Hannah Gal

When it comes to antisemitism, sunlight is the best disinfectant

When it comes to antisemitism – sunlight is the best disinfectant

“Our motto is Tsedk Tsedek Tirdof – justice justice you shall pursue, and that is all we seek. We don’t seek anything other than the same Justice that is afforded to all other peoples.” Gideon Falter. Campaign Against Antisemitism.

“Every time Israel is engaged in conflict we see a surge in antisemitism” Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Antisemitism told The Free Press, “London’s Jews are used to hiding symbols of their faith and being alert but this is different”, he added.

The unrelenting pro Palestinian protests have turned the capital into a no-go-zone for Jews. “For many months we have been arguing that it is unsafe for Jews to walk the London streets but the police refused to listen, we told them that Jews avoid travelling to central London because of the protests, and we called for the police to treat the protests as the threat the they are, but our calls were ignored with the reassurance that Jews need not fear for their safety.”
In April, a calm, yarmulke wearing Gideon Falter made history when he attempted to cross a London road, where a pro Palestinian protest was taking place. Falter’s path was blocked by a policeman who pointed to him being “openly Jewish” and the loaded exchange went viral.
It prompted all out criticism of the police and even a statement from “appalled” prime minister Sunak but crucially, it proved that contrary to police authority claims, Jews are not safe to walk London’s streets.

This is not the first time that Falter and the CAA have rocked the political boat and changed the course of history. Several years ago, it pushed for an official investigation into antisemitism within the Labour Party, that resulted in leader Corbyn being ousted and banned from ever running for office under Labour. Time after time they effectively exposed trope-chanting figures into the open because as Falter argues “when it comes to Antisemitism – sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Here Gideon Falter speaks of what makes the CAA’s campaign so effective, their uncompromising insistence on holding antisemites accountable by law, why the CAA is listened to by the media and government, The Livingston Formulation, the danger of antisemitism becoming a wedge issue, and what the future holds for Jews worldwide.

Q Your openly Jewish incident was an eye opener for many. I’ve spoken to people who are not Jewish who said that the incident brought the severity of the situation to the fore.

A We’ve been saying for months that these protests are not being policed properly. Week in week out we see glorification of terrorism, persistent anti-semitic placards, chants, slogans, rhetoric, and all we’ve heard from police are excuses instead of arrests – saying that they won’t take any action against people shouting from The River To The Sea even when they project that slogan onto Big Ben.

This particular incident thrust the issue back into the spotlight after it had become ‘the new normal’ and it led to meetings with the home office and with officials of Downing Street, it led to discussion of what can practically be done.

We’ve had a positive reception for our proposals to tighten up the law on the policing of public protests, it’s also forced the police to reassess how they police these protests. What we’re calling for is for a tightening up of the law, we’re calling for the mayor of London to be forced to work with the Met to ensure that sufficient officers are available to make arrests in real time instead of saying that they will record people and arrest them some other day, and we’ve also called for the prescription under the terrorism Act of various organisations including Iran’s IRGC, and various Palestinian terrorist organisations that carried out the October 7th atrocity alongside Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad but which aren’t already on the terrorism list.

Q Are the protests making London streets unsafe for Jews?

A 90% of British Jews, according to our polling, avoid city centres when these marches are going on, so British Jews obviously feel that these protests both are unsafe and that the policing of them is inadequate.

Q The CAA has built a formidable reputation for its no-nonsense approach. Like many, I now associate the fight against antisemitism with the CAA but who was out there, speaking out for British Jewry before you came along?

A Campaign Against Antisemitism seeks to ensure that there are ruinous consequences for antisemitism and that’s very important, that there is that deterrent against people who seek to harm the Jewish community. We seek Zero Tolerance law enforcement, where law enforcement fails we hold law enforcement and the authorities to account. We seek to give a voice to those who are affected by antisemitism and we firmly believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant so we talk about antisemitism, we expose it, we show it to the British public because most people are decent, tolerant people, and they may not be thinking about antisemitism in their day to day lives but when they’re confronted by it, most people are disgusted by it and they stand with the Jewish community, so our job is to expose antisemitism wherever we see it and to ensure that the perpetrators are held very firmly to account.

Q This is where the CAA stands out. What you did with Corbyn was game-changing, you have literally changed the course of history and I don’t think I’m being over the top in saying that.

A We were the first call Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite and say that the Labour party was institutionally antisemitic. At the time it took a while for everybody to understand exactly how severe the situation was. When we referred the labour party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission a lot of people were still saying that there wasn’t really an antisemitism problem within labour, that it was just a few bad apples that were spoiling the cart, and eventually the commission vindicated us, they ruled in our favour, we were the complainant and they came down, said that the labour party essentially was institutionally antisemitic. That’s an extremely important result because in so doing they also helped to define what political antisemitism looks like, they helped to identify a phenomenon — what is known as the Livingston formulation – the Livingston formulation is something which we’re seeing a lot at the moment, where if somebody calls out antisemitism they’re accused of just trying to stifle criticism of Israel but the Equality and Human Rights Commission agreed with us that antisemitism denial as well as antisemitism is actually a form of hatred and is a form of discrimination.

It’s important to say that that the labour party today is a different party to what it was under Corbyn, there are some problems – Kate Osamor MP is back after her Holocaust Memorial Day comparison to Gaza, Diane Abbott.. Jeremy Corbyn is still suspended from the party but this is a fundamentally different political party to what it was under Corbyn, and I should also say that there are issues with other parties as well.

The Conservatives have had problems in some of their local associations for example Barry in Manchester, they have problematic figures within the party like baroness Warsi who for example made comparisons between the IDF and Isis and has been involved in events with controversial figures, one of their senior figures Alan Duncan was making all sorts of comments about Jewish power in politics, we see problems within the Green party where there are concerns that some of the extreme left labour members who were associated with antisemitism, have moved to the Green party instead, because Starmer has essentially driven them out of the Labour party. We’ve seen dangerous sectarian politics, I think that the success of George Galloway is something that a lot of people in the Jewish community have been concerned by.

One of the big dangers is in fact of antisemitism becoming a wedge issue or a sectarian issue rather than something which all political parties agree on, and before the rise of Jeremy Corbyn all political parties broadly had the same policy on antisemitism and during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure antisemitism became a partisan issue, some parties were good at it and some parties were bad at it, we need to get back to a time when all political parties are equally good at dealing with antisemitism and that’s why we are so fierce in calling out antisemitism without fear or favour no matter which political party we see it in.

Q We hear references to ‘Jewish power in politics’ – what is the problem with Jewish power in politics? why is this an issue?

A It’s an issue because it’s not real, the idea that Jews exercise some kind of disproportionate political power, that Jews are behind political machination conspiracies and exerting undue influence over our democracy is an ancient antisemitic trope, and it’s something which political parties need to be very alert to and to stamp out whenever that kind of trope arises.

Q Last time we spoke you told me that every time Israel is engaged in conflict you see a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents. Do you see something more extreme this time?

A Yes, soon after the conflict began the Metropolitan Police recorded a 350% increase in antisemitic incidents. According to our polling, 69% of British Jews now say that they’re less likely to show visible signs of their Judaism right now, and a staggering 90% of British Jews say they avoid traveling to city centres if there’s a major anti-Israel demonstration taking place.

Urban centres have become a no-go-zone for Jews, a major part of the issue is not just the antisemitism but how the authorities are failing to tackle it and British Jews are noticing, only 16% of British Jews believe that the police treat antisemitic hate crime like other forms of hate crime, and two third of British Jews believe that police apply a double standard, and that’s why so much of our work over the past half of a year has been about urging the authorities to act.

We’ve held a protest outside Scotland Yard, we have authored letters by us and also with leading lawyers to the Metropolitan Police highlighting the powers that they already have, we’ve engaged with the government about new guidance and also new legislation, and we’ve also given a voice to the Jewish community through our March Against Antisemitism, and also through our media work, so just in the past few months we’ve had multiple front page stories talking about the antisemitism that ordinary Jews are facing and the failures of our authorities to take proper action against it.

Q Where does mayor Sadiq Khan stand on all of this?

A There was a very interesting incident earlier this week where Michael Gove who’s a cabinet minister was talking about the fears that British Jews have, and Khan answered that this was just flowery rhetoric. I think that instead of gaslighting the Jewish community by suggesting that our fears are simply flowery political rhetoric, I would ask him what is his plan to deal with the antisemitism on our streets, does it not concern him that so many people in our country, so many British Jews are fearful of showing their identity or going into the center of the capital city of which he is mayor, when these demonstrations are taking place? What is his plan for the Metropolitan Police Service which he is responsible for overseeing? That’s what I would like to hear from Sadiq Khan. He’s been awfully quiet on this, of course it’s not just Khan who has responsibility for the Metropolitan Police Service, it’s a responsibility that is shared with the Home Secretary.

Q How a public figure expresses him or herself goes a long way – if Khan for example made a statement to say that ‘this is intolerable, that we have zero tolerance of any violence towards Jews, that we will not have Jews afraid to show any signs of their Judaism in public’, this would go a long way.

A I Would like you to imagine a world where just after October 7th, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police broadcast a video responding to scenes of people on the streets of our capital celebrating the worst antisemitic atrocity since the Holocaust, and declaring that he would be bringing the full force of the law to bear against the antisemites.

I would like to imagine that the commissioner of the Met said that along with the support of the Home Secretary and the mayor of London, and they all stood shoulder to shoulder. Instead of that, we’ve seen everybody pointing fingers at each other and we’ve seen precious little action against these protests. The policing of them has been expensive shambles the police have spent tens of millions of pounds policing these protests but without actually acting against the perpetrators of anti semitism. When the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street not long ago and demanded that the police act, the police answered by rebuking the Prime Minister and saying that actually they had been doing everything correctly and wouldn’t be changing their ways.

Q Are Jews fighting a losing battle? After all, antisemitism goes beyond the conflict with Israel.

A As Golda Meir said; “pessimism is a luxury that Jews cannot afford.” In each generation one will rise up to destroy us and there are many Jews who look at what is happening now on our streets, on our campuses and online, and they see this surge of antisemitism. There have been times like this before in our history and we have to do absolutely everything we can to fight back we have to fight fiercely for our rights and what history shows us is that there is also a silent majority which is on our side, and the great challenge of the time now is how we mobilise that silent majority to be less silent because that will make all of the difference.

Q Why do you think the CAA is so prominent and visible? How are you different from those who came before you?

A I think it’s very important that at a time like this Jewish people are open and proud about being Jewish, that we refuse to be bullied and that we show the world what is happening and being done to us.

We are receiving reports from University students, from parents of school children, from people who have experienced antisemitism in their workplaces, on the streets, even Jewish children being told to hide their school blazers, Jewish students who are afraid to reveal their identity to their fellow students, synagogues that need to be guarded, shops being attacked, business owners being threatened – this is not the tolerant Britain that we cherish, it is vital that we mobilise the silent majority because Britain for the whole of my life has been one of the best places in the world in which to live as a Jew, but we have to fight for it to remain that way and we cannot fight that fight alone, we need others to stand with us and there are some who are doing so but what is needed is the mobilisation of the silent majority and that is going to be the test of our society in this crisis.

Q In light of demographic changes in London in particular, but also generally in the UK, do you think that we are fighting losing battle?
A Again, we don’t have the luxury of pessimism.

Q Is it true that Tommy Robinson was arrested in one of the protests?
A I don’t get to decide who the police arrest and if I get to decide who the police arrest there would be many more people in police custody than there are now.

Q What would you say to Jews worldwide troubled by the rise in antisemitism?

A I would say Britain has been through an incredible journey over the last decade in which Campaign Against Antisemitism has existed. We saw the outpouring of antisemitism in 2014, we saw the rise and fall of Jeremy Corbyn, we have seen the surge of antisemitism during the current war, British Jews have had to fight and keep winning back our future in this country, there is an awful lot that we have learned about the fight against antisemitism and which has gone into forming the Campaign Against Antisemitism as the leading campaigning organisation on this issue, and these lessons apply in other countries too.

A lot of the antisemitism that we are seeing for example in North America and across the West is antisemitism which has been foreshadowed by antisemitic trends in the UK, we know how to fight it, we are good at fighting it. One of the problems is that as a Jewish people I think we are not learning the right lessons, one of the big questions for us is how we take the expertise and techniques that we have developed and deploy them around the Jewish diaspora, around the world.

Q What started your CAA journey?

A This started for me in 2014. There was a horrendous outbreak of antisemitism in London during the Gaza war of that year and I was deeply distressed by the fact that this was happening but no action was being taken by law enforcement. I and others that I met were determined to do something about that and ensure that British Justice applied to those who perpetrated attacks on Jews – that was the Genesis of Campaign Against Antisemitism and I’m very proud of the team that we’ve built and the results that we have managed to achieve.

Q You are changing the course of history because you are attacking the core issues, rather than getting political figures to offer lip service.

A History has shown us that Jews need to be satisfied by actions not words, so we are very much focused on actions and results whereas in the past there has been a sense that if politicians say that they’re on our side, that’s enough.

What we need is action, there have been decades in which we have heard statement after statement of people saying that they abhor antisemitism and antisemitism must be stamped out but antisemitism is surging across the West. Now is the moment for politicians and law enforcement to show that they are not just against antisemitism in principle but that they will be against antisemitism.

Q What would be the ultimate success for you? What would say to you we did it?

A Success is Justice – our motto is Tsedk Tsedek Tirdof – justice justice you shall pursue, and that is all we seek. We don’t seek anything other than the same Justice that is afforded to all other peoples, we want antisemites to be held to Justice, we want that justice to be delivered by the state that is responsible for enforcing justice and that is what success looks like.

Q When Jews say to you that they are thinking of moving to Israel because of antisemitism because of all the we talked about earlier, what would you say to these people?

A I think the fact that people are considering moving countries is a sign of how seriously they’re taking it, and the answer is not to tell Jews what to do, the answer is for the authority, for the police and government to show the Jewish community that they are taking firm and decisive action and that because of that, Jews need not worry.

About the Author
Hannah’s credits include Quillette, The Critic, The SpectatorUS, UnHerd, Creative Review, The Guardian (Art&Design) and The Jerusalem Post among others. Hannah’s posts have been kindly retweeted and shared by Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Warren Farrell, Sebastian Gorka, Will Knowland and Christina Hoff Sommers among others. Gal is a multi award winning documentary filmmaker.
Related Topics
Related Posts