It was early 2015 when Campaign Against Antisemitism’s (CAA) chairman Gideon Falter was asked by his colleagues to speak about “someone called Jeremy Corbyn,” who was standing for election as Labour leader.
His reply at the time: “Who is Jeremy Corbyn?”
Little did Falter know that several months later, a landslide election victory would award Corbyn the Labour Party leadership and put antisemitism high on the United Kingdom’s news agenda for years to come.
“We started investigating Corbyn’s history,” explained Falter in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, “and soon realized we were looking at a man who has been on the wrong side of the antisemitism debate his entire life.”
Referring to the days of Corbyn as a backbench MP, “when he could speak his mind without fear of scrutiny,” Falter described a man who committed countless blatantly antisemitic acts such as blaming “the hand of Israel” for Islamist terrorist attacks committed in Egypt, honoring a sheikh “banned from the UK for saying that Jews drink non-Jews’ blood,” calling a Hamas terrorist his brother, holding a “repulsive event on Holocaust Memorial Day in which Jews were accused of being the successors to the Nazis,” trying to have the word Holocaust removed from the title of Holocaust Memorial Day, laying a wreath at a memorial for the Black September terrorists responsible for the horrific Munich Massacre, and much more.
“We knew we had to tell the media about Corbyn,” Falter said. “Many of the journalists we dealt with at the time, however, did not really understand modern antisemitism presented as hatred of Zionists, but we have changed that – so that these days, even disguised antisemitism in social-media posts is recognized as such.”
When the Post sat down with Falter, the media was ablaze with debate over Labour’s allegedly antisemitic candidate winning the Peterborough local elections and anti-Israel MP George Galloway getting fired from Talk Radio over an antisemitic tweet. But the most significant news had come just days earlier with the game-changing announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party, marking a landmark victory for the CAA.
“For the EHRC to launch a statutory investigation into a mainstream political party is unprecedented,” Falter said. “We have been exposing Labour’s growing antisemitism in the media for years, but media campaigning is not enough because Labour carries on regardless. That is why we called in the EHRC. “
Over the four years of Corbyn’s leadership, the CAA has watched “as he and his allies have corrupted the once fiercely anti-racist Labour Party until now [that it has become] institutionally antisemitic and viewed right across the Jewish community as an existential threat.”
This party is no longer seen by the Jewish community as “the party to vote for because it is a staunch ally in the fight against antisemitism.” This strikes Falter and many British Jews as almost unfathomable, “when you consider that there was a time when if a Jew had a problem with antisemitism, their first port of call would be the Labour Party.”
Under Corbyn that has all changed.
“Take for example his open association with the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah,” Falter explained to the Post, “organizations which some see just as enemies of Israel. But that is wrong; they are not only seeking a second Holocaust through the annihilation of Israel, they want the death of Jews all around the world, which makes them genocidally antisemitic. Anyone who supports them cannot do so without being antisemitic themselves.”
It was actually Labour that created the EHRC, awarding it “powers to compel delinquent organizations to disclose even secret internal documents to its investigators. It can also issue court-enforceable action plans to coerce discriminatory organisations to uphold the human rights of minorities. So it is rather ironic to think that Labour could soon find itself fighting the EHRC in court – and losing,” Falters continued.
This investigation is the culmination of a five-year effort on behalf of the CAA, responding to “everything from Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about the supposed power of the Rothschilds, to actual calls for violent attacks against Jews and Labour’s disturbing system where, instead of expelling antisemites, it protects and even puts them in charge within the party, whereas those who stand up against antisemitism find themselves being hauled through disciplinary proceedings.”
To Falter and the CAA, Corbyn has been on the wrong side of the antisemitism debate for decades.
“I used to wonder whether it was incompetence and stupidity,” Falter said. But he noted that the more the CAA looked into the situation, the more the organization discovered that Corbyn himself is an antisemite.
“We launched a petition saying so and it now has well over 55,000 signatures, so it seems that a growing number of people agree with us,” he continued.
The dire statistics of one in three Jews considering leaving the UK, evokes thoughts of the UK’s “tolerant and pluralistic society that people here are so rightly proud of,” he said. “Antisemitism is a British problem, not a Jewish problem; if it continues to take root, the whole of society will unravel.”
For too long, British Jews have avoided making too much noise, Falter said. “The convention within the community was to keep our heads down, but CAA believes that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
“We shine a light on antisemitism so that society is forced to confront the evil on its extremes, and then we go to court and ensure that antisemites are made to face the harsh glare of British justice,” he continued. “Britain is one of the best countries in the world outside of Israel in which to live as a Jew, but we must fight to keep it that way.”
At the heart of CAA’s campaign is the idea that Britain’s justice system is among the best in the world.
“When antisemites commit their actions against Jews,” Falter concluded, “we need to strike back justly and fiercely, exposing them to the harsh light of British justice.”