As Baroness Tonge denounced Campaign Against Antisemitism in the Daily Mail, MPs and peers contacted the paper to defend us and our work, despite tight press deadlines meaning that they only had one hour on a Friday afternoon in which to do so.
Baroness Tonge had put her name to a petition by antisemitic criminal Tony Greenstein calling for Campaign Against Antisemitism to be shut down as a charity on the basis that we are supposedly a front for the Israeli government, prompting an outpouring of support for our work from her parliamentary colleagues.
Baroness Deech DBE told the Daily Mail: “It is a sad comment on the rise of hate speech in the UK today that anyone would wish to close down a leading organisation dedicated to fighting the oldest hatred of all. It is no coincidence that the protesters have themselves, at various stages, been accused of antisemitism. Antisemitism comes both from the extreme right and the extreme left — and from that point where the two extremes meet — and the CAA has done a good job of making antisemitism unacceptable. The protesters are conflating Judaism and Zionism by claiming that hate speech against Israel and Zionists is merely political. They should be aware, as I am sure the Charity Commission is, that there is a clear line to be drawn between (acceptable) political criticism of Israel’s government, and on the other side of the line, antisemitic statements going far beyond that. The government’s definition of antisemitism, (which is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance one) which has recently been disseminated to universities, makes that clear.
“The petition to the Charity Commission is absurd, and is perhaps motivated by fear, but it demonstrates just how effective the Campaign Against Antisemitism has been in its relatively short existence. Antisemitism is spreading across continental Europe and has infected social media. The CAA deserves every support and we need real antisemites to be shown up for what they are, even if they try to disguise their Jew-hatred as attacks on Israel, and on self determination for the Jewish people.”
Bob Blackman MP commented: “This web page is just the sort of abject nonsense that has got no place in public life. The CAA and other groups are doing a first-class job of identifying antisemitism. This sounds to me to be an attempt to stifle those who are speaking out against it.”
Mike Freer MP added: “This is a ridiculous attempt to close down an organisation fighting antisemitism, which is on the increase. I have never found the group trying to stifle legitimate comment on Israel but the CAA are vigilant in exposing antisemitism that dresses itself up as anti-Israel comment. If Tonge et al are confident they are not being antisemitic then they have nothing to fear. Trying to close down a legitimate organisation suggests they do!”
Dr Matthew Offord MP said: “This petition is most concerning as the Campaign Against Antisemitism is an important charity that works tirelessly to raise awareness of anti-Jewish racism across the UK. The rise in antisemitic sentiment on the left in the past year is extremely disturbing to myself and many of my constituents. Once again we appear to see the opponents of the state of Israel conflating their opposition to a country with those of the Jewish faith. Whilst criticism of a government’s policies is one thing, we must not allow that to spread into hatred of Judaism. This is why the Campaign Against Antisemitism is currently so vital.”
We are extremely grateful to Baroness Deech, Bob Blackman MP, Mike Freer MP and Dr Matthew Offord MP for their staunch support, and for responding so quickly to nip Baroness Tonge and Tony Greenstein’s disingenuous campaign in the bud.