Academic journal accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ over ‘Jewish extremism’ editorial

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Academic journal accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ over ‘Jewish extremism’ editorial

An IDF soldier in a Hamas tunnel in Rafah, Gaza
An IDF soldier in a Hamas tunnel in Rafah, Gaza
An IDF soldier in a Hammas tunnel in Rafah
An IDF soldier in a Hammas tunnel in Rafah

An editorial in a renowned academic journal has been branded “blatant anti-Semitism” after it claimed the Holocaust is used to justify “Jewish extremism” and compared foreign jihadists to British Jews fighting in the IDF.

Writing about ‘Mahal’, the process whereby non-Israeli Jews travel to Israel to fight in the Israel Defence Forces, the guest editorial in Anthropology Today says those returning to Britain are “indoctrinated” and “a threat” but are not listed as such because Israel is an ally.

The inflammatory remarks appear in April’s edition of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s bimonthly journal, where prize-winning American Professor Laura Nader argues that news of foreign fighters joining Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has focused media attention on “Jewish jihad”.

She writes: “Today around 100 British nationals are serving in the Israeli army, supported by proud British mothers, however the April 2014 British report on counter-terrorism does not include as [a] threat the indoctrinated British citizens returning home from service in the Israeli military, since the UK is already an ally of Israel.”

She continues: “The Mahal network of jihadists were taking part in the Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip last summer, which resulted in the death of so many innocent Palestinian civilians.”

Nader further notes that “5,000 Jews carry the title ‘Lone Soldier,” aping the term “lone wolf” used to describe Islamist fanatics who kill Jews. Of these, she says “very little is reported in the Western media”. 

In addition, she writes that Birthright (Israel) trips “recruit youngsters to visit a fantasy Israel where they receive instruction on Zionism”. On these trips, she says “visitors learn to hate the enemy, the Palestinians”.

Elsewhere in the editorial, Nader writes: “For Judaism, extremism is justified as a result of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and the right of return.” She adds: “Islamic jihad has some contemporary parallels in Judaism.”

The remarks left both readers and communal leaders livid. Board of Deputies’ Vice-President Jonathan Arkush said he was “shocked” at the contents. 

“The piece was grotesquely distorted and inaccurate and we are at a complete loss to understand how the journal thought it fit to publish,” he said. “We are currently investigating what further action to take.”

One Jewish anthropologist, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “This is the first time that I have come across such blatant anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli vitriol in a RAI publication.

David Shankland, Director of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and Andre Singer, President of the RAI, were earlier this week asked to explain the publication, but by Thursday lunchtime had still not done so. A disclaimer in the magazine says: “The publisher and editors cannot be held responsible for errors or any consequences arising.”

An open letter calling for the “end of Israeli occupation and colonisation” and the right of return for Palestinians has been signed by 961 anthropologists from across the world, who urged colleagues to boycott Israel.

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