The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) is a British charity. British law requires that a charity must have only charitable purposes which must also be for the public benefit (it may be for the benefit of a religion). The CAA’s constitution states its purpose asFor reasons the charity commission refused to explain in response to a request for information dated October 2018, the CAA has been allowed to keep the names of its charity trustees (those responsible for assuring that the CAA operates within its charitable purposes) secret. In fact, the CAA’s website lists only two of the three members of its management team: Gideon Falter, Chairman, and Steve Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement. The Director of Organisation and Finance goes “unnamed”. The CAA, which freely publicises whomever it sees as anti-Semitic and which devotes over half of the news on its website to criticisms of members of the Labour Party, is itself a secretive organisation.
So let us see how the CAA is pursuing its charitable goal of “promoting harmony between Jewish people and other members of society”. The CAA reacts to news of a Gilad Atzmon jazz concert by sending an “attempted enforcement” letter to the venue or the promoter. Unless there is a handy Labour councillor to use, it is signed by Steve Silverman “from CAA a registered charity that works to counter anti-Semitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law”. Wait – where was zero tolerance in the charity’s statement of purpose? Silverman claims to be the charity’s “investigator and enforcer”. How does his investigating and enforcing whatever he decides to investigate and enforce provide a public benefit: aren’t those roles best left to duly appointed law-enforcement officers?
The letter contains a list of accusations, including that Atzmon uses social media to harass others (no, that was your lawyer and patron, Mark Lewis) and that Atzmon trivialises the scale and impact of the holocaust. This last comes close to a false allegation of holocaust denial and Silverman provides no evidence for it at all, not even the out-of-context and mangled quotes the CAA typically relies on to slur Atzmon.
Silverman then quotes the “international” definition of anti Semitism, by which I believe he means the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism, and cites the examples from that definition in what seems like an attempt to give his own words the force of law.
Lastly, Silverman notes that Atzmon was banned from playing in Islington last December after a complaint from “a member of the Jewish community”. I’m not sure that I would characterise the very active Martin Rankoff, head of Likud UK, as merely a member of the Jewish community. I hope that Rankoff doesn’t sue Mr Silverman for defamation.
The last two such venues replied, noting that Atzmon has played there many times in the past, that he regularly sold out the venue and that politics were not a part of the musical experience.
Apparently, a negative reply from the venue puts an end to CAA’s ability to restrain itself. What follows next isa stunning accusation against a venue owner or promoter who has decided to fulfill its contractual obligations to a musician: “It is clear that, by failing to stand up to anti-Semitism, you have chosen to side with those who seek to stir up hatred towards this country’s Jewish community. Your willingness to turn a blind eye to the activities of this leading anti-Semite shames you, your board and your arts centre, and is nothing less than a dereliction of duty.”
Who considers such judgments a public benefit? Where does the “duty” to agree with the CAA come from?
Silverman claims that “there is a vast amount of documented evidence, accumulated over many years, that bears witness to the extent of Gilad Atzmon’s anti-Semitism”. Hate speech is illegal in England. Does anyone doubt that if the CAA had real evidence that Atzmon used hate speech that it would bring that to the police and demand Atzmon’s arrest?
Then, having accused Atzmon of trivialising the holocaust in his last missive, this time Silverman hints that Atzmon may be guilty of causing a holocaust, by “repeat[ing] some of the same discredited anti-Semitic views about Jewish power that were employed by the Nazi regime to pave the way for the holocaust, and he uses his blogs, videos and public talks to encourage others to share his hatred”. Who is sharing hatred here? Silverman hates Atzmon’s philosophy, but does that entitle Silverman to make outrageous, unfounded accusations of criminal behaviour?
Then Silverman signs off with what I suppose he considers to be a threat: “We will endeavour to ensure that your actions, positive or negative, receive the attention that they deserve.” And how will that attention read?
Here’s how I would review the situation: “The owners of venue booked and presented a musician who played to a packed house. The audience was able to forget our dystopian world for a bit and enjoy the magic of art.”