The CPS has let us down again, so we have to act ourselves

The Campaign Against Antisemitism is pursuing a private prosecution of the Al Quds Day march speaker who blamed 'Zionists' for the Grenfell fire

December 19, 2017 10:38

In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, conspiracy theorists busied themselves pinning the inferno on Jews or Zionists.

Tahra Ahmed, a volunteer coordinator for those helping the survivors of the fire, told her Facebook followers that the inferno was a “Jewish ritual sacrifice” by a scheming Jewish property developer. In June, days after the fire, Nazim Ali, the leader of the Al Quds Day march through London, bellowed through his megaphone that “It is the Zionists who give money to the Tory Party to kill people in high-rise blocks”.

The Britain that we know and love, where we can live proudly as Jews, is slipping slowly away as antisemitic crime surges. Future generations will not forgive us if we enjoyed the golden era for British Jews but watched complacently as it ended.

But how does one turn the tide?

The answer is a mixture of education and enforcement. For decades, the Jewish community has been at the forefront of efforts to educate and bridge divides, but engaging in outreach without strengthening enforcement is like trying to mop up a water leak without fixing the burst pipe. We cannot educate against antisemitism if those who express vile hatred are doing so unimpeded, and for all of our success in education, we have little to show when it comes to enforcement.

We must make those who incite hatred pay a ruinous price for their actions. They must suffer criminal sanctions, be thrown out of their professions, and be exposed in the media. When expressions of antisemitism have profound criminal, financial and reputation repercussions, then only the most determined will engage in it.

That goal is a long way away. Of the 14,480 hate crimes prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service last year, we know of only 20 prosecutions for antisemitism, mostly resulting in fines and community service, even though it was the worst year yet for antisemitic crime. Regulators such as the Charity Commission have been similarly toothless. With enforcement like this, why should the law be feared?

There are some in the Jewish community who insist that gentle persuasion is the way to ensure that the authorities enforce the law, but that method has been tried for decades with little to show for it, and now time has run out. It is time for our community to enforce its rights in court.

This year, Campaign Against Antisemitism has already taken the Crown Prosecution Service to the High Court and won a judicial review over its failure to prosecute an individual for alleged hate crimes. We had to privately prosecute another individual after the Crown failed to do so, only for the Crown to change its mind and take over our prosecution.

Following the outrageous Al Quds Day march this summer, Campaign Against Antisemitism reported Mr Ali, a pharmacist by trade, to the Metropolitan Police Service, providing evidence gathered by our Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit. After a comprehensive police investigation, the matter was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. We waited and waited. A week before the deadline for prosecution, the Crown stated that it was dropping the case. Our lawyers were ready for the Crown’s latest dereliction of duty, and we are now privately prosecuting Mr Ali ourselves. We have also instigated investigations by the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Charity Commission.

Our message is clear: the days of getting away with Jew-hatred are over. We will make sure of that. Our effect is being felt. Despite being one of the most inadequately funded communal charities, relying almost entirely on the hard work of volunteers, we are referred to by those expressing abusive views on social media, on campuses and at demonstrations as their most powerful and dangerous enemy. They are lucky we are so starved of funds.

Our message to the authorities is similarly blunt. With the backing of government ministers who share our dismay at your woeful inaction, we will hold you to account. If you fail to enforce the law with zero tolerance, we will challenge you in court, and we will hold your failings up to scrutiny in the media.

It is a national disgrace that matters have deteriorated so far, but if we do not ensure that the law is enforced, what else will make a difference? We must not be afraid to bang our fists on the table when our legitimate concerns are ignored. We owe it to future generations to ensure that there is an effective deterrent to antisemitism in this great country where we have built our lives.

Gideon Falter is chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism

December 19, 2017 10:38

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