By Eve Mykytyn*
If only Britons knew
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.