The Bar Standards Board, which regulates barristers in England and Wales, has disgracefully rejected a complaint made by Campaign Against Antisemitism against a barrister who posted social media comments in breach of International Definition of Antisemitism.
Franck Magennis is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers in London. In December 2020, he tweeted that “Zionism is a kind of racism. It is essentially colonial. It has manifested in an apartheid regime calling itself ‘the Jewish state’ that dominates non-Jews, and particularly Palestinians. You can’t practice anti-racism at the same time as identifying with, or supporting, Zionism.”
According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour)” is an example of antisemitism.
Mr Magennis was described in his profile on the Chambers’ website as “an expert on the Palestinian struggle for emancipation from Israeli apartheid and occupation.” This has since apparently been changed to: “Franck conducts research on international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the context of the Palestinian struggle for emancipation. In May to August 2019 he was a research fellow in Ramallah, occupied Palestine with the award-winning Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq. He is the co-author of a series of forthcoming reports responding to allegations against the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs of attacks against Palestinian individuals and civil society institutions.”
Mr Mcgennis denied that the tweet was antisemitic, asserting that, while offence may have been taken at the views expressed in the tweet, that was not his purpose and that his speech was protected by Article 10(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
Campaign Against Antisemitism has previously published a briefing debunking the claim that the ECHR protects the right to make statements that breach the definition.
The Bar Standards Board panel considered that, although the tweet may be “offensive”, it was not “seriously offensive”, because it was merely “criticism of Zionism and Israel”, apparently despite what the International Definition of Antisemitism — which the British Government and the Judicial College have adopted — says.
The Bar Standards Board panel concluded that Mr Mcgennis did not in this instance “behave in a way which is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in you or in the profession,” and therefore did not uphold the complaint.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is reviewing its options.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Regulators in this country are all over the map when it comes to sanctioning professionals for racism against Jews. Another regulator that we have been dealing with similarly dismissed a complaint that we made against one of their regulated professionals, and we took the case to the High Court, which has quashed that regulator’s decision and forced it to reconsider the case.
“We regret that the Bar Standards Board has disgracefully chosen to ignore the International Definition of Antisemitism, even though it has been adopted by the British Government and the Judicial College. Apparently when it comes to antisemitism, barristers and judges have different standards. We are reviewing our options.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has launched a new weekly podcast. New episodes of Podcast Against Antisemitism are available every Thursday and can be streamed here or downloaded wherever you get your podcasts.