowed antisemitism.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:13 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


(What do you think he's playing at? What could his possible motive be for doing this if not the reasons given?)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2015


I'd say the synagogue thing is a bit like men participating in a "Take Back the Night" demonstration. Yes, very nice, now you can go home and feel pleased about fixing the problem. But now it turns out that one of the participants is notorious for his misogyny and violence towards women! He gets interviewed and he apologises. He was wrong to hate women. He was angry when he said that. He doesn't hate women. "Not at all?" No. He wouldn't use the word hate. And not women. He doesn't hate women. He does, however, dislike feminists.

I think these are the anti-Semitic attacks Ali Chisti reportedly participated in:
The 2008–2009 Anti-Israel riots in Norway were a series of violent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish protests by Muslims that took place outside the Israeli embassy and the Storting in Oslo during late December 2008 and January 2009 amidst the Gaza War between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. On several occasions there were clashes between rioters and police as the protesters attacked civilians and destroyed private and public property. More than 160 people were detained, a majority of foreign descent. A Norwegian non-Jewish pro-Israel protester was attacked and injured by anti-Israel protesters shouting "take him, he's a Jew", "fucking Jew" and "allahu akbar". Among other slogans, protesters shouted "Death to the Jews," "Kill the Jews" and "Slaughter the Jews" in Arabic.
These race riots developed, significantly, from something that was purportedly an anti-Israel demonstration. Four months after this Chisti gave a public lecture on "Why I hate Jews and Gays", in which he repeated a lot of anti-Semitic slurs and justified them as being anti-Israel. The remarkable thing is that Chisti the race-rioter, Chisti the spreader of anti-Semitic myths says almost exactly the same thing as Chisti the peace-maker in 2015; he justifies his position the same way:
2009: - Jeg hater ikke alle jøder, bare de som forsvarer Israels okkupasjon av Palestina, sa Chisti.
[– I don't hate all Jews, just those who defend Israel's occupation of Palestine, says Chisti.]
2015: – Ja, de som støtter en okkupant som er blitt fordømt i flere FN resolusjoner, de misliker jeg.
[– Yes, I dislike the supporters of an occupier that has been denounced in many UN resolutions.]
I don't know whether Chisti genuinely distinguishes between "Jews" and "supporters of an occupier", or whether I should care. He made the same distinction six years ago, when he was actively engaged in the worst sort of anti-Semitic agitation. I do know that he still uses very similar rhetoric, and that rhetoric is directed against most or all of the people he claims to be protecting. So if he has changed his position on Jews, he has apparently done it without speaking to them or caring what they might think.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:54 PM on February 24, 2015


I don't know whether Chisti genuinely distinguishes between "Jews" and "supporters of an occupier", or whether I should care.

Well, I do care. And here's what he said about all Jews in 2009, without distinction between Jews and Israel:

It is raised beyond doubt that Jews are in a minority in the world. A very small minority, yet it cannot be disguised that they are among the most powerful.

You don't need to get into I/P for this to be problematic, on its face. And there's the 9-11 conspiracy theory.

An avowed antisemite who has disavowed antisemitism.
The links, unless I missed something, are very vague as to what opinions he actually disavowed, and how emphatically, and how widely, etc. As versus his pretty extreme history.

What could his possible motive be for doing this if not the reasons given?
Attention? Exposure? Cover? Survival, as a viable public figure?

What should it take for a propagandist who has spent years and years voicing stereotypical hatred against an oppressed minority to be accepted as genuinely reformed instead of looking to exploit a moment created by violence against the very targets of his hatred, to further his own agenda?

Is it really appropriate to accuse Jews who fail to fall all over themselves in welcoming this guy of "bitterness" and "moving the goalposts" in bad faith? I ask again, would it be acceptable for men to do that in a thread on rape culture in an effort to undermine the voiced experience and opinion of women?

Maybe we should just re-open the closed MeTa.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:12 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I want to say that I do think the project itself is a positive and pleasant story, however long the cooperation and improved inter-community relations last in Norway (a long time I hope). I appreciate the symbolism. I don't mean to diminish the whole project as a media-oriented thing for all the participants, or devalue the effort of the members of different communities that took part in this. That's all very reassuring given the rise of commonplace anti-Semitism in Norway, etc. Even if it turns out to be of the moment, it's still nice. My reaction was to the urge to spotlight this particular guy, which rubs me the wrong way. And then to the reaction to my reaction, I suppose.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:10 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]




[A couple comments removed, please let's cool it a little.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:35 AM on February 25, 2015


Also maybe non-Jewish people could try and refrain from lecturing Jews on what is a sufficient disavowal of antisemitism by a proud bigot to warrant abandonment of skepticism regarding his motives. We just had a pretty long Meta about this. (And I'm sure Zarq would say it better.)

I can't say it better. I can say it more bluntly.

If you're not Jewish, stop telling us how we should feel about antisemites. Don't tell us how we are supposed to parse an antisemite's language. Don't tell us that we should celebrate when an antisemite says, OH I'VE CHANGED AND NOW I DON'T HATE ALL JEWS, ONLY THE ZIONIST ONES.

In fact, perhaps you should shut the fuck up and listen to people who have been directly affected by antisemitism when they tell you that they're disturbed by it.
posted by zarq at 10:23 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I ask again, would it be acceptable for men to do that in a thread on rape culture in an effort to undermine the voiced experience and opinion of women?

if by "acceptable" you mean routine, predictable, and constant: yes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:21 PM on February 25, 2015


I am really glad for the comments from Jewish MeFites on this because I had dismissed criticism as cynical Breitbart bullshit, because apparently I live in a bubble and didn't realize it. (And I acknowledge the privilege of being able to live that unawarely and apologize for the fact I didn't perform due diligence.)
Which is not to say that Jewish MeFites are a monolith on this or any other issue! Just that the voices I seem to hear most about Jewish-Muslim relations are those of right-wing Christians and left-wing atheists, which is completely messed up.
posted by gingerest at 11:35 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would be interested to hear what any Jewish Mefites think is the motivation behind this. What does he get out of this? Who is the intended beneficiary of his actions? Can there be any poisitive outcome from this?

There seems to be an abundance of cynicism from many angles (not just Jewish voices!) on this issue. i'm a left wing atheist so I don't want to mess up anyone's day, but i'm interested in this.
posted by trif at 2:30 AM on February 26, 2015


Having formerly been a young man, my first guess would be that he got a non-racist girlfriend, possibly one of the women organising the event.

I don't think the event itself was horrible. It was naive, it was a bit patronising, but the organisers' hearts are in the right place. I was following it from the start and the only condition the synagogue placed on the event was that there should be at least thirty Muslims outside the synagogue, so they didn't look silly. They may or may not have reached that figure, but it's not a big deal either way. It's a pity it was misreported and that some media took advantage of that. On the other hand, it also isn't a great triumph of interfaith peacemaking. It is what it is, a bunch of young people at an anti-racist demonstration.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:51 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was naive, it was a bit patronising, but the organisers' hearts are in the right place.

Are they? They proudly invited a guy who was shouting "Death to Jews" a few years ago, as well as saying stuff like:
“I hate Jews, and how they operate and I will furthermore elaborate on why I hold such beliefs… It is raised beyond doubt that Jews are in a minority in the world. A very small minority, yet it cannot be disguised that they are among the most powerful. It is not wrong to be powerful, but to abuse ones power, to use illegal means, to use unnecessary military power against civilians, and to behave in a arrogant and barbaric manner is in violation of international law and the human rights. It is a fact that during the attacks on the Twin Towers, 1600 Jews were absent from work. OK, OK, what’s even more suspicious, is how unusually many Jews there were present in Mumbai on the day that Pakistani terrorists struck. How come?”
That is "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" bullshit, modernized with additional antisemitic conspiracy theories. And unfortunately, now it's reaching a wider audience.

Chisti walked it back. Which by itself is good.

But he made sure to take advantage of the media attention, though didn't he? To say that he's grown up now and no longer hates all Jews. But he still "dislikes" Jews who support Israel. Because grownups have to use words that don't make them seem like raving lunatic antisemites. And 'dislike' is more palatable to the media and the masses than shouting "DEATH TO JEWS."

That's the fundamental(ist) problem here. Chisti's saying all Jews aren't bad, just the Zionist ones. So this was a racist, anti-racist demonstration?

He gave a nice speech while wearing a Palestinian scarf to a rally in front of an avowedly Zionist synagogue. Oh, and reportedly the organizers also refused to allow an Israeli flag to be displayed that had been brought to the rally by someone Kurdish? Because heaven forbid the organizers respect the beliefs and convictions of the Zionist synagogue and presumably Zionist Jews they're symbolically "protecting."

It conveys, 'These Jews shouldn't be killed, but let's not forget why other Jews are being targeted.' Which is truly frustrating because it contradicts the message of peace and harmony they appear to be trying to promote.
Eric Argaman, a pro-Israel activist and member of Norway’s Jewish community, said Chishti’s involvement “stained the event, which now feels more like a spin, on our backs, than a gesture of good will.
Frustrating, to say the least.

I would be interested to hear what any Jewish Mefites think is the motivation behind this.

I think most of the people who were involved probably had good intentions and don't think their Jewish neighbors should be targets of racism or terrorism. Which, sincerely, is truly great and laudable. I can't imagine all of them were separating Jews into good and bad categories. Unlike Joe, I don't think it matters how many Muslims demonstrated. Who cares? One person or 1000. Ignoring the racism, it's a positive symbolic gesture.

What does he get out of this?

Muhammad Ali Chisti? He gets to apologize half-heartedly in the national (and now global) media for expressing incredibly disgusting views back in 2009, while expressing 'dislike' for those Jews who support Israel. Not all, though, because some Jews agree with him and 'hate' is now too strong a word when you're speaking on the record.

Can there be any poisitive outcome from this?

Sure.

Perhaps this stopped someone from angrily spray painting swastikas on the synagogue that supports Israel.
Or shooting at the Jews who support Israel in the synagogue that supports Israel.
Or heaven forbid, firebombing the synagogue that supports Israel, possibly killing Jews who support Israel.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Because after all, the good Jews who don't deserve to be targeted by terrorism are the ones who don't support Israel.
posted by zarq at 6:46 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


the good Jews who don't deserve to be targeted by terrorism are the ones who don't support Israel.

That's a pretty gross distortion, Zarq, of what a guy organising a peace rally against antisemitic violence said. No one involved with this event, so far as I can see, said or implied that any violence against Jewish people was acceptable.

I think this kind of exaggeration is not very helpful in these discussion, when emotions are high enough assessing the facts as they actually are, without reading into people's minds and projecting the worst interpretation possible.

I'm glad he was in the media stepping back from his horrid views. I would rather that than fading into the background. He's demonstrating that he's thought about it, probably learnt something, and was capable of changing his mind. I do also think it's a bummer that one of seven organisers has had so much scrutiny; the other six have presumably never been on record with anything anti-semitic.

I'd be interested to know if any expression of support for Palestine or no support for Zionism would be acceptable to Joe et al in this context, cause, you know, I think if you're looking for Muslim people that would support Israel's action in Palestine, and the causes of Zionism in general, you're gonna be looking for a looong time. Is there a higher standard here for anyone making contact with a synagogue, or Muslims making ocntact with a synagogue or what?

I do also think it's quite interesting in some ways, when we think about audience. We have a Jewish and predominantly American audience here, but I wonder who the organisers were originally aiming to reach, the Jewish Norwegians (who we don't really know if they support it, beyond a zionist activist and two Rabbis), the Mulism Norwegians, or the Christian/other Norwegians.
posted by smoke at 1:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder who the organisers were originally aiming to reach [...]

This is really a fundamental question.
  • Are they trying to show Norwegians/the world that not all Muslims hate Jews? Because
    1. We know that; and
    2. That doesn't help the Jews at all; and
    3. It's a guilty, defensive response, like saying #NotAllMen.


  • Are they trying to show Jews that not all Muslims hate them? Well, it's a form of dialogue (which is good) but it's still a defensive reaction.
  • Are they trying to show other Muslims that there are people willing to push back against anti-Semitism? That would be best of all, although it's not nearly as good as actually confronting people who are promoting anti-Semitic ideology.
I'd be interested to know if any expression of support for Palestine or no support for Zionism would be acceptable to Joe et al in this context [...]

It's not really the occasion for someone to express any views on it at all, just as a demonstration against sexual violence is not an occasion to say "but women do lie about rape sometimes" or even "I want the justice system to be fair to men."

I think if you're looking for Muslim people that would support Israel's action in Palestine, and the causes of Zionism in general, you're gonna be looking for a looong time.

That's not actually the case, e.g. There are the usual outliers, of course, but there are also serious and substantial Muslim expressions of support for Israel and Zionism, both within and without Israel. They often get walked back after the speakers receive death threats or are fired, though.

I do also think it's a bummer that one of seven organisers has had so much scrutiny; the other six have presumably never been on record with anything anti-semitic.

Really? The problem is that he's racist! I wish all racists came under that much scrutiny.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:19 PM on February 26, 2015


Are they trying to show Norwegians/the world that not all Muslims hate Jews? Because... It's a guilty, defensive response, like saying #NotAllMen.

So to your mind a statement against antisemitism is equivalent to men trying to pretend that they're not participants in patriarchy? Because it strikes me that what this implies is that antisemitism is inherent to Islam in the same way that participation in patriarchy is inherent to being male.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


But participation in patriarchy isn't inherent to being male.
posted by Lexica at 8:04 PM on February 26, 2015


Under conditions of patriarchy (i.e. the real world) it absolutely is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:20 PM on February 26, 2015


The problem with #NotAllMen isn't that it's guilty or defensive - it's that it centers men and their feelings in a discussion of sexism that should be about women and social structures. That those feelings are defensive is infuriating but sort of beside the point, which has bearing here because the problem Joe is identifying, as I understand it, is that this is centering Muslims and their feelings (which are very nice feelings, affection, support, unity, I am in favor of those feelings) in a discussion that should be about Jews and anti-Semitic violence. This is exacerbated by Chishti's redemption narrative - redemption narratives always center the people committing the wrong.

There's a separate problem in that the fact of the anti-Semitic organizer has upstaged the whole project.
posted by gingerest at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


So to your mind a statement against antisemitism is equivalent to men trying to pretend that they're not participants in patriarchy?

If this were a clear statement against anti-Semitism I would probably agree with you, but seems to me that it's primarily a statement about the participants and their community. They're saying "we are not anti-Semites, in fact we would be willing to defend Jews".

This is a nice sentiment, even if they're not actually offering to defend Jews. Still, it's a statement about them. This is why it makes a difference whether the demonstrators are just telling the world that they're not the bad ones; or telling Jews that they have allies; or telling fellow Muslims that they shouldn't presume that anti-Semitism has universal support within their community.

Because it strikes me that what this implies is that antisemitism is inherent to Islam in the same way that participation in patriarchy is inherent to being male.

That analogy is getting beyond the point where anti-Semitism and sexism are homologous. Muslim privilege vis-à-vis Jews definitely used to be a thing, but there aren't many Islamic countries remaining that have any sort of Jewish population. In Norway, specifically, there are about 1,500 Jews, and hardly any Muslims in Norway will ever encounter a Jew (knowingly, at least). It doesn't make sense to talk about Muslim privilege in this context. In contrast, it's difficult or impossible for men in a patriarchal society to exclude themselves from male privilege and its benefits.

This isn't to say that Islam has no inherent problem with anti-Semitism, but it's not unique in that: Islam and Christianity have fundamental documents that talk about "the Jews" in prejudicial ways and which contribute to a sort of inherent susceptibility that may or may not manifest itself. This doesn't mean that Christian and Muslim religious groups are intrinsically anti-Semitic, though: that's obviously not the case.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty gross distortion, Zarq, of what a guy organising a peace rally against antisemitic violence said. No one involved with this event, so far as I can see, said or implied that any violence against Jewish people was acceptable.

It's a dogwhistle. He's made antisemitic statements, and instead of completely and unequivocally walking them back, he's stating that some Jews are okay, but he still has a problem with those who support Israel. And no, I'm sorry but he shouldn't get a pass for that. Because as I said earlier, it taints his entire message at a rally that is ostensibly about protecting Jews from people who want to murder them both because they are Jews and also because some of them support Israel. He shouldn't get to vilify the latter without being called out. That's racist and unacceptable.

I think this kind of exaggeration is not very helpful in these discussion,

I think your blithe dismissal of the situation isn't helpful either.

...when emotions are high enough assessing the facts as they actually are, without reading into people's minds and projecting the worst interpretation possible.

I wholeheartedly believe that you and everyone else who is defending him in this thread are not taking the situation as seriously as you should.

To repeat: Five years ago he was spreading batshit crazy Protocols conspiracy theories about us. "Death to Jews" etc. This month, he said that he still has a problem with Jews he disagrees with. Note please, that he's attacking people who support Israel. Not Israel itself. Criticizing Israel's policies in this context wouldn't necessarily be antisemitic. Attacking Israel's Jewish supporters is. This is a distinction that matters because non-Israeli Jews are being targeted by terrorism and intimidation tactics in Europe, and the justification being given is Israel.

I'm glad he was in the media stepping back from his horrid views. I would rather that than fading into the background. He's demonstrating that he's thought about it, probably learnt something, and was capable of changing his mind. I do also think it's a bummer that one of seven organisers has had so much scrutiny; the other six have presumably never been on record with anything anti-semitic.

He didn't learn the right lessons. "Only [members of racial group] who agree with me are okay" is racism. And yeah, dude deserves to have a bright, public spotlight focused on him after the deeply, deeply offensive and dangerous things he said in 2009. It is not in any way an exaggeration that Jews have, quite literally been physically attacked, tortured and even killed because non-Jews believed those lies. Not only did he need to walk them back in their entirety, he needed to do it publicly. And if the organizers weren't ready for that, then they shouldn't have invited him.

I'd be interested to know if any expression of support for Palestine or no support for Zionism would be acceptable to Joe et al in this context, cause, you know, I think if you're looking for Muslim people that would support Israel's action in Palestine, and the causes of Zionism in general, you're gonna be looking for a looong time. Is there a higher standard here for anyone making contact with a synagogue, or Muslims making ocntact with a synagogue or what?

Let him talk about Israel. Let him talk about freedom. It's disrespectful and stupid to do it in front of a Zionist synagogue, and undermines your goal if you're trying to rally support for them. But whatever. But that's not what he did. Pay attention to his words. He spoke about Israel's supporters, not just Israel.

I realize the distinction may have escaped you. But it really, REALLY does matter. And it really, TRULY crosses a line.
posted by zarq at 4:31 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Note please, that he's attacking people who support Israel.
– Kan man si at du fremdeles misliker de som støtter Israel?
[– Would you still say you dislike those who support Israel?]
– Ja, de som støtter en okkupant som er blitt fordømt i flere FN resolusjoner, de misliker jeg.
[– Yes, I dislike the supporters of an occupier that has been denounced in many UN resolutions.]
I see a difference between "attacking" and "I dislike", especially given that he was asked. He doesn't appear to have been standing in front of the synagogue yelling "I AM AGAINST KILLING JEWS EXCEPT FOR ZIONISTS," which is what you're spinning it pretty hard toward.

Please note that I'm not trying to tell you how to feel; just that this is sounding a lot like that reflexive "Wait, Muslims did something admirable? Fuck! I have to poke a hole in that story before anyone thinks that Muslims might not be a monolith of evil!" I was talking about earlier. This guy is probably a bad person to be putting in front of the rally, but the piling on here of just how fucking horrible Ali Chishti clearly continues to be is coming off a lot like the "Shanley Kane is a psycho" arguments.
posted by Etrigan at 5:05 PM on February 27, 2015


I see a difference between "attacking" and "I dislike" [...]

That's probably because because the distinction doesn't matter to you except in an academic sense, and because you have the privilege of reading his statement as if it were devoid of context.

He doesn't appear to have been standing in front of the synagogue yelling "I AM AGAINST KILLING JEWS EXCEPT FOR ZIONISTS," which is what you're spinning it pretty hard toward.

Six years ago he was running around shouting "kill the Jews"; he may have actually been one of the people physically attacking Jews (and people they thought were Jews). He characterised his motives then as being hatred towards supporters of Israel. He now says that he merely dislikes supporters of Israel. Apparently he hasn't changed his position.

But let's say that now he'd only run around shouting "kill the supporters of Israel". Should Jews be comforted by that at all? No. Obviously not. Even if he were telling the truth, his targets are going to be Jews and Jewish institutions. That synagogue, the very one he was standing in front of, supports Israel. The rabbi speaking at the event is former member of the Knesset.

Please note that I'm not trying to tell you how to feel; just that this is sounding a lot like that reflexive "Wait, Muslims did something admirable? Fuck! I have to poke a hole in that story before anyone thinks that Muslims might not be a monolith of evil!" I was talking about earlier. This guy is probably a bad person to be putting in front of the rally, but the piling on here of just how fucking horrible Ali Chishti clearly continues to be is coming off a lot like the "Shanley Kane is a psycho" arguments.

And this is what I meant when I said that Muslims have been set an incredibly low bar: they're being represented by a guy who led a literal race riot and we're supposed to go "Oh, wait a minute, I don't want to take away from the bravery and compassion they're showing."

Don't you think we should expect more from them? Like, shouldn't the organisers have said "Oh my goodness. We are shocked and mortified to find that our demonstration has been hijacked. We did not intend to give a platform to someone with prejudicial views, and we ask the Jewish community to accept that we do not share them. We apologise, and we commit ourselves to fighting prejudice within our own community."
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:32 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's a really good point, Joe, and it makes me wonder whether the activist-girlfriend theory raised above is not only the case but whether said girlfriend is one of the organizers - failing to speak up and say, "Whoa, he doesn't speak for us," seems like that big an omission now that you point it out.
posted by gingerest at 1:11 PM on February 28, 2015


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