Email exposure: Kaminski and anti-Semitism

Time to set the record straight

Just when you think the uproar over the Conservative Party's relationship with Michal Kaminski has fizzled out, it is set alight again by claims from the Tory-supporting right.

Into my inbox today came a press release from Total Politics, the outfit funded by the controversial Tory fundraiser Michael Ashcroft, advertising an interview by the Tory candidate Iain Dale with Michal Kaminski, chair of the new Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, which includes the 24 Tory MEPs.

Referring to a story I wrote, which I see is reproduced here by the European Jewish Congress, which provided some of the quotes, the release says Kaminski "accuses the New Statesman of shoddy journalism over its recent story attributing comments to Rabbi Schudrich [Chief Rabbi of Poland], which he says he never made",

In the interview itself, Kaminski says that the chief rabbi "has nothing against me and does not regard me as an anti-Semite".

So, did I make up the quotation? It is time to reproduce the email in full:

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From: Michael Schudrich [mailto:xxxx]
Sent: 27 July 2009 18:21
To: James Macintyre
Subject: Re: Quote request

 

Dear James,

 

I do not comment on political decisions. However, it is clear that Mr Kaminski was a member of NOP, a group that is openly far right and neo-nazi. Anyone who would want to align himself with a person who was an active member of NOP and the Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne (which was established to deny historical facts of the massacre at Jedwabne) needs to understand with what and by whom he is being represented.

 

Michael Schudrich

 

While we're at it, here is the email from Rabbi Marcus, one of London's most influential rabbis:

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Rabbi Marcus [xxxx]
Sent: 28 July 2009 15:43
To: James Macintyre
Subject: RE: Quote request

 

Dear James,

I would be happy to say the following-

Any politician of any political party should have the moral courage to clearly distance themselves from those who espouse and promote anti Semitism, racism or any attitude that fosters intolerance.

Regards,

Rabbi Marcus.

Here, finally, is the quotation from the European Jewish Congress:

We remain extremely vigilant. We have communicated [our concerns about] this to the president of the EPP [Wilfried Martens] and the new elected parliament president [Jerzy Buzek, the former Polish prime minister].

We know [politicians such as Kaminski] to make racist comments even in parliamentary gatherings. We are alarmed at the fact that they are given a venue to be outspoken. I would call on the British Jewish community to contact David Cameron over this.

It should be noted meanwhile that, in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle today, Kaminski "stands by" his attack on Poland's apology over the 1941 Jewish massacre at Jedwabne.

Now, I know the Conservative Party's press officers have been doing all they can to persuade Jewish leaders to retract their statements. I know at least one Tory press officer has been attempting dishonestly to smear me personally as a result of this story: a seperate tale for another time. And I know Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP, has been pretending the Jewish statements only come from "Labour". But, given these emails above, can we now just accept that the quotes speak for themselves?

 

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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France’s burkini ban could not come at a worse time

Yet more legislation against veiled women can only further divide an already divided nation.

Since mayor of Cannes David Lisnard banned the full-body burkini from his town’s beaches, as many as 15 French resorts have followed suit. Arguments defending the bans fall into three main categories. First, it is about defending the French state’s secularism (laïcité). Second, that the costume represents a misogynistic doctrine that sees female bodies as shameful. And finally, that the burkini is cited as a threat to public order.

None of these arguments satisfactorily refute the claims of civil rights activists that the bans are fundamentally Islamophobic.

The niceties of laïcité

The Cannes decree explicitly invokes secular values. It prohibits anyone “not dressed in a fashion respectful of laïcité” from accessing public beaches. However, the French state has only banned “ostentatious” religious symbols in schools and for government employees as part of laïcité (the strict separation between the state and religious society). And in public spaces, laïcité claims to respect religious plurality. Indeed, the Laïcité Commission has tweeted that the ban, therefore, “cannot be based upon the principle of laïcité”.

While veils covering the entire face such as the burqa or niqab are illegal, this is not to protect laïcité; it is a security matter. The legal justification is that these clothes make it impossible to identify the person underneath – which is not the case for the burkini.

 

By falling back on laïcité to police Muslim women in this way, the Cannes authorities are fuelling the argument that “fundamentalist secularism” has become a means of excluding Muslims from French society.

Colonial attitudes

Others, such as Laurence Rossignol, the minister for women’s rights, hold that the burkini represents a “profoundly archaic view of a woman’s place in society”, disregarding Muslim women who claim to wear their burkini voluntarily.

This typifies an enduring colonial attitude among many non-Muslim French politicians, who feel entitled to dictate to Muslim women what is in their best interests. Rossignol has in the past compared women who wear headscarves through choice to American “negroes” who supported slavery.

Far from supporting women’s rights, banning the burkini will only leave the women who wear it feeling persecuted. Even those with no choice in the matter are not helped by the ban. This legal measure does nothing to challenge patriarchal authority over female bodies in the home. Instead, it further restricts the lives of veiled women by replacing it with state authority in public.

Open Islamophobia

Supporters of the ban have also claimed that, with racial tensions high after recent terrorist attacks, it is provocative to wear this form of Muslim clothing. Such an argument was made by Pierre-Ange Vivoni, mayor of Sisco in Corsica, when he banned the burkini in his commune. Early reports suggested a violent clash between local residents and non-locals of Moroccan origin was triggered when strangers photographed a burkini-wearing woman in the latter group, which angered her male companions. Vivoni claimed that banning the costume protected the security of local people, including those of North African descent.

Those reports have transpired to be false: none of the women in question were even wearing a burkini at the time of the incident. Nonetheless, the ban has stood in Sisco and elsewhere.

To be “provoked” by the burkini is to be provoked by the visibility of Muslims. Banning it on this basis punishes Muslim women for other people’s prejudice. It also disregards the burkini’s potential to promote social cohesion by giving veiled women access to the same spaces as their non-Muslim compatriots.

Appeals to public order have, occasionally, been openly Islamophobic. Thierry Migoule, head of municipal services in Cannes, claimed that the burkini “refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements”, conveniently ignoring the Muslim victims of recent attacks. Barely a month after Muslims paying their respects to friends and family killed in Nice were racially abused, such comments are both distasteful and irresponsible.

Increased divisions

Feiza Ben Mohammed, spokesperson for the Federation of Southern Muslims, fears that stigmatising Muslims in this way will play into the hands of IS recruiters. That fear seems well-founded: researchers cite a sense of exclusion as a factor behind the radicalisation of a minority of French Muslims. Measures like this can only exacerbate that problem. Indeed, provoking repressive measures against European Muslims to cultivate such a sentiment is part of the IS strategy.

Meanwhile, the day after the incident in Sisco, riot police were needed in nearby Bastia to prevent a 200-strong crowd chanting “this is our home” from entering a neighbourhood with many residents of North African descent. Given the recent warning from France’s head of internal security of the risk of a confrontation between “the extreme right and the Muslim world”, such scenes are equally concerning.

Now more than ever, France needs unity. Yet more legislation against veiled women can only further divide an already divided nation.

The Conversation

Fraser McQueen, PhD Candidate, University of Stirling

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.