CST is taking part in the Community Fun Run 2012 on Sunday 20th May at London Maccabi. Over the past 5 years over £500,000 has been raised for Jewish charities through the Community Fun Run. This important communal event has grown from the involvement of 13 charities in 2007 to 39 charities in 2012. Please join us to complete either the 1km, 5km or 10km course and raise money for CST.
The Guardian has removed a comment posted in Raed Salah’s name in a comment thread on their Comment Is Free website at CST’s request, which included a false and damaging allegation against CST.
Raed Salah wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian last Thursday, in which he did not mention CST. However, in the comment thread under the article, a comment was posted in his name which suggested CST had provided the Home Secretary with a “doctored” version of a poem he had written, “to make it appear anti-Jewish”. This allegation is untrue. Several other comments, by other people, making similar allegations against CST were also removed from the comment thread at CST’s request.
This particular allegation relates to a version of a poem written by Salah which was quoted by the Home Office in the Deportation Order (pdf) which was served on Salah in June 2011. According to the recent Immigration Tribunal ruling on Salah’s appeal, which overturned his deportation, the Home Secretary was “misled” as to the terms of this poem. However, despite the impression that some of Salah’s supporters have given, the ruling does not blame CST for this: it states that “It is not clear where this originally came from…She must have been provided with a version from elsewhere but we do not know where.” (para. 47)
As we have said previously, CST did not provide the version of the poem which was used in the June 2011 Deportation Order, which came from an article in the Jerusalem Post dated 20 June 2009. In fact, it was CST that provided the full, accurate version of the poem in July 2011.
There is more evidence that CST provided the accurate version of the poem, not the inaccurate one, in the ruling itself. In paragraph 45, the ruling notes that CST’s version of the poem “also refers to the Arab tribes of ‘Aad and Thamud who were destroyed in an earthquake as punishment for their behaviour.” These Arab tribes were not mentioned in the Jerusalem Post‘s inaccurate rendering of the poem that the Deportation Order relied on – so that cannot have been the version provided by CST.
The accurate version of the poem that CST provided was accepted by Salah’s supporters to the extent that Middle East Monitor, his hosts in the UK, used it (with just two very minor alterations to the translation) on p.19 of their report on the Salah Affair (pdf).
The false notion that CST provided inaccurate or doctored information to the Home Office regarding Raed Salah appears to have been encouraged by articles such as this one, by David Hearst of the Guardian, which accuses CST of providing a “dodgy dossier” and suggests that CST did not “get its facts right”. On the contrary, it is those who peddle this false allegation against CST who have got their facts wrong.
In February, CST Blog discussed Guardian Comment is Free headlines that wrongly claimed an article by Rachel Shabi revealed how “Israel’s rightwing defenders” make “false accusations of antisemitism“.
The Jewish community has probably had more run-ins with the Guardian than every other British newspaper combined…
…In recent years, Jewish upset has been exacerbated by the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website, which carries many more articles than the print edition; and is fundamental to the paper’s future…
…last week it [Comment is Free] reverted to type with a particularly poor and offensive article by Rachel Shabi. Its title claimed to reveal how “Israel’s rightwing defenders” make “false accusations of antisemitism”.
We asked where the proof lay for such offensive claims and noted that there was none:
…So, surely the article is about how the NY Times new Jerusalem correspondent has been falsely accused of “antisemitism” by “Israel’s rightwing defenders”?
Well, no actually… The article’s first three paragraphs deal with the new [NY Times] correspondent, Jodi Rudoren. Shabi claims Rudoren has been called an “anti-Zionist”, but there is no mention here by Shabi of antisemitism, none whatsoever. The word doesn’t feature, nor in any of the three articles linked to by Shabi’s article (here and here and here). It isn’t even hinted at in any of them. The headline and sub-headline are simply wrong and insensible. This, despite their being so provocative and insulting.
Now, on-line, the Guardian has changed its “false accusations of antisemitism” title to read:
Rushing to judge Israel’s critics is dangerous. Slicing and dicing commentary on Israeli policy can lose the bigger picture. The NYT’s Jerusalem correspondent is not the problem
The foot of the article now states:
headline and subheading on this article were amended on 17 April 2012. The originals incorrectly implied that the New York Times’s new Jerusalem correspondent had been accused of antisemitism
It was not the article’s author Rachel Shabi who came up with the heading and subheading about “false accusations of antisemitism”. It was Guardian CiF staff.
So, after contact from CST, this particular false accusation has been removed. It is very little and it is very late.
The damage is done: to Guardian readers’ perceptions of antisemitism and to many Jews’ perceptions of the Guardian (yet again).
Yesterday, CST Blog carried CST’s initial response to the 5th April 2012 decision by the Upper Tribunal to overturn the Home Secretary’s decision to deport Sheikh Ra’ed Salah.
Now, having read the Tribunal’s judgement, CST adds this, in addition to yesterday’s blog posting:
CST was contacted by the Home Office to provide information relevant to Sheikh Ra’ed Salah’s deportation on the grounds of his presence not being conducive to the public good. CST provided information, in good faith, exactly as our community would expect us to. CST stands by its actions and notes, in particular, that the Tribunal (in paragraph 53) recognised that Sheikh Salah’s intemperate expression could offend and distress the Jewish community. CST trusts that the Home Office will appeal this decision, which threatens to significantly undermine the Government’s Prevent anti-extremism policy.
Some of Salah’s defenders are attempting, for whatever reason, to move CST to the forefront of this story. The full judgement is 91 paragraphs long. CST features in three of them.
It is being reported that Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement, has won his appeal against the decision of the Home Secretary to exclude him from the UK.
CST is disappointed that Salah’s exclusion has been overturned, but we have not yet seen a copy of the judgement of the Immigration Tribunal and therefore we cannot make a general comment on the ruling or the reasons for the decision. However, there is one aspect of the media coverage of this ruling which cannot pass without immediate comment from CST.
The tribunal is being quoted as stating that the Home Secretary was “misled” and “acted as to a misapprehension as to the facts” in deciding to exclude Salah. This appears to relate to the government’s use of a poem that Salah wrote in 2002, an inaccurate version of which was reported in the Jerusalem Post in 2009. Some of the media coverage (for example in the Guardian) has noted that CST provided several pieces of evidence to the Home Office regarding Salah’s previous statements and activities, and carries the implication that CST is reponsible for misleading the Home Secretary by providing her with inaccurate information.
This implication is something that CST utterly rejects, and which is not supported by the facts.
Far from misleading anybody with inaccurate information, throughout this process we have done more than anybody else to ensure that the most accurate information possible was available for the government, and the immigration appeal tribunal, to use in making their decisions.
Firstly, it is important to state that CST did not provide the Jerusalem Post report of the 2002 poem to the Home Office. Secondly, it was CST – not Salah or his supporters – who located an original copy of the poem and provided it to the government, in Arabic and with an English translation. We did the same with a transcript of Salah’s 2007 speech, for which he faces charges in Israel of incitement to racism and incitement to violence.
We have already written in detail about our role in locating accurate versions of the 2002 poem and the 2007 speech on the CST Blog, here. In contrast, Salah and his UK supporters put out several contradictory statements regarding the 2007 speech, which we documented here.
We also located a copy of the 2005 plea bargain in which Salah admitted his involvement in organisations that have been banned in Israel for funding Hamas. Again, we did this to ensure that the government and the immigration tribunal would be as well informed as possible in making their decisions. Again, nobody else provided this information either to the government or to the immigration tribunal, despite the fact that we obtained it all from public sources.
The Guardian also reports that witnesses who appeared for Salah’s defence argued that CST “failed to distinguish between antisemitism and criticism of the actions of the Israeli state”. Again, this is something we reject. Neither of the witnesses who made this claim – a former policeman, Bob Lambert, and a sociology professor, David Miller - are experts on antisemitism. CST’s Antisemitic Incidents Reports and Antisemitic Discourse Reports, which are available on the CST website, explain very clearly that we do not see antisemitism and criticism of Israel as the same thing. For example, page 32 of our 2011 Antisemitic Incidents Report (pdf) explains in detail the criteria we use to decide whether a potential antisemitic incident is antisemitic or not.
The front page of this week’s Jewish Chronicle has two stories that go to the heart of the impact that anti-Israel campaigning can have on UK Jewish life, and on wider society.
The lead story is about arguments over the inclusion of Israel’s Habima theatre company in the ‘Globe to Globe‘ Shakespeare Festival, to be held at London’s Globe Theatre from April to June this year. Several British actors and directors signed a letter in the Guardian (where else?) this week which called for Habima to be dis-invited. Several others have now criticised this call, with Sir Arnold Wesker comparing it to Nazi book-burning.
Underneath this is a second story, about Members of Parliament who express positions that are supportive of Israel, receiving death threats and abuse from anti-Israel activists. The article gives several examples of MPs who have been threatened. Some of them no longer advertise details of their surgeries and have police protection when they campaign in public.
Both of these stories involve anti-Israel campaigners trying to limit the freedom of people or organisations that are central to public life in this country: our cultural life, in the first example, and our political life, in the second. The fact that threats from anti-Israel campaigners can force MPs to stop advertising their contact details to their constituents shows that this is not just an issue for Jews or supporters of Israel to worry about.
However, these campaigns do have a specific impact on Jews, because diaspora Jewish life is wrapped up with Israel in a way that is impossible to separate. To take one example: each year, around half the films that are shown in the UK’s highly successful Jewish Film Festival are made in Israel, or have some Israeli involvement in their production. Ban the Israeli films and you effectively disembowel the Jewish Film Festival.
The Globe to Globe Shakespeare Festival features 37 theatre companies from around the world, each performing in their own language. Clearly, it is mainly Jews who will go to see Habima’s Hebrew-language play that the boycotters want to see cancelled. Meanwhile, as the Jewish Chronicle editorial points out, the theatre companies from, for example, China, which occupies Tibet; Turkey, which imprisons more journalists than any other country on earth; or Russia, which killed tens of thousands in Chechnya and has armed Assad’s regime to do the same in Syria; are all untouched by the boycotters. Perhaps the excuse is that none of these theatre companies have any connections to their governments. I am guessing, though, that over the past decade at least some of the 37 signatories to the Guardian letter have performed at UK venues that get Arts Council funding, at the same time that the UK government was at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is understandable that Hebrew-speaking UK theatre-goers might look at these contradictions and worry that they were being singled out for special treatment.
Similarly, Jews have a particular interest in public debates about Israel. If expressing pro-Israel views leads to death threats, the impact this has on the willingness and ability of pro-Israel people to join in these debates will fall dispropotionately on Jews. It should go without saying that democracy has failed if any member of the public, much less an MP, is silenced through this kind of intimidation.
Anti-Israel campaigners call their efforts BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – but the last two parts have completely failed to affect trade links between the UK and Israel, which went up by 34% last year. It is only the first part – the boycott of Israelis and Israeli organisations in cultural and academic life – which has made any headway whatsoever. Yet this is the area where British Jews are most affected, and arguably are affected much more than anyone in Israel. “The vast majority” of British Jews, according to a 2010 survey, “exhibit strong personal support for, and affinity with, Israel”. BDS campaigners will fail to prevent new ventures like the UK-Israel Technologies Hub, but they may succeed in making the vast majority of British Jews feel intimidated, threatened and singled-out.
Tomorrow night Jews around the world begin celebrating the festival of Pesach, a story of persecution, redemption and freedom. The Pesach Seder service ends with the line, “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Perhaps someone in a BDS campaign will suggest that this should be amended to: “Next Year in West Jerusalem, within the 1967 borders”. Or perhaps this year will see a new understanding amongst pro-Palestinian campaigners for the complex but legitimate relationship between Israel and diaspora Jews, and a new respect for Jewish concerns about where some of their activities might lead.
Wishing all our readers a Pesach Sameach.
13 French Islamists connected to the banned Forsane Alizza group are to be charged with a series of terrorist offences, including a plot to kidnap a Jewish judge in Lyon. According to a report in the Guardian:
Prosecutor François Molins told a news conference the Forsane Alizza group, or Knights of Pride, did physical training in parks and forests, collected weapons and preached hate and violence on their internet site, which showed clips of late al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.
The site was shut down after the authorities banned Forsane Alizza in March.
The 13 were among 17 suspects detained in police raids last week. They face preliminary charges of criminal association with a terrorist network, a sweeping charge with a maximum 10-year prison term that is used in France to ensure a full investigation of terror suspects. Nine of the 13 were being jailed, Molins said. Charges of acquiring, transporting and detention of arms also were issued. The remaining four, who had been detained, were being released.
The prosecutor said several terrorist plans appeared to be afoot, including the kidnapping of a judge in Lyon, in south-east France. An official close to the investigation said the targeted judge was Jewish.
Although these arrests appear to be the result of a crackdown following the murder of seven people, including four at a Jewish school in Toulouse, by Mohammed Merah, so far there is no evidence of a connection:
The prosecutor stressed the group had no link to the three attacks last month around Toulouse that left seven people dead: three paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish school children. The Toulouse gunman, Mohamed Merah, 23, who had claimed to have links to al-Qaida, was killed after a long armed standoff with police. The authorities have said his case was an example of so-called lone-wolf terrorism, and claimed that Merah became radical on his own, in his prison cell.
Nonetheless, investigators are still searching for any potential accomplices of Merah’s, and his older brother remains in custody.