Surf’s Up

Qur’an burning Christian supremacist Terry Jones brought along an interesting partner on his crusade here in Michigan by the name of Rabbi Nachum Shifren. Shifren is known as “The Surfing Rabbi” and made a name for combining his love for the sport with Judaism.

The surfing Rabbi apparently enjoys surfing the far right as well; he’s a settler in an extremist Israeli settlement in the West Bank called Kfar Tapuah and makes regular appearances at Tea Party functions and the English Defense League, where he gives anti-Muslim speeches. Last year at an EDL rally, for example, Shifren said:

“In those so-called freedom centres, they plot to destroy and kill us. We’re still waiting for the Muslims to make peace with each other. They eat each other alive, like the dogs that they are…”

These “dogs” are so bad that a Jewish Rabbi is willing to participate in activities of a group with neo-nazi links. As Malatesta’s Blog wrote:

“The continued denial of the EDL’s Nazi membership is hollow and completely unbelievable. The documentation of known fascist connections increases daily.”

Of course, Shifren isn’t the only Jewish member of the EDL, as documented by Ha’aretz while the EDL claims it supports Jews and Israel. I believe this is part of a shift in the European far right where former neo-nazis have traded in their overt antisemitism for the more politically profitable pandering of Islamophobia. But fascism is fascism, whether it targets Jews or Muslims or hairless vegan homosexual midgets of color.

Shifren isn’t likely to understand that since the settlement he lives in adheres to its own brand of neofascism:

“‘I’d compare its residents to white militants in the United States,’ says Hagit Yaari, an Israeli spokesperson for Americans for Peace.”

Ain’t it great that he ran for public office and won endorsements from people “like his good friend Sheriff Joe Arpaio?” Or better yet, that he’s a teacher in the Los Angeles school system?

With these white supremacist and Jewish supremacist connections, does it come as a surprise that he’s willing to share the limelight with a Christian supremacist like Terry Jones? 

It’s more than an opportunity to share the limelight with a guy who is out done in media attention only by Charlie Sheen; his partnership with Jones is a shared ideology based on the false premise that Islam represents a threat to western democracy and civilization. Their anti-Muslim politics is framed as a rigorous defense of freedom and freedom of speech in particular. The Rabbi made his paean to that very freedom of speech after Jones’ day in court:

“‘I can express it at the courthouse, at McDonald’s, at the mosque. I’m not limited in my freedom of expression. That’s the issue,’ said Rabbi Nachum Shifren.”

Freedom of speech wasn’t the issue, however, when it came to 11 students arrested at UC Irvine last year when Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren came to speak on campus:

“Let’s be clear: these are not campus ‘rowdies,’ or rude and disrespectful ‘students.’ These ‘students’ are the front line of an army of Muslims that is waiting patiently to take over and subvert our country.”

Translation – Christian supremacist attacking minority community based on irrational fears, opportunism and a need for attention and prestige = protected free speech.

Muslim students protesting a representative of a regime that engages in “war crimes, violates international law, and subjugates and oppresses Palestinians,” a reality that is documented = conspiracy to impose Islamic fascism.

This double standard is what lies at the heart of the anti-Muslim movement’s real agenda; to impose a Judeo-Christian fascism using the phantom of Shari’a as a convenient bogeyman. I’m tempted to ask Shifren and Jones what’s it like on their world if I ever met them, but unfortunately, they come from the same planet as the rest of us. You can’t blame their lack of understanding of the values of human rights, freedom and equality that democracy due to their alien points of origin.

At the end of the day, we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with these fascists. Today it’s stunts like burning the Qur’an or protesting in front of a mosque; tomorrow it could be a mob descending on a mosque, or worse – a mass movement based on the ideas of Jones or someone similar influencing policy. Whether that happens or not depends not on a court ruling, or the legal system at all but on defeating a far right that includes Rabbis who can hang 10.

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