This article about the British charitable organisation, the Campaign against Anti-Semitism (CAA), and its officers, Gideon Falter and Steve Silverman, examines events in England but ought to serve as a cautionary message for Canadians and Americans.
The article will delve into the corrosive methods of the CAA; review the manner in which this ultra Zionist group “discovers” anti-Semitic “incidents”; examine their inaccurate statistical “studies” and see how they seek to intimidate political parties, venues, the press and others; and look at the court cases which the CAA has prosecuted. In the guise of fighting anti-Semitism, the CAA has managed to manoeuvre British society into abdicating its core liberal values, intimidate the prosecutorial and judicial system, and silence criticism of Israel in both social media and the mainstream media.
The CAA does not just attempt to limit speech; it openly follows a scorched earth policy “that if someone commits an anti-Semitic act in the UK (including criticism of Israel)” the CAA “ensure[s] ruinous consequences, be they criminal, professional, financial or reputational”.
For example, in the last 18 months Britain’s largest political party, the Labour Party, has suspended and expelled over a hundred of its members for expressing their views on Israel or Jewish history. Presumably these dismissals act as a deterrent to others who might also wish to express their opinions. Hard as it is to believe, in 21st century Britain people have been imprisoned for trying to be funny…
The CAA’s “success” in Britain is not irrelevant to Americans. Despite the First Amendment, rules limiting speech have been creeping into our society, notwithstanding our constitutional protections.
Organisations not unlike CAA have been operating in the US for some time. In South Carolina criticising Israel is essentially prohibited on public university campuses, and in other states support for BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) will prohibit one from getting a government job or contract. Similar laws have been proposed in the US Congress. It is crucial that we resist this slide into controlled speech at the expense of our crucial values of free expression and tolerance.
In 2006 Rowan Laxton was using an exercise bike alone on the mezzanine floor of a London gym when he saw a television report about an elderly Palestinian man killed by the Israeli assault on Gaza. Laxton allegedly exclaimed: “F…..g Israelis! F…..g Jews!” Gideon Falter (now head of the CAA) and William Lemaine, who were on a lower floor using weights, claimed to have overheard Laxton, and complained to staff at the gym.
The police were going to let Laxton off with a caution but, before it could be arranged, Falter found out that Laxton was a senior Foreign Office official and brought the story to half a dozen newspapers. The police decided to proceed with a prosecution.
Laxton was initially found guilty of “using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour… within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby…” aggravated by using abusive words that had a racial or ethnic element. Laxton was fined and removed from his Foreign Office position.
Laxton exercised his right to an appeal and a rehearing wherein the Crown Court found that Laxton did not say “f…..g Jews”, the comment on which the prosecution was based and which he had always denied. The court also found, as an alternative ground, that Laxton would have thought no one was within earshot.
The Daily Mail played a key role in ensuring that the case received national attention and went to trial, but seems not to have reported the appeal and acquittal at all. It is an open question of how Falter heard Laxton’s alleged outburst, if at the time no one was within earshot of Laxton. One reasonable assumption is that the court did not believe that Falter actually heard Laxton’s statement.
Eight years after the Laxton incident, Gideon Falter founded the Campaign Against Anti-Semitsm, a hardcore Zionist charity that advocates zero tolerance of, and vows to ensure “criminal, professional and reputational consequences”, to those it decides are anti-Semites.
Stephen Silverman is the CAA’s “Director of Investigations and Enforcement” and has dedicated much of his time to ruining the intellectual and artistic careers of others. Silverman is himself a musician wannabe, and runs a music school in a London suburb.
In the last few years Silverman and the CAA have engaged in a relentless assault against artists, intellectuals, religious leaders and elected politicians operating in or visiting England. The “Director of Investigations” does not like ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone, nor does he approve of a list of academicsor church ministers who care for human rights or dare to disagree with Israel. The self-appointed inquisitor despises the hugely popular Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Silverman has made a number of attempts to ruin the music careers of both Alison Chabloz and Gilad Atzmon. In addition, Silverman takes it upon himself to write and call music venues demanding that they cancel Atzmon concerts claiming that Atzmon is a notorious anti-Semite.
Stephen Silverman, was exposed in open court in December 2016 as having been the Twitter troll @bedlamjones. As a Zionist troll, Silverman abused anti-Zionists, particularly women. His sadistic posts called for arrest and imprisonment in response what he considered to be “anti-Semitic” comments.
Silverman has also determined that Gordon Nardell, the man who has taken on the unenviable job of policing anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, is insufficiently sensitive to anti-Semitism. Apparently, according to Silverman, “Nardell has also turned his sights on Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, stating that our work to combat hatred directed at Jews by Labour members is “revolting” and results in anti-Semitism being “abused and belittled”.
For Nardell’s sin of distrusting the CAA, the CAA has demanded that “an independent and transparent disciplinary process… be instituted in the Labour Party”. The CAA’s website does not explain why the Labour Party need justify its own campaign against anti-Semitism to the CAA.
What is anti-Semitism?
UNESCO’s definition of racism is that it is “a theory of races hierarchy which argues that the superior race should be preserved and should dominate the others. Racism can also be an unfair attitude towards another ethnic group. Finally racism can also be defined as a violent hostility against a social group.” The traditional definition of anti-Semitism is the “criticising of, or discriminating against Jews for being Jews”. This definition is not substantially different from UNESCO’s definition of racism.
However, despite the fact that enforcing hate speech laws based on a traditional definition of racism would protect Jews as well as others, in December 2016 the United Kingdom followed other countries in adopting the “international definition of anti-Semitism”, which begins by saying: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The new “international definition” is troubling because it specifically targets speech and thoughts and fails to define what a “certain” perception of Jews is, and an expression of hatred towards Jews is cited, not to make the definition more precise but only as one possible example.
It is well worth reviewing the “examples of anti-Semitism” included in the “international definition” which are extremely broad and include, among other things, accusing a Jewish person of valuing Israel or his fellow Jews over his home country and the seemingly paradoxical provision prohibiting speech denying that Jews have the right to self-determination through Israel.
But if racism against one group is to be fought on a broader basis than other forms of racism, that extra protection ought to be to aid a group uniquely needing the state’s protection – an allegedly poor, downtrodden and persecuted group. It is of note that, in contrast to the downtrodden, Jews as a group have been extraordinarily successful at utilising the media and the courts and obtaining the power to “hold the feet of the government to the fire”.
If UNESCO’s definition aimed at defining racism as a universal problem, the “international definition” adheres to the idea that Jews are not a part of the universal, they are somehow different, their plight is unique.
Why do the Jews in particular need a broader definition of racial hatred? Why do Jews see a need to create a category of hatred that applies only to them? What is lacking in the UNESCO definition that is covered by the “international” one? The answer is that the “international definition” serves to restrain speech and restrict thought. It conflates the Jewish State of Israel with Jews as it vets a range of discourses such as criticism of Israeli politics, Jewish culture, Jewish history and Zionist ideology.
It is not surprising that this definition is espoused by some Zionist institutions. However, its adoption by so many countries is perplexing and begs an explanation. In a world in which free speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion are valued, there is a real question of why such a broad definition of anti-Semitism is appropriate and what exactly it is designed to accomplish.
Then there is the CAA, for whom the international definition is only a starting point. Their accusations of anti-Semitism go beyond even the very broad and over-inclusive definition of the “international definition”. If you find anti-Semitism in t-shirts, major party political gatherings or stupid pet videos, then the definition is very expansive indeed. Why would an organisation dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism be so interested in finding anti-Semitism in every possible utterance? It is clear that the CAA wants to stop any discussion of Jews, Israel or Jewish history in any but its prescribed manner. In its aggressive policing of speech, the CAA and others work to enforce Jewish power precisely as it is defined by Gilad Atzmon: “the power to suppress criticism of Jewish power”.
Freedom of t-shirt
While freedom of speech may be evaporating throughout the English-speaking world, at least we are assured that freedom of t-shirt is still protected in England.
Last year, the CAA’s website bemoaned that Edinburgh-based law graduate Sophie Stephenson won’t face criminal charges for wearing a Hezbollah t-shirt. The CAA wrote that: “On 1 July 2017, Stephenson tweeted a photograph of herself wearing a Hizballah t-shirt, explaining: “Went out to dinner with my family tonight wearing a Hizballah t-shirt.” And then, even worse, Stephenson confirmed: “I have a flag too.”
The CAA, in its zeal to fight anti-Semitism, reported Stephenson to the police, alleging that she had committed an offense under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act 2000. But despite the CAA’s urging, Scottish Police declined to act against the young “rebel”.
The CAA “considered undertaking a private prosecution” against Stephenson. However, its website lamented, “we were unable to secure enough funding to do so”. Following its report of the supposedly anti-Semitic/terrorist-loving Stephenson, the CAA called upon the public to “consider making a monthly donation to help fund Campaign Against Anti-Semitism” presumably to allow it to continue to harass Britons, accusing them of anti-Semitic behaviour, and interfering with their elementary freedoms including the right to wear rebellious t-shirts. Disturbingly, asking for donations in this context suggests that the CAA is attempting to cash in from its dubious anti-Semitic claims. Not exactly the ethical conduct you might expect of a charity.
Methodology, it is not!
The CAA claims to run “methodological” “research into anti-Semitism in British political parties”. Trolling and spying on elected British politicians on social media and public meetings, the CAA keeps a “record” of allegedly “anti-Semitic discourse and discourse that enables anti-Semitism, by officials and candidates in political parties”. This means that a Jewish organisation with a clear political agenda endeavours to monitor the British political discourse to restrain certain political opinions. The CAA’s actions prosecuting its farfetched “findings” are dangerous enough, but more troubling is its success in terrorising the British political universe into compliance with its dictates.
What are some “examples” of discourse that the CAA has claimed enable anti-Semitism and the dissemination of anti-Semitic ideas?
Internationally acclaimed film-maker and Labour supporter Ken Loach told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme that he had been attending Labour meetings for 50 years and had “never in that whole time heard a single anti-Semitic word or a racist word”, and that allegations of anti-Semitism were a fallacy “without validation or any evidence”.
The CAA claimed that Loach’s statement brought to light a “discourse that enables anti-Semitism and the dissemination of anti-Semitic ideas”. How is Loach’s statement racist? Does it target Jews, identify Jews as a collective or advocate discrimination against Jews or anyone else? Is there even a criminal category or a showing of bias in which “not witnessing” conduct implicates one in that very conduct? How does not witnessing anti-Semitism make one into an anti-Semite? Does not witnessing a murder makes one a murderer? Under the CAA’s “rationale” anyone who fails to see the anti-Semitism they do is an anti-Semite.
Abbott ran afoul of the CAA when she said: “It’s a smear to say that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism. It is something like a smear against ordinary party members.” The CAA claimed that “Abbott’s comments were widely condemned. The overwhelming majority of UK Jewish community bodies have expressed public concern about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, including the chief rabbi.” Whether or not this statement is accurate, how is it that Abbott’s statement was misinterpreted as a criticism of Jews when it is clearly a defence of the Labour Party?
The CAA has a long file on former London Mayor Livingstone, beginning in 1982 when the paper, the Labour Herald, of which Livingstone was co-editor, ran an unfavorable cartoon of the then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. According to the CAA, Livingstone’s most egregious anti-Semitic remark was his claim that that in 1932 (Hitler came to power in 1933) Hitler had championed Jewish emigration to Israel (actually, then Palestine) and was “supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. The United States Holocaust Museum website generally supports Livingstone’s statement and reveals that until 1941, Germany encouraged Jews to emigrate and that 60,000 Jews left Germany/Austria for Palestine, a number second only to the number of Jews who went to the United States.
Livingstone rejected claims that he had brought the Labour Party into disrepute and said he was not guilty of anti-Semitism, but resigned from the party and acknowledged that his comments had upset Jews and offended others. “I am truly sorry for that,” he said.
Some of Livingstone’s critics were not satisfied with his apology for his truthful statement. Ruth Smeeth, a Labour lawmaker, described his behaviour as “grossly offensive to British Jews”. MP Smeeth’s reaction is bizarre. Is it anti-Semitic for Livingstone to discuss Jewish history? The Transfer Agreement between Hitler’s Germany and the Zionist Congress may be embarrassing for some Jews, but how is recounting history hate speech? MP Smeeth, the CAA and others claiming to be offended managed by ousting Livingstone to enforce their ironclad rule that certain Jewish history is “off limits”.
War on Labour
Following its anti-methodology, the CAA came to the conclusion that the British Labour Party is “eight times worse than any other party”. Not 5, 6 or 8.3 but exactly 8. What “evidence” supports this “finding?”
The British media have failed to do their job of investigating alleged incidents of anti-Semitism, and instead accept the CAA’s claims without questions.
The CAA’s website publishes an “enemies list” of sorts, chronicling the alleged anti-Semitism of 39 members of the Labour Party. A striking number of the CAA’s complaints address statements about Israel, not about Israel as Jews, but about the actions of the country. To date, about 150 members of the Labour Party have been expelled for alleged anti-Semitism and there is a backlog of cases.
Dubious cases such as those cited here are treated by the CAA as “anti-Semitic incidents” that help the CAA feed the idea that England is rife with anti-Semitism. The British media have failed to do their job of investigating alleged incidents of anti-Semitism, and instead accept the CAA’s claims without questions.
Fiddling with numbers
Fiddler on the Roof may be emblematic of Eastern European Jewish folklore but fiddling with numbers is a symptom of contemporary Zionist politics in general and of the CAA in particular. The CAA compiles and disseminates information on anti-Semitism, basing its claims on methodology that is patently unreliable.
The “anti-Semitism audit” produced by the CAA purports to track incidents of anti-Semitism on an annual basis. The audit is a deeply flawed document, relying on data known to be unreliable and subjected to no proper statistical analysis.
Even the CAA’s use of the term “audit” is inappropriate. An “audit” is defined as “an official inspection of an… organisation’s accounts, typically by an independent body”. The CAA has no official or professional status as an auditor, nor would its methods be accepted by anyone in a position to conduct a professional audit.
The CAA has been advised by police forces that comparing police reports across jurisdictions and years leads to misleading results. The CAA’s anti-Semitism audit was heavily criticised in the Jewish media by statistics expertswho noted that the CAA’s “methodology” was “flawed”, “amateurish” and “misleading”. But none of that stopped the CAA from promoting its manufactured “findings” in the mainstream media.
The CAA based its audit on gathering data from the police. But the CAA doesn’t enjoy free access to police files. Instead, it uses different techniques to gather information. This haphazard “methodology” creates crucial problems:
1. Police forces in different regions of Britain use different standards to gather data regarding hate crimes.
2. Police forces in Britain are presently in the process of revising how they collect their hate crime records so that data from one year may show different results than data from a different year even if the number of hate crimes remains constant.
3. The CAA basically gathers information on the volume of incidents recorded that it considers to be anti-Semitic. But the CAA itself is actively engaged in increasing this volume. It frequently reports incidents to the police and urges other members of the Jewish community to follow suit. An interested body that actively contributes to the rise of reported anti-Semitic incidents cannot also claim to be objective in its “audit” that measures the rise of anti-Semitsm.
4. While the CAA’s audit of anti-Semitism shows a nationwide rise of 14.9 per cent in anti-Semitic incidents between 2016 and 2017, this is based on data gathered by the CAA half of which shows wild year to year fluctuations of up to 1050 per cent. Such fluctuations defy any rationale. These statistical anomalies beg careful analysis that the CAA not only fails to apply – the CAA fails to address this drastic shift in number of reported incidents. The CAA’s study aggregates divergent data collected in different ways and calls that an “audit” of anti-Semitism in Britain. The flawed study was released to the British public with the help of the disgracefully gullible British media. The BBC, Sky, the Guardianand others reported the amateurish statistical “audit” to the British public without raising a single question as to its reliability.
The 2016 audit
In July 2017 the CAA published its 2016 annual audit of anti-Setmitic crimes in the UK. The audit’s first pages raise serious questions as to its reliability:
On page 4 it reads: “2016 was the worst year on record for anti-Semitic crimes”, reporting a 14.9 per cent rise in crimes “targeting Jews” nationwide. But a few lines below, the audit states that during the same period “violent anti-Semitic crimes fell by 44.7 per cent”. This difference in incidences appears contradictory.
The CAA admits that it doesn’t have an explanation for the drop in violent crimes: “We have considered various explanations; however at this point we do not find them persuasive.” (page 6). This drop occurred even though the CAA inflated the number of “violent incidents” by expanding the Home Office definition of violent incidents. (page 16) The CAA defined violent anti-Semitic acts as the combination of the Home Office categories of “homicide” or “violence with injury”, and the heretofore non-violent “assault without injury” and “racially or religiously aggravated assault without injury”.
This means that the audit conveyed the good news that, even using the CAA’s inflated category, the number of “violent anti-Semitic incidents” dropped. Strangely, the Jewish pressure group does not write that the drop in violent anti-Semitic crime is a positive finding.
Fishing for J words
Since the CAA doesn’t have an access to each police force’s records, it derives its statistics from police reports. When a police force does not flag anti-Semitic incidents, the CAA asks that police force to conduct a keyword search of its files:
For the purposes of this research, the keywords used were the following whole words: Jew, Jews, Jewish, Judaism, Semite, Semitic, Semitism, antisemite, anti-Semitic, anti-Semitism, Yid, Yids, Yiddo, or Yiddish. (page 17)
Some police forces made the CAA aware that their keywords method is not a reliable way to find anti-Semitic crime. “Not all incidents where ‘Jew’ is mentioned are anti-Semitic,” wrote the Northumbria police force. It also refers to the CAA exercise as a “fishing expedition”. The CAA ignored this caution and simply used as the number of incidents the data they had been warned were incorrect.
Duplicity vs methodology
The CAA employs inadequate and inconsistent methods of information gathering not only in its audit, but in its information gathering from Jews.
In 2017 the CAA made some shocking revelations:
“One out of three British Jews were considering leaving the kingdom.”
“Four out of five Jews saw anti-Semitism disguised as comments about Israel.”
“Four out of five saw Labour as anti-Semitic.”
“Half of British Jews didn’t trust the Crown Prosecution Service.”
And the source of these disturbing feelings? They came from the results of an online questionnaire found on the CAA’s website. The CAA’s findings were not even from as unbiased sample as the average FaceBook poll. Instead of revealing what British Jews think, the CAA “survey” revealed the opinions of its Zionist readers. It is outrageous to label the results of this exercise “statistics”. In fact, Jewish leaders who criticised the CAA’s duplicitous use of the “poll” were brutally silenced and slandered. Probably the most problematic result of the poll was that the British press reported it but did not point out that the CAA’s findings were based on a self-selecting sample.
Stupidity or duplicity?
Is the CAA a dysfunctional body of incompetent and clueless characters or is the CAA a group of consciously deceptive Zionists who deliberately deceives the British public? The following evidence suggests the latter.
As discussed above, the CAA 2016 anti-Semitsm audit is methodically and factually a problematic document. The CAA was warned of this by different law-enforcement bodies such as the Northumbria police. The CAA audit uses its questionable data to show an increase in the volume of reported anti-Semitic incidents but still fails to prove an increase in anti-Semitsm. Does that mean that the CAA intended to produce a deceptive audit?
The CAA audit’s raw data (from page 24 onward) reveals extreme fluctuations in anti-Semitic incidents reported by police forces from 2015 to 2016, with year to year increases of up to 1050 per cent in some categories and drops of 80-90 per cent in others.
In Derbyshire, for instance (page 34), the audit shows an increase of 1050 per cent in non-criminal anti-Semitic incidents: from two in 2015 to 23 in 2016. This would mean that non-criminal anti-Semitic incidents rose in Derby 70 times more than the CAA’s own nationwide rate of 14.9 per cent. On paper, the situation in Derbyshire is almost a Shoah scenario. Did the CAA try to verify, as even elementary statistics would require, this enormous increase? Was there a pogrom reported in Derbyshire?
In Hertfordshire (page 44), they show an increase of almost 400 per cent in anti-Semitic crime and a surge of 800 per cent in non criminal anti-Semitic incidents. Again, there is no indication that the CAA tried to look into the cause of this improbable increase.
The explanation of the unreasonable rise was known to the CAA. West Yorkshire police notified the CAA that the recent rise in numbers of hate crime incidents “are predominantly associated with administrative change in relation to force crime-recording processes”. It was an administrative change, not an increase in anti-Semitism that led to the huge increase in the number of hate crimes recorded. So, despite the CAA’s knowledge of the reasons for the wild fluctuations, the CAA still dispensed the misleading numbers to the British public.
The raw police reports that the CAA’s audit relies upon reveal that 21 of the 46 reports showed fluctuations well beyond what could reasonably be likely (more than three times the CAA own nationwide figure of 14.9 per cent rise in anti-Semitic incidents). The CAA could claim that its mistakes were due to incompetence, that they simply copied and pasted police reports without thinking. But the last page of the audit reveals that this is not the case.
The CAA does admit that the numbers reported by Wiltshire police (page 73) were unreliable, as they showed a radical rise from one incident in 2015 to 139 incidents in 2016. This is an increase of 13900 per cent in anti-Semitic incidents in a region with fewer than 540 Jews. The CAA discarded the data from Wiltshire as unreliable. But by deciding not to include the Wiltshire police report the CAA reveals that it doesn’t just copy and paste police data.
So, the CAA included some data and discarded others with no apparent standards. What statistical methodology did the CAA use when it decided to discard a rise in 13,900 per cent in anti-Semitic incidents in one jurisdiction and to include a rise in 1000 per cent, 400 per cent or even 50 per cent in others?
It is a basic tenet of statistical analysis that statistics from different sources cannot be combined or meaningfully compared without properly adjusting for different data gathering systems and methods. Deriving an overall percentage increase by averaging data derived by different systems is patently absurd. Nor is it accurate to compare different years from the same data source unless the gathering methodology is the same. The CAA’s audit compiles apples, oranges and bananas and treats them as identical. The extreme fluctuations in police reporting reveals that police force systems did exactly as the police force said it did and underwent significant reporting changes as the CAA admits in its introduction (page 3).
The alerts from the police forces that collection methods had changed means that the CAA should have known that its audit was flawed. This was also pointed out to the CAA by experts within the Jewish community who were highly critical of the audit.
Michael Pinto Duschinsky, a well respected political scientist, wrote a devastating commentary in the Jewish Chronicle about the CAA. As a holocaust survivor, Duschinsky writes, I have two commitments: “to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and to avoid trivialising it by misleading allegations”. Duschinsky denounced the CAA for its “deeply flawed”, “misleading” and “amateurish” methods.
Of the self-selected CAA poll, Duschinsky wrote:
It was completely predicable that the questionnaire would produce the conclusion that one in four British Jews had considered leaving the UK… This was because the questions were so slanted and tendentious and because anyone who wished could complete the questionnaire… Not only did CAA incorrectly characterise its amateur questionnaire of Jewish opinion as a “poll” (thereby suggesting a statistically-valid sample), it then used overblown language in reporting it results.
Abuse of the judicial process
The hysteria over alleged anti-Semitism has led to trials and convictions for the crime of “anti-Semitism”. Cases that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute two years ago have now been brought by the CPS after action from the CAA. Is the change in prosecutions a sign that the CPS now realises that it can obtain convictions it thought unlikely, does it result from a change in what the state considers to be “speech” crimes, or is the CPS placating the CAA?
Gideon Falter and the CAA have been instrumental in utilising a variety of techniques to force prosecution of “anti-Semitism”. Their campaign to restrain speech previously thought permissible has been successful in England as the following sampling of cases shows.
Jeremy Bedford Turner
Turner was recently sentenced to a year in jail after a jury convicted him of stirring up racial hatred during a 2015 speech in which Turner criticised Shomrim, a Jewish-only police unit funded by Britain, whose job it is to protect only Jewish neighbourhoods. Turner further opined the racist sentiment that he wanted Jews out of England.
The CPS declined to prosecute Turner’s speech as incitement to racial hatred. There is an “incitement to racial hatred” clause in the statutes but it is not all-encompassing, and it did not come close to making “anti-Semitism” illegal. The CPS’s policy guidelines on cases involving “incitement” clearly state that the language employed by a defendant must have been “threatening, abusive or insulting“. The courts have upheld the right to freedom of speech even when behaviour is, as in this case, “annoying, rude or even offensive without necessarily being insulting”.
Falter requested a “victim’s right to review” in reponse to the CPS’s decision not to prosecute. The request was denied on the basis that Turner hadn’t mentioned Falter, Falter did not personally hear Turner’s speech and therefore Falter couldn’t claim victim status. The CAA then instituted the process for judicial review of the CPS over its decision not to prosecute and, on the eve of a hearing in the High Court, the CPS agreed to quash its original decision, put a more senior lawyer on the case and proceeded to prosecute and convict Turner.
CAA head Falter claimed the verdict was a “damning indictment” not only of Turner, but of the CPS and its outgoing head, Alison Saunders. Falter said: “The real question is why the director of public prosecutions and CPS got this so dismally wrong.” Falter’s question conflates a jury verdict of “guilty” with proof that the CPS was misinterpreting the law.
Further in 2015, when Turner gave his speech, the United Kingdom had not yet signalled its willingness to stifle speech by adopting the “international definition” of anti-Semitism.
Alison Chabloz, 54, of Derbyshire, was recently convicted on two counts of causing an offensive, indecent or menacing message to be sent over a public communications network. District Judge John Zani said he was satisfied the material was grossly offensive and that Chabloz intended to insult Jewish people.
The CPS initially declined to prosecute Chabloz’s speech, presumably because it was both satirical and political. The CAA launched a private prosecution against Chabloz. Private prosecutions are undertaken in the British system as a direct way for a citizen to institute a criminal case. The rules are intricate, but until recently such prosecutions generally dealt with complex business questions.
Under constant pressure from the CAA, the CPS took over the prosecution of Chabloz. The CAA had not utilised private prosecution in the Turner case since it were not present to hear the “slurs” and would have had no basis for private prosecution.
The songs that provoked Chabloz’s prosecution had been performed at a London Forum event (hardcore nationalist gathering) in 2016 and uploaded to YouTube. They included one song describing the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz as “a theme park” and the gas chambers a “proven hoax”. This is a pretty clear example of provocative speech that most of us disagree with. However, does the state need to criminalise such speech? Won’t the “marketplace of ideas” call out Chabloz? I suspect the internet world would not allow her lyrics to go unchallenged.
Prosecutor Karen Robinson told the court: “Miss Chabloz’s songs are a million miles away from an attempt to provide an academic critique of the holocaust. They’re not political songs. They are no more than a dressed-up attack on a group of people for no more than their adherence to a religion.”
But is it a legal requirement that political song lyrics provide an “academic critique”? Must political satire be clearly defined as found by a court? It’s not clear that “Alice’s Restaurant” or “Fortunate Son” would pass this test.
Adrian Davies, defending, argued that: “It is hard to know what right has been infringed by Miss Chabloz’s singing.” The singer has defended her work as “satire”, saying many Jewish people found the songs funny.
The focus of the private prosecution brought by Falter was Alison’s comments criticising the narratives of Elie Wiesel, Irene Zisblatt and Otto Frank, in her song Survivors.
The authenticity of the tales of these three holocaust victims have been the subject of academic debate. The Anne Frank foundation recently admitted the diary had not been solely authored by Anne. Elie Wiesel’s wartime saga has been called into question over a number of issues. Under cross-examination, Falter was forced to admit that he had not actually read Zisblatt’s book, and so knew nothing about its accuracy, despite having brought a private prosecution to protect it from ridicule.
There are no specific laws against holocaust denial in the UK, even if that is what this was. Britain has resisted attempts to enforce a European Union directive outlawing holocaust denial. Falter seemed to differ from the Crown which said that the prosecution was not against mere questioning of the holocaust. Falter indicated that those who question the new holocaust religion should be prosecuted under the law and attacked professionally: that is, ruined financially.
Falter also claimed that it was “intrinsically offensive” for Chabloz to refer to Palestine being reclaimed “from the river to the sea”. But, of course, the question of whether Palestine ought to be reclaimed for its indigenous people is a political question and not one of race, so what exactly was her crime? Falter openly stated that he is intent on shielding Israel from criticism, and said of the pro-Palestinian aspects of Chabloz’s songs: “You want to silence her and stop her putting those messages out.”
All of this left inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case with regard to whether the truth/falsehood of Chabloz’s criticisms of Zisblatt, et al, were relevant, or whether instead the Crown was enforcing an unspoken law that no-one claiming to be a holocaust survivor can be ridiculed, regardless of truth/falsehood.
Adrian Davies, Chabloz’s lawyer, told Judge Zani that his ruling would be a landmark one, setting a precedent on the exercise of free speech. This is a particularly egregious precedent limiting speech since it is not clear what speech led to Chabloz’s conviction and the case therefore provides no insight to others on what speech must be avoided.
The case against Atzmon illustrates that in the present environment in Britain, you can be liable not only for anti-Semitism, but for questioning the methodology by which anti-Semitism is determined.
Falter appeared on Sky News on 16 July 2017 to explain how he, on behalf of the CAA, had brought a law suit against the Crown for failure to prosecute the anti-Semitic speech supposedly uttered by Jeremy Bedford-Turner. Falter further complained that his statistics on the incidence of anti-Semitism showed far more anti-Semitic incidents than the CPS claimed. Falter claimed, “our view [on anti-Semitism] is right and the Crown is wrong”.
Writing in response to Falter’s appearance, Atzmon wrote on his own website that: “We are asked to choose between two versions of the truth, that delivered by Falter who leads the CAA and basically makes his living manufacturing anti-Semitic incidents and the judicial approach of the CPS: a public body, subject to scrutiny and committed to impartiality.”
Atzmon pointed out that “Falter interprets condemnation of Israel and Jewish politics as ‘hate crimes”. Atzmon commended the CPS for upholding “freedom of expression”, and this in free speech’s most cherished exercise – political speech.
Atzmon noted that Zionism also benefits from anti-Semitism (even though it does not intentionally cause it) since Israel claims that it exists to provide shelter to all Jews. Comparing Falter and the CAA to Israel, Atzmon noted, “since a decrease in anti-Semitic incidents [could have] fatal consequences for Falter and his CAA’s business plan. They need anti-Semitism and a lot of it.”
Falter filed a suit against Atzmon, claiming libel and defamation. Falter’s complaint reads, in part: “In order to justify the existence of, and raise funds for, the CAA the Claimant (Falter) dishonestly fabricates anti-Semitic incidents, that is to say he characterizes conduct as anti-Semitic when he knows it is not, and knowingly exaggerates the prevalence of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic activity.”
Falter complains that he was called a “devious fraud and a hypocrite”, even though neither word appears in Atzmon’s article. Falter further interprets Atzmon: “He [Falter] publicly campaigns against anti-Semitism but in reality his business plan is that he wants Jews to be hated so that he can make money.” In fact, Atzmon made the claim that Falter is a covert Jew hater who pretends to campaign against anti-Semitism.
In addition, Falter claimed that unless restrained, Atzmon would continue to publish similar words. Here Falter openly reveals that his lawsuit is not only against the words complained of, but an attempt to muzzle Atzmon.
The first stage of the lawsuit was a hearing before Justice Nicklin of the British High Court to define the issues created by the language complained of. In his ruling, the judge went beyond the complaint to determine that Atzmon’s words said that the claimant obtained funds through “fraud”.
Atzmon had not claimed that Falter committed fraud, and it was not clear that Falter’s misuse of statistics rose to the level of fraud, i.e. involving a criminal intent. The ruling made clear that a further defence before this justice would be pointless. The parties settled: Atzmon had to issue an apology and pay Falter £7500 in damages, plus an additional amount in legal fees. The irony of forcing Atzmon to pay Falter based on the allegedly false claim that Falter seeks money for anti-Semitism begs recognition.
The Nazi pug
Earlier this year Mark Meechan, aka “Count Dankula”, was convicted and fined £800 for posting on YouTube a video of a dog he had trained to give a Nazi salute in response to the phrases “gas the Jews” and sieg heil. In case viewers worried that he was trying to turn canines into Nazis, one pug dog at a time, Meechan stated in the video that he wasn’t himself a Nazi but thought that what he had done was funny. It is a reasonable interpretation of this video that it ridiculed Hitler supporters as much as it was offensive to others.
The Scottish police arrested Meecham and charged him with posting “grossly offensive, anti-Semitic and racist material”. Sheriff O’Carroll said the right to freedom of expression was very important but “in all modern democratic countries the law necessarily places some limits on that right”.
Meecham pleaded not guilty but was convicted under the Communications Act in a crime that the court found was aggravated by “religious prejudice”. Although Meecham’s video was certainly tasteless and offensive, it is not clear how it fell into the obscure category of “religious prejudice”.
Meecham’s lawyer, Ross Brown, stated of Meecham, his difficulty, “it seems, was that he was someone who enjoyed shock humour… and went about his life under the impression that he lived in a jurisdiction which permitted its citizens the right to freely express themselves”. This perception is understandable; British humour is famous for its tastelessness. Monte Python mocked the church, Little Britain mocks the disabled and so on.
Why did Scottish law enforcement prosecute a silly offensive video of a dog? Is Scotland so crime-free that this is a matter worthy of its crime-fighting resources? It’s hard not to wonder if the same case would have been brought five years ago.
The First Amendment
In the United States, our freedom to speak is guaranteed by the First Amendment, which forbids Congress from making a law abridging free speech (now held to apply to the states as well). The First Amendment was enacted primarily as a defence against government power. The founders were concerned that the federal government exercise only enumerated powers and no more. Still, free speech is not unlimited: the United States limits some speech, including false commercial speech, defamation and incitement to violence.
No reasonable person enjoys confronting hate speech, but allowing free speech, even at its most obnoxious, frees us from self-appointed guardians of the discourse. Who would any of us choose to decide what speech ought to be allowed? Congress? Trump? Obama? The FBI? The NSA? Scientists? The courts? Or the CAA or ADL (Anti-Defamation League)?
The United States government has spent more money on Israel than on any other foreign country, and it is reasonable for Americans to be free to comment on where their money is spent. And yet we have laws that punish those who speak out against Israel, even though we have no such laws for criticising our own government or to protect the people whom we formerly enslaved.
While speech against Israel is not illegal per se, the US government, and states such as New York and Texas (among others) have chosen to punish criticism of Israel as anti Semitic. They do this by prohibiting state funding or business with any group that advocates boycotting Israel.
Canada also protects speech, but not “hate” speech. Under the urging of B’nai B’rith, Canada has prosecuted “anti-Semitic” speech as hate speech. As in the cases in England, it is difficult to ascertain which particular speech was forbidden. In a trial against blogger Arthur Topham, the prosecution cited all of Topham’s writings that were unfavourable to Israel or Jewish culture and hoped some of them stuck. They did, and Topham was convicted.
Despite Canada’s enforcement of its hate speech laws, Falter urged Canadian Jews to follow his example of aggressive prosecution. He stated, “I believe that Canadian [Jews] increasingly will be looking at their situation and asking, ‘Do we have a future in this country?’ And that’s a question they shouldn’t be having to ask at all.” Where is Falter’s evidence that Canadian Jews are asking if they have a future in Canada? Is he trying to lay seeds of alienation so that Jews in Canada will feel less like a part of Canada?
This raises the question of whether the CAA intensifies anti-Semitism by urging Jews to find anti-Semitism everywhere and to prosecute perceived anti-Semitism and “to ensure ruinous consequences, be they criminal, professional, financial or reputational”. The CAA uses the judicial system to achieve its aims, but its use of the law seems cynical as in its legal machinations the CAA deliberately disrespects the principle of freedom of speech that is ingrained in the law of Britain, the United States and Canada.