Last week, world leaders gathered in Jerusalem for an event entitled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism.” Organised by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation with Yad Vashem, under the auspices of the President of Israel, the gathering was arranged to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day today, which is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The purpose of the event, President Rivlin explained, was to “think about how to pass on Holocaust remembrance to generations who will live in a world without survivors, and what steps we must take to ensure the safety and security of Jews — all around the world.”
President Rivlin is right to link Holocaust remembrance with the security of Jews today — there is no point commemorating the Jews of the past while tolerating hatred against the Jews of the present.
Thanks to years of hard work by the Jewish community, successive British Governments have taken Holocaust education very seriously, and indeed our country sends more visitors to Auschwitz than any other.
But Holocaust education must be rigorous, and that means resisting the growing attempts to attribute it to abstract ills such as “prejudice” and “discrimination”. Antisemitism in the Holocaust was not a footnote: it was its core.
Holocaust denial must also be fought vigorously. This is particularly true in anticipation of a world without survivors. That’s why we at Campaign Against Antisemitism brought a private prosecution against the notorious Holocaust denier and antisemite, Alison Chabloz, when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to act.
Ms Chabloz wrote, recorded and publicised online songs denying the Holocaust and mocking its victims. Our action resulted in a landmark legal precedent, whereby Holocaust denial was 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 online. This groundbreaking ruling means that Holocaust denial, in certain circumstances, has become a crime in England for the first time.
Following our prosecution, Ms Chabloz was given a suspended sentence, the conditions of which she has since breached. She may therefore be sent to prison next month, pending an appeal.
This was not the only time we have been forced to act when the CPS would not. In July 2015, neo-Nazis sought to march through Golders Green. Due to our intervention, they were forced to gather in Westminster instead. At their rally, Jeremy Bedford-Turner claimed that Jews controlled the West, drank the blood of non-Jewish children and perpetrated the French Revolution and both World Wars, before demanding: “Let’s free England from Jewish control.”
For two years, the CPS blocked our efforts to have Mr Bedford-Turner prosecuted, insisting that no crime had been committed. We understand that the then-Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Alison Saunders, personally interceded to overrule a senior prosecutor who had advised that the CPS should initiate a prosecution.
We took the CPS to court to subject its decision to judicial review and won, forcing the CPS to prosecute. In a victory for the Jewish community and a deserved humiliation for the DPP and CPS, a jury unanimously found Mr Bedford-Turner guilty of incitement and he was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.
These are not isolated occurrences. Our analysis of Home Office statistics shows that an average of over three hate crimes are directed at Jews every single day in England and Wales, with Jews almost four times more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other faith group. Yet prosecution rates against antisemitic criminals remain low.
We, along with the radio station LBC, referred a secret Labour dossier of antisemitic incidents among Party activists to the Metropolitan Police back in September 2018. The Met’s Commissioner, Cressida Dick, revealed earlier this month that six arrests were made in early 2019 — the only arrests made in connection with Labour antisemitism — and that five case files were passed to the CPS in September 2019.
Despite the passage of several months, the CPS has yet to make a decision on whether to charge the activists, despite a former DPP declaring that he believes that the criminal threshold was met. We will continue pursuing these cases to ensure that the CPS does not run down the clock until it is too late for charges to be brought.
The problems in the Labour Party are well known. But as some leading figures in the Party now fall over themselves to say all the right things (others are less repentant), we will continue to hold them to account, including through our work as complainant in the ongoing investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into Labour antisemitism.
Many Holocaust survivors have dedicated their lives to education by retelling their experiences. Others sought to ensure that antisemites suffered the consequences of their actions. Education and deterrence go hand in hand; without one, the other is doomed to failure. We must educate against antisemitism and we must ensure there are ruinous consequences for those who seek to do us harm.
As Holocaust survivors pass the baton to us to continue their work, we accept our solemn responsibility.
(This article was first published, in a slightly adapted form, in the Jewish Telegraph this weekend.)