The EDL in East London
I wasn’t in Tower Hamlets on Saturday, when the English Defence League attempted at “static” demonstration there, but I’ve now managed to read through a fair amount of commentary and reportage. It seems it was a victory for everyone. For the EDL, they mobilised something from 600 to 1000 people, got a lot of media attention, drank a lot and had a generally fun day – although they failed to actually get to Tower Hamlets. For the “anti-fascists”, endlessly re-living the Battle of Cable Street, they considerably outnumbered the EDL and managed to keep the bigots out of the borough – except it was the police and not them who managed that. For the police, there was relatively little disorder and mayhem, and Theresa May’s ban on a march managed to get enforced – although it took 3000 pairs of boots on the ground and undoubtedly a huge bill to pay.
"Every single Muslim watching this video on youtube, on 77, you got away with killing and maiming British citizens ... you had better understand that we have built a network from one end of the country to the other end... and the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League if we see any of our British citizens killed maimed or hurt on British soil ever again."
“And it is also clear who [the EDL] are from their tactics, one of which is organising demonstrations in front of mosques and terrorising people passing by or entering. Look, if you are concerned about the political Islamic movement and mosques being funded by Islamic states to promotes Islamism, then by all means demonstrate but why not do it at the Qatar embassy (if you are concerned about the Burnley mosque for example) or for that matter Jack Straw’s office (who is thought to be responsible for the Emir of Qatar’s £1.5 million gift to the mosque). Yes I am opposed to faith schools but I wouldn’t stand with a group that brings out thugs in front of an Islamic school and threatens children going in who are sent their by their parents…”
Unlike your regular extremist organisation, the EDL is not infamous because of its stated agenda, but simply because of its nature, the thuggery of its members and their general Islamophobia. If you were to define it by its stated objectives, namely opposition to [Muslims Against Crusaders, Anjem Chaudhury’s horrible extremist cult] and to compulsory sharia law, then it’s so mainstream that most Muslims would agree with it. If you define it by its members’ behaviour, then even most Islamophobes would steer clear of it. I don’t think it’s a “proper” extremist organisation, it’s just a bunch of angry pals, largely from the football hooligan fraternity, who decided to go demonstrate and enjoy a ‘day out’ doing so. They’re full of latent prejudice but haven’t developed an extremist ideology from it.
the organization has featured a "Jewish division" (hailed by her main colleague as a "development much to be applauded"). The EDL Jewish division's leader -- Roberta Moore -- is described by Geller as the person she "most trusted" in the EDL; and when Moore fell out with the EDL amid professed concern on Moore's part over the presence of neo-fascists in the group, Pamela withdrew her support for the EDL too. What is clear is that she wholeheartedly endorses Moore and the Jewish division, and it was their part in the EDL -- more than anything -- that apparently led Pamela to gush routinely about the EDL. For instance, she once proclaimed how she wished she "could be there to stand with the English Defense League" in support of a rally for Geert Wilders.
In reality, however, the fallout between Moore and the EDL's leadership was not due to allegations of infiltration by neo-Nazis. Rather, the EDL leadership and numerous members of the rank-and-file were alarmed at Moore and the Jewish division's alliance with and outspoken support for the American-based Kahanist group "The Jewish Task Force (JTF)," headed by convicted terrorist Chaim ben Pesach (aka Victor Vancier), who is also banned from entering Israel.
Vancier did much to set back the work of Soviet Jewish dissidents like Natan Sharansky in the 1980s with his bombing campaigns directed at, amongst other targets, an FBI informer's car and a hall where the Soviet State Symphony Orchestra was performing. Unsurprisingly, Vancier has praised Baruch Goldstein -- perpetrator of the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre -- as a "great hero."
What too many anti-fascists refuse to acknowledge is that Islamist fundamentalism mirrors the right-wing ideology of the EDL (and the BNP). In fact, the Islamist goals are much more dangerous. They want to establish a theocratic tyranny, ban trade unions and political parties and deny women equal human rights. They endorse hatred and violence against Jewish, Hindu and LGBT people. Muslims who don't follow their particular brand of Islam would face severe persecution in their Islamist state. These fanatical sects condone terrorism and the suicide bombing of innocent civilians. Not even the BNP and EDL are this extreme.
The failure of many people on the Left to speak out against Islamist fundamentalism is de facto collusion with extremism and a betrayal of the Muslim majority. It also creates a political vacuum, which the EDL is seeking to exploit and manipulate.
Some anti-fascists argue that we should not condemn the Islamists because this will fuel anti-Muslim sentiment. Wrong. Protesting against the fundamentalists and defending mainstream Muslims is actually the most effective way to undermine Islamophobia.
In the absence of a left-wing critique of the Islamist far right, the EDL is able to pose as the sole critic of Islamist extremism and to mount indiscriminate attacks on the whole Muslim community.
This silence and inaction by many on the left is objectively (albeit unintentionally) colluding with both fundamentalist fanaticism and anti-Muslim prejudice.
To be credible and effective, opponents of the EDL need to be consistent by also taking a stand against right-wing Islamists. Only this way can we offer a principled alternative to the EDL that isolates and targets the extremists without demonising the whole Muslim population.
“there are those in the anti-Israel brigade who appear unable to stop placing Zionism and Israel at the centre of their world-view [such as] Carole Swords, a senior Respect activist in Tower Hamlets, whom CST Blog recently noted as having told pro-Israel activists to “go back to bloody Russia!”. “Go back to bloody Russia!” is the kind of “Send ‘Em Back!” sentiment that the EDL can likely identify with; but Swords was most certainly not on the EDL’s side this (or any other) weekend. The boycott Israel activists, including Swords, can be seen in the below video. Its title, “Tower Hamlets kick out the EDL & their Israeli Propogandist [sic] allies”, dangerously alleges that there was some kind of meaningful and independent pro-Israel participation in the EDL’s anti-Muslim provocation. (Swords comes in at about 2.18, amongst those attempting to muster up “Free Palestine” chants from the anti-EDL demonstrators.)
The potential and actual linkage between antisemitic incidents and anti-lsrael sentiment (e.g, see this hateful graffiti from Manchester last week) is blatant; and linking pro-Israelis with the EDL risks serious antisemitic escalations wherever EDL intensifies its actions.