If any more evidence were required to demonstrate that the Community Security Trust (CST), the private charity that describes its mission as monitoring and combating antisemitism on behalf of the British Jewish Community, is abusing its mandate by providing political support for Israel, look no further than its response to reports of anti-Jewish hostility arising out of the Gaza crisis.
The UK’s Jewish News quotes from a statement by Mark Gardner, Communications Director of the CST, on the rise in reported antisemitic incidents since the beginning of the most recent conflict with Hamas:
“Anti-Semitic incidents will subside along with the images on people’s television screens, but the long term damage to Jews of anti-Israel boycotts will persist.
“One consequence of this war will be a lot more boycotts, either through choice or intimidation. Just as Israel is being singled out for scrutiny and boycott, so many Jews are going to feel the same way.”
The conflation of the political campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), which aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law, with attacks on synagogues and violent, abusive insults levelled at individual Jews, is completely unjustified. There is nothing inherently antisemitic in the aims of BDS yet the CST clearly implies that there is.
It’s hardly surprising that the CST takes this line, one that they have pursued for some years. It’s the line adopted by the main, establishment organizations of the Jewish community, for example, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Zionist Federation, not to mention the Israeli government and its representatives at the Israel Embassy in London. But providing political cover for Israel in this way takes the CST into the realm of partisan political action that hardly seems compatible with its charitable status.
Gardner’s statement, as well as the comment article he wrote for the CST’s website that was republished by the Express on 6 August, also demonstrate a distinct degree of irresponsibility in the CST’s approach to fulfilling its mission. Monitoring and combating antisemitism remains a vital task and the CST has a lot of experience and does a lot of good work in this area. But while it is right to take the facts as they have them and report accurately to the media, local authorities, police, government and so on, they muddy the waters when they seem to be encouraging hysteria and feeding paranoia.
In the Express Gardner uses blatantly inflammatory language: “mass intimidations of supermarkets”; the extent of the UK media’s focus on Gazan child victims “indicates that . . . blood libels still lurk somewhere deep”; “Are British Jews (and those elsewhere) to be forever held hostage to a seemingly intractable conflict in which totalitarian Jihadists are sworn to destroy Israel at whatever cost?” These are not facts. They are exaggerations and speculations. The tone of the entire article seems designed to reinforce rather than calm fears. Instead of telling us that 34 per cent of British Jews believe that a person who criticises Israel and supports a boycott of Israel is “definitely antisemitic” and somehow implying that this view is justified, the CST should be explaining to British Jews that however much they might dislike criticism of Israel and the idea of a boycott, it’s a legitimate political tactic. There are probably many hundreds of British Jews who criticise Israel and approve of a boycott of some kind–are they antisemites too? Does the CST endorse such a conclusion?
Gardner is clearly aware of the inappropriateness of CST mixing up the politics of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians with its role in combating antisemitism. He writes:
The super-heated arguments of how the media covers Israel are not strictly CST’s business; and neither are boycotts of Israel.
But that doesn’t stop him making it CST’s business.
If the CST is determined to politicise its antisemitism work, it would be far more productive if it drew political conclusions from what it rightly does tell the Jewish community and the wider public: that antisemitic incidents rise and fall in concert with the rise and fall of violent action taken by Israel against the Palestinians. Those conclusions are obvious: it should strongly advise Jewish diaspora leaders to lobby the Israeli government to desist from such actions as they bring a political solution to the conflict no closer and lead to actual and potential harm to Jews throughout the world, the very people whose welfare and safety Israeli governments claim only Israel can secure.