Behind the charitable mask
Not only Theresa May, but Jeremy Corbyn too, have lent their support to an entirely bogus definition of anti-Semitism. This can only benefit Zionist outfits such as the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, writes Tony Greenstein
The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is a British propaganda organisation and registered charity1 that specialises in defaming Palestine solidarity campaigners and groups. When I launched a petition2 calling for the group to be deregistered as a charity, it responded in a hostile manner.
It first tried to persuade the website, change.org, to take the petition down.3 When that failed, its supporters attacked the petition in an article published by the Daily Mail4 - a paper which once supported Hitler for having “saved Germany from Israelites of international attachments”.5 Originality not being its strong point, the CAA then alleged that I was a “notorious anti-Semite”.6
The CAA was formed7 in August 2014 - during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s attack on Gaza in that year. Its purpose was to paint Palestine solidarity campaigning and opposition to Zionism as anti-Semitic.
There was massive opposition to the attack on Gaza among the British public; an estimated 150,000 people took to the streets of London.8 Such was the climate of opinion that Sayeeda Warsi, then a foreign office minister, resigned from the government, describing its support for Israel as “morally indefensible”.9
For some time, there had been a constituency within British Zionism which felt that establishment groups such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews were not active enough in defending Israel. So in late August 2014 the CAA organised a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, which it claimed was 4,500-strong.10 Its purpose was to link the protests against the attack on Gaza to anti-Semitism. Ephraim Mirvis, Britain’s chief rabbi, spoke at the event, as did Vivian Wineman, then president of the Board of Deputies. Wineman was loudly booed.
If it was true that there was an increase in anti-Semitism as a result of the attack on Gaza, then the obvious thing to do would have been to dissociate Britain’s Jewish community from Israel’s actions. But the CAA had no interest in doing so. The CAA is chaired by Gideon Falter11, a board member of the Jewish National Fund UK, which has a long history of supporting ethnic cleansing in Palestine.12
One of the campaign’s stated objectives is to “promote racial harmony”. In practice, its activities are designed to achieve the exact opposite. The CAA consistently targets Muslims. A search of the campaign’s archive reveals just two articles that mention Britain’s main fascist organisations - the British National Party, the English Defence League and the National Front. By way of contrast, there are some 77 articles13 attacking Jeremy Corbyn.
There are also 32 articles in the archive attacking Shami Chakrabarti, who is now shadow attorney general.14 In a 2016 report, she concluded that the Labour Party was “not overrun by anti-Semitism”,15 while acknowledging that a small number of its members had made offensive comments.16 That conclusion did not confirm the prejudices of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.
The CAA has reserved special venom for Gerald Kaufman, the father of the House of Commons and an original member of Harold Wilson’s kitchen cabinet, who died recently. In 2009, he compared the tactics of Israelis then attacking Gaza to those of the Nazis who killed his grandmother.17 No less than 22 articles in the campaign’s archive attack Kaufman.18 The latest one, ‘Sir Gerald Kaufman MP’s words have left a rotting stain on our institutions’19, shows that even death does not prevent the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism deploying all its black arts.
There is no-one the CAA hates as much as a Jewish opponent of Israel.
Serving the right
The campaign is above all at the service of the right. Rebecca Massey, a member of Hove Constituency Labour Party, has been accused of anti-Semitism for tweeting articles critical of Israel.20 Ivor Caplin, a former defence minister who supported the illegal invasion of Iraq,21 is among those who have slandered Massey.22 Her real offence? She is a Corbyn ally, who is not only chair of Peter Kyle MP’s own ward, Central Hove and Brunswick and Adelaide, but has now been elected treasurer of Hove CLP. And in its attack on socialists in the Labour Party, the CAA, as a matter of course, talks about “racist Labour”, thus demonstrating that the lack of political neutrality expected of a charity.
Far from promoting racial harmony, the CAA has sought to stir up conflict between Muslims and Jews. Last year it published a report entitled British Muslim anti-Semitism,23 which included a “profile” of the kind of person that the campaign was making allegations against. The profile was highly racist and offensive: according to the report, the typical Muslim anti-Semite was likely to be a first-generation immigrant living in social housing. If someone had posted a similar portrayal of Jews, the campaign would have been the first to cry anti-Semitism.
The report alleged that “many British Muslims reserve a special hatred for British Jews”. It added: “On every single count, British Muslims were more likely by far than the general British population to hold deeply anti-Semitic views.” The conclusions were based on a poll conducted for the Channel 4 TV.24 Even the Community Security Trust, a staunchly Zionist group, raised doubts about the conclusions to which the CAA jumped.
In a blog post for the CST website, Dave Rich wrote: “This latest poll showed something else that is interesting, and is not specific to Muslims: that people who believe anti-Semitic things about Jews rarely think of themselves as anti-Semitic.”25
He added: “What is perhaps curious, though, is that this is not reflected in a more basic question that was asked in the same poll about how favourable or unfavourable Muslims feel towards Jewish people as a religious group.” Asked what their feelings were towards Jews, on a sliding scale from 0-100, where 0 is the least favourable - British Muslims scored 57.1 in their feelings towards Jews. This hardly suggests rampant anti-Semitism.
The CAA specialises in distorting statistics. In its annual ‘Anti-Semitism barometer report’ for 2015, it claimed that an opinion poll showed that “almost half (45%) of British adults believe at least one of the anti-Semitic statements shown to them to be true”.26
The questions were carefully chosen to elicit the required answers. As Anshel Pfeffer from Ha’aretz observed, regarding the statement that Jews talk about the holocaust too much in order to gain sympathy, “too many Jews ... are often too quick to bring up the holocaust in order to make a point ... Holding that opinion doesn’t necessarily make you an anti-Semite.”27
Another statement was that “Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people.” Is it surprising that one in five people believe this, given that Jewish anti-Zionists are regularly accused of being “traitors”?
Clearly, the first loyalty of many Zionists is to Israel. That was why Israel’s ministries for foreign affairs and immigrant absorption distributed a questionnaire to American Jews a few years ago, asking where their loyalties would lie in the event of a crisis between the two countries.28
Pfeffer’s conclusion was that the CAA has created “its own definition of anti-Semitism, which is more a reflection of what is impolite to say in public than what is actual bias against Jews”. Anti-Semitism is hostility to Jews as Jews, not the holding of ephemeral beliefs.
The Institute of Jewish Policy Research in London found that the CAA’s ‘barometer’ report was “littered with flaws” and the group’s work “may even be rather irresponsible”, which for the IJPR is quite strong stuff.29 It criticised the way that the CAA has used data collected by the polling agency YouGov to make the “rather sensationalist claim that almost half of all British adults harbour some sort of anti-Semitic view”. YouGov had been commissioned to undertake the poll by the CAA.
According to the IJPR, “a far more accurate and honest read” of the data would “highlight the fact that between 75% and 90% of people in Britain either do not hold anti-Semitic views or have no particular view of Jews either way, and only about 4% to 5% of people can be characterised as clearly anti-Semitic”.
Bordering on hysteria
The CAA has claimed that one in four British Jews had considered leaving the country in the past few years because of rising anti-Semitism. However, even The Jewish Chronicle, a vehemently pro-Zionist rag, poured cold water on that claim. The newspaper’s own poll concluded in 2015 that 88% of British Jews had no intention of emigrating.30
The CAA also claimed that more than half of all British Jews felt that anti-Semitism echoed that of the 1930s. Anshel Pfeffer witheringly observed that if the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and most British Jews “actually believe that, then it’s hard to take anything they say about contemporary anti-Semitism in their home country seriously”.31 Pfeffer added that the conclusion showed “a disconnect bordering on hysteria ... not only are they woefully ignorant of recent Jewish history, but have little concept of what real anti-Semitism is”. Which just about sums up the CAA.
The CAA has claimed, too, that 84% of Jews believed boycotts of businesses selling Israeli products to be intimidation. Contrast this ‘finding’ with a rigorously controlled, academic survey of British Jews by the sociology department at City, University of London.32 That 2015 survey found that 24% of British Jews would support some sanctions against Israel if they thought it would encourage Israel to engage in the “peace process”. A “sizeable minority” (34%-41%) among the young, the highly qualified academically and those who were not affiliated to a synagogue were in favour of sanctions under such circumstances, according to the survey. The City survey also found that, while 59% of British Jews identify themselves as Zionists nearly a third - 31% - did not.
Other ‘findings’ that have alarmed the CAA were that 45% of Jews felt their family was threatened by Islamist extremism, that 77% of Jews have witnessed anti-Semitism disguised as a political comment about Israel and that 82% of respondents said that media bias against Israel fuels persecution of Jews in Britain.
These were not only replies to loaded questions, but ideas planted in the heads of people with the object of obtaining the ‘right’ answer. No attempt was made to put a question based on countervailing assumptions, such as ‘Do you agree that criticism of Israel is not the same as anti-Semitism?’ The result of such an approach would have been interesting, but it was not on the agenda of the CAA.
However, the campaign is no doubt unconcerned with the criticisms that have been made of its work. The purpose of that work is to make Jewish people feel insecure and ‘encourage’ them to leave for Israel.
Zionism is, after all, founded on the “negation of the diaspora” - the belief that Jews do not belong in a non-Jewish society.33 After the killing of four Jews in a Paris kosher supermarket two years ago,34 Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, flew to France and told French Jews to emigrate.35 Fighting anti-Semitism has never been part of the Zionist agenda.
The CAA has stated from the beginning that it was formed to tackle anti-Semitism of “both a classical ethno-religious nature and also a political nature related to Israel”.36 In fact, the campaign devotes virtually all of its time to the latter and what it calls the “international definition of anti-Semitism”.37
This definition is virtually identical to a working definition of anti-Semitism drawn up by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now the Fundamental Rights Agency) in Vienna. The definition was not formally adopted by the EU and was removed from the website of the Vienna-based agency several years ago.38
But, like Dracula’s undead, the ‘definition’ has come back to life. Originally drawn up in consultation with the pro-Israel lobby,39 it has now been given a veneer of respectability, because it has been endorsed, with minor amendments, by an intergovernmental body, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.40 Not only Theresa May, but Jeremy Corbyn too, have lent their support to this bogus definition of anti-Semitism.41 All Britain’s major political parties are signed up to it and the CAA is one of the beneficiaries.
Our task is clear. Palestine solidarity activists have to build a campaign against this definition, just as they did with its predecessor, the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.42
5. See http://spartacus-educational.com/Jmail.htm.
16. See Asa Winstanley’s ‘Defeating Labour’s manufactured anti-Semitism crisis’: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/defeating-labours-manufactured-anti-semitism-crisis.
26. https://antisemitism.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Annual-Antisemitism-Barometer-2015.pdf .
40. www.holocaustremembrance.com/sites/default/files/press_release_document_antisemitism.pdf. See also www.holocaustremembrance.com/about-us/membership-criteria.