With the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, approaching, it is a season for reflection. We at Campaign Against Antisemitism are also now marking our five years of existence and how far we have come.
We say ‘marking’ because our anniversary is not a moment of celebration: we would prefer that our work were not necessary. Neither, however, is it entirely an occasion for lamentation, as we take pride in the community of dedicated volunteers that we have created (well over one thousand strong), the individuals whom we have helped or witnessed showing social, political or legal courage, and the accomplishments we have achieved.
These accomplishments include successfully lobbying the British Government to become the first in the world to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism (the IHRA Definition), which was followed by many more institutions in the UK and abroad.
They also include Campaign Against Antisemitism’s formal referral and detailed legal representations to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), which led to the ECHR’s full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party, which was launched on 28th May 2019 and in which CAA is the complainant. The Labour Party has thereby joined the British National Party as the only political parties to be the subjects of such an investigation.
We have also been at the forefront of highlighting antisemitism within the Labour Party and post-Holocaust antisemitism on the political left. We were the first to speak out about Jeremy Corbyn’s past, clearly name him as an antisemite and describe the Labour Party under his leadership as institutionally antisemitic.
Meanwhile, following a gruelling effort over several years by Campaign Against Antisemitism and our allies within and without the Jewish community, Hizballah was completely proscribed in the UK. Hizballah supporters are no longer able to intimidate British Jews with relative impunity as they have done for years. This has formed part of our campaign against Islamist antisemitism.
We have also taken the fight against antisemitism on the far-right to the next level, with landmark legal action against Alison Chabloz over her songs mocking Holocaust survivors and claiming that the Holocaust was a Jewish fraud, resulting in Holocaust denial being deemed by the courts for the first time to be “grossly offensive” and therefore illegal when used as a means by which to hound Jews. This week she was sent to prison for breaching the conditions of her sentence.
Our three-year legal battle with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to force it to prosecute neo-Nazi leader Jeremy Bedford-Turner led to his sentence to a year in prison for incitement to racial hatred over his speech at a rally against the “Jewification” of Golders Green, which the CPS insisted was not a crime until we proved it was in court.
Along with others we successfully lobbied for the neo-Nazi group National Action to be designated a terrorist organisation, and have instigated dozens of criminal investigations and robustly challenged police forces at the highest levels until they corrected investigatory failings into far-right antisemites.
In addition, our libel action forced antisemitic author and saxophonist, Gilad Atzmon, into a humiliating capitulation; we submitted legal representations to the Charity Commission about an antisemitic charity, resulting in its dissolution after we threatened to take the Commission to judicial review in the High Court; and our research contributed to the Judicial College agreeing to issue guidance to all judiciary in England and Wales confirming that the use by antisemites of the term ‘Zionist’ can often be treated as a substitute for the word ‘Jew’.
Comprehensive research conducted by CAA into antisemitic crime and prejudice, as well as antisemitism in political parties, has been widely-used by journalists and policymakers and reveals the degree of antisemitism in wider society, the persistent failure of the authorities to prosecute antisemites, and the depth of concern in the Jewish community.
Our pioneering educational programmes and training for regulatory bodies, testimony to parliamentary committees and work with Government ministers, appearances in national, local and communal media, steady stream of reliable news stories, powerful rallies and demonstrations and active social media work — including our #TogetherAgainstAntisemitism campaign which saw hundreds of thousands of Jews and non-Jews worldwide show solidarity against the world’s oldest hatred — have raised awareness of antisemitism in the UK and beyond.
And our guidance to students on campus, collaboration with other Jewish community charities and action by our volunteer monitoring teams have resulted in antisemitic events being banned and antisemites being brought to justice.
As we look back on the last five years, we are confident that our work is contributing not only to the security of the Jewish community, but also to the betterment of British society, whose values of tolerance, decency and equal treatment under the law are worth fighting for.
Looking ahead, we remain gravely concerned about the turmoil in which our nation finds itself: it is precisely at these times of political instability and economic uncertainty that forces hostile to Jews and mainstream values thrive.
On this Jewish new year, on behalf of everyone at Campaign Against Antisemitism, we wish all of our supporters, Jewish and non-Jewish, a happy, healthy, safe and successful year ahead. It is thanks to your support and solidarity that we can have hope for the future.