To Get the Charity Commission to Deregister the Zionist ‘Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’
It is ridiculous, and a travesty, that the Charity Commission should have awarded this small group charitable status. Apart from the financial benefits of this status, it is also camouflage for their clearly political purpose of maligning all critics of Israel as ‘antisemitic’.
This is a petition set up by Tony Greenstein to appeal against the Charity Commission’s inept decision (do they do no background check?).
Do sign it.
And contact the Charity Commission: Raising concerns about a charity (a form to fill in)
The CAA was established ‘by half-a-dozen activists and funded by private donations’, presenting itself as a response to the alleged increase in the presence of anti-Israel and antisemitic behaviour and sentiment in the UK. It was set up in early August 2014, during Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge‘ operation in Gaza.
In an account of his involvement, current CAA chairman Gideon Falter describes having been outraged during the Gaza conflict by the British media’s ‘insistence on holding Israel to exceptional, impossible standards’, which ‘helped to feed the oldest hatred’. The result was that in Britain ‘Israel’s case was deliberately stifled’, while expressing ‘support for Israel was enough to make the disinterested “right thinking” mainstream of British society wince’. His discomfort grew, he says, when pro-Palestinian protestors did not object to some in their midst who chanted antisemitic slogans. He was dismayed to find that the antisemites, at rallies and online, ‘were not arrested’.
At this point, Joseph Cohen, Darren Borg, Justin Chorn and Jordan Jay created a Facebook group, Campaign Against Antisemitism. When the Tricycle Theatre then decided to boycott the UK Jewish Film Festival (which was funded by the Israeli state), Rupert Nathan launched a Facebook campaign, which ‘soon joined forces’ with the CAA. Nathan Hopstein and Mandy Blumenthal also ‘entered the fray’.
Falter sent the group a Facebook message with advice, and they admitted him as a member. He called in Jonathan Sacerdoti as a ‘media man’, and within a week, they had ‘developed a plan’: to call for ‘zero tolerance enforcement of existing laws against antisemitism by the police’. According to Falter, the group and the subsequent rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice it organised was set up by a ‘group of like-minded people who did not know each other just a month before’.
The CAA presents itself as a grassroots direct-action alternative or supplement to the quieter, and for some British Jews complacent, approach supposedly taken by the Board of Deputies. Says the CAA:
Alongside the traditional channels (reporting antisemitism to the police and community security trust). We believe the community must also take direct action to combat the increasing hostility Anglo-Jewry is experiencing. We counter antisemitic protests, seek out antisemites online and apply direct pressure to organisations and institutions that enable antisemitism in the UK.
The group is primarily active online, but has also organised several demonstrations:
As well as its website (former URL), the CAA maintains an active Facebook group, which as of 14 January 2015 has 6,518 likes. It was set up on 1 August, 2014. As well as sharing links about antisemitism and protests against Israel, it organises online ‘Action Campaign[s]’ and ‘Call[s] to Action’. Issues have included:
In January 2015, newspaper headlines reported that nearly half of Britons subscribe to at least one antisemitic belief. [‘Almost half of Britons hold antisemitic view, poll suggests‘, Guardian 14 January, 2015).]
They were based on the findings of a YouGov survey commissioned by CAA, which polled, inter alia, the following beliefs: ‘Jews chase money more than other British people’; ‘Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people’; ‘Jews think they are better than other people’ and ‘have too much power in the media’; and ‘Jews talk about the Holocaust too much in order to get sympathy’. The poll found, CAA claimed, that 45% of British adults believe at least one of the polled statements; 26% believe at least two and 17% believe at least three. The YouGov poll was published by the CAA together with the results of a second, separate online survey they had carried out themselves of self-selected British Jews, finding high levels of fear and insecurity.
Whilst antisemitism in Britain is not yet at the levels seen in most of Europe, the results of our survey should be a wakeup call. Britain is at a tipping point: unless antisemitism is met with zero tolerance, it will continue to grow and British Jews may increasingly question their place in their own country.
In the context of the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre the findings were widely reported. The Independent, for example, ran a front-page story headlined ‘The new anti-semitism’, which quoted CAA chairman Gideon Falter as follows:
These results are shocking wake up call straight after the atrocities in Paris. Britain is at a tipping point: unless antisemitism is met with zero tolerance, it will grow and British Jews will increasingly question their place in their own country.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles issued a bland response to the report, affirming that the government will ‘continue to take a zero-tolerance approach’ to prosecuting ‘hate crimes’.
The CAA’s report also attracted serious criticism, including from more established Jewish organisations, many of whom were reportedly ‘absolutely furious’ with its unprofessionalism.
Ha’aretz reporter Anshel Pfeffer argued that several of the allegedly antisemitic beliefs polled by YouGov do not necessarily amount to antisemitism, and criticised the methodology of CAA’s survey of British Jews as leading to an unrepresentative sample. He added:
The last finding in the survey is that 56 percent agree that ‘the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Britain has some echoes of the 1930s’. If the majority of British Jews and the authors of the CAA report actually believe that, then it’s hard to take anything they say about contemporary anti-Semitism in their home country seriously. If they honestly think that the situation in Britain today echoes the 1930s when Jews were still banned from a wide variety of clubs and associations, when a popular fascist party, supported by members of the nobility and popular newspapers, were marching in support of Hitler, when large parts of the British establishment were appeasing Nazi Germany and the government was resolutely opposed to allowing Jewish refugees of Nazism in to Britain, finally relenting in 1938 to allow 10,000 children to arrive — but not their parents who were to die in the Holocaust (that shameful aspect of the Kindertransport that is seldom mentioned) — and when the situation of Jews in other European countries at the time was so much worse, then not only are they woefully ignorant of recent Jewish history but have little concept of what real antisemitism is beyond the type they see online.
Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), dismissed CAA’s own survey of British Jewish opinion as having ‘little, if any, methodological credibility’. He also characterised the CAA’s presentation of the YouGov poll as ‘deeply flawed’. In a detailed critique, the JPR found the CAA’s survey to be ‘littered with flaws’ and ‘irresponsible’. Due to ‘quite basic methodological flaws and weaknesses’, its poll of British Jews had ‘very limited capacity’ to assess the representativeness of its sample. The survey of British attitudes towards Jews conducted by YouGov was methodologically ‘much better’, but its findings had been presented by the CAA in a ‘sensationalist’ manner. Whereas the CAA claimed that nearly half of Britons harbour antisemitic views,
A far more accurate and honest read of the YouGov data would highlight the fact that between 75% and 90% of people in Britain either do not hold antisemitic views or have no particular view of Jews either way, and only about 4% to 5% of people can be characterised as clearly antisemitic when looking at individual measures of antisemitism. This figure is similar to Pew data gathered in 2009 and 2014 which estimated the level of antisemitic attitudes at somewhere between 2% and 7%, and Anti-Defamation League data gathered in 2014 which, while also flawed, put it at 8%, and, more robustly, identified the UK as among the least antisemitic countries in the world.
Community Security Trust deputy director of communications Dave Rich dismissed CAA’s poll as ‘essentially repeat[ing]… the findings of last year’s ADL Global 100 Survey: a stubborn minority of British people – between 10 per cent and 20 per cent – clings onto stereotypical ways of thinking about Jews’. ‘This does not’, he added, ‘necessarily translate into conscious or active dislike of Jews… So much for the numbers’. He emphasised, as against CAA’s alarmism, that ‘most of the time, most British Jews do not encounter antisemitism and are able to live whatever Jewish lives they choose’. In a radio interview, CST director of communications Mark Gardner commented of the survey that ‘the methodology is not perhaps as good as it should be’. He continued:
The survey asks seven different questions, and it says if you answer ‘yes’ to one of them, then that makes you some kind of antisemite’… and 45% of British people are therefore antisemites. And that’s not the case… For example, ‘I would be unhappy if a family member married a Jew‘ [this was one of the statements polled]. Is it antisemitic if you say ‘yes’?… If a Jewish person says, ‘I would be unhappy if a family member married a non-Jew’, would that make that Jewish person a racist?’
In a joint statement, the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies noted the ‘methodological flaws’ of the CAA’s poll of Jewish attitudes but agreed that ‘we should not be complacent’. It insisted, however, that ‘it is important to remember that the current level and nature of antisemitism in Britain is not as bad as we have seen in France and other European countries and incidents of a violent nature are much lower than they have been in previous years’, and concluded that Britain is ‘unquestionably’ a ‘safe place for Jews to live’.
Dr. Keith Kahn-Karris, lecturer at Leo Baeck College and Birkbeck College and editor of the Jewish Quarterly and Jewish Journal of Sociology, dismissed the CAA survey of British Jewish opinion as ‘methodologically invalid. There can be no confidence in its representativeness’.
The results of a more robustly sampled survey by the Jewish Chronicle were published shortly after the CAA’s report, and painted a far less pessimistic picture of Anglo-Jewish opinion. Whereas the CAA survey had found that one in four Jews have considered leaving Britain, the JC poll returned a figure of just 11%.
On 8 January, 2015, CAA chairman Gideon Falter attended a meeting with Home Secretary Theresa May ‘to address last year’s record-breaking number of antisemitic incidents’ in the UK. (Notably, the CAA was not represented at a meeting organised by the Jewish Leadership Council of leading Jewish organisations with Prime Minister David Cameron.) Falter reportedly proposed a ‘five-point plan’:
1. Production of a quick reference guide on how to enforce the law against antisemitic hate crime for police officers and prosecutors;
2. Strengthening oversight mechanisms within the Police and CPS to ensure that the response to antisemitism is as firm as the law will permit;
3. Taking enforcement action against the organisers of marches and protests which become intimidatory or antisemitic;
4. Ensuring that social networks tackle online hate crime effectively; and
5. Formally adopting a definition of antisemitism which includes antisemitism disguised as anti-Israel political discourse
It is not clear what if anything this ‘plan’ adds to existing Home Office policy, nor in what specifically CAA’s ‘zero tolerance agenda’ consists.
The fifth point of the ‘plan’ merits attention. In an op-ed published in the wake of the report, Gideon Falter wrote:
In three separate questions 80% linked antisemitism with anti-Israel activity and media bias. These figures will now feed into our discussions with the government.
In another such op-ed, he wrote:
What many will probably seek to brush aside from our survey is the crossover between anti-Israel activism and antisemitism. 84% of Jews think boycotts of Israeli businesses are intimidatory. 82% of Jews think antisemitism has been fuelled by biased reporting on Israel.
77% have personally witnessed antisemitism disguised as anti-Israel activism. The tone of debate around Israel has become one of pure hatred – there is no debate. When thugs enter shops and throw all of the kosher food on the ground because it’s ‘Israeli’ or stand outside Jewish events shouting “Baby killers!”, it’s not hard to understand what is really happening. Anti-Israel protests are increasingly the scene of antisemitic acts, and we must cease to allow the perpetrators to get away with saying that they only meant to criticise Israel.
This second survey, still cited by Falter and by Sacerdoti as suggesting a popular association between boycotts of goods produced in occupied territories and antisemitism, was of 2,230 self-selected Jewish people by circulating a web link, and not carried about by a polling agency. It was this survey that was criticised as unrepresentative, “littered with flaws” and potentially “irresponsible” by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, as well as by the JLC, Board of Deputies and Kahn-Harris.
Pro-Israel groups have long sought to promote definitions of anti-semitism, such as the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which threaten to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. It is not clear how the CAA proposes to distinguish ‘antisemitism disguised as anti-Israel political discourse’ from ‘anti-Israel political discourse’ that has nothing to do with antisemitism.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) criticised the CAA’s study in a March 2015 email to subscribers. It explained that BOD representatives had reassured concerned American Jewish leaders about the level of anti-Semitism in the UK, during a visit to the U.S., saying they articulated the belief that: