Board halt Israel hate author talk

Leader praises Quakers after they cancel Palestine campaign group event with State of Terror author


Thomas Suárez complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) that the JC breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Board halt Israel hate author talk”, published online on 8 May 2017, and an article headlined “Quakers row as venue is rented out to anti-Zionist”, published in print on 20 April 2018.

The complaint was upheld, and the JC has been required to publish this ruling as a remedy to the breach of the Code.

The 2017 article stated that a talk by the complainant, due to take place at a Quaker-owned Friends Meeting House, had been cancelled. The article reported that the complainant had previously said that Zionist leaders “encouraged antisemitism in Germany to force Jews to move to Palestine”.

The article reported that the British Board of Deputies were among the Jewish organisations that raised objections to the event, and that the president of the Board of Deputies had said, “We are glad that, having considered the matter in line with Quaker values, the decision was taken to cancel the booking”.

The 2018 article reported that the complainant was “allowed to speak at a Quaker-founded cultural centre despite a similar institution having previously banned him”.

It repeated the 2017 article’s claim regarding the complainant’s characterisation of the actions of Zionist leaders, and reported that “In May 2017 the Quaker-owned Cambridge Friends Meeting House cancelled an appearance by [the complainant] deciding it was not ‘in line with Quaker values’”.

The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that the Friends Meeting House had cancelled his talk because it decided the address was “not in line with Quaker values”, or that it had “banned” him. The complainant also denied saying that Zionist leaders “encouraged anti-Semitism in Germany”.

The publication said that it had not breached the Code. It said that it had relied on comments made by the president of the Board of Deputies, who had discussed why the event had been cancelled, and on contemporary reports of the complainant’s Soas talk which had said that the complainant had stated that Zionist leaders had encouraged antisemitism in order to force Jews to move to Palestine. Nonetheless, five months after receipt of the complaint, the publication offered to publish corrections on these points.

Ipso found that the publication had not taken care over the 2018 article’s claim that the Friends Meeting House had “banned” the complainant because it decided his talk was “not in line with Quaker values”.

The claim regarding “Quaker values” was wrongly attributed to the Friends Meeting House when in fact it had been made by the president of the Board of Deputies, and there was no suggestion that the complainant had been “banned” from the Meeting House.

Ipso noted the material provided by the publication in support of the articles’ assertion that the complainant had said that Zionist leaders had “encouraged antisemitism in Germany to force Jews to move to Palestine”.

However, it had not provided a basis for claiming that the complainant had referred to Germany, or that he had adopted this claim as his own; there had been a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point, in breach of Clause 1(i).

This failure to take care gave rise to a significantly misleading impression of the complainant’s expressed views, on an extremely sensitive subject.

Both inaccuracies were raised in the complainant’s initial complaint, and the material on which the complaints were based was readily available to the publication.

The publication had offered corrections which addressed the inaccuracies but these had been offered five months after the complaint was received. This was not sufficiently prompt, and there was a breach of Clause 1 (ii).

A Palestinian Solidarity Campaign backed event featuring an author accused of peddling antisemitic theories on Israel and Judaism, has been cancelled.

Thomas Suarez was due to speak at the meeting, promoting his latest book State of Terror – How Terrorism Created Modern Israel.

But on Monday, it emerged that the meeting due to take place at the local Quaker owned Friends Meeting House in Cambridge this Thursday, had been called off.

Cambridge PSC said on Tuesday they were "disappointed"  with the decision to cancel the event.

Mr Suarez, a professional violinist, rose to notoriety after an hour-long rant on Jews and Zionism to the Palestine Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies last November.

He branded Zionism “fascist” and claimed its leaders encouraged antisemitism in Germany to force Jews to move to Palestine.

Speaking about “the Jewish state”, he said: “Crammed into those three words are all of Jewry, Judaism, Jewish history, culture, persecution, and most cynical and exploitative of all, the Holocaust.”

The Board of Deputies are among the Jewish organisations  known to have raised objections to Thursday’s event.

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board, told the JC: “Thomas Suarez has repeatedly and unapologetically made statements comparing Zionists to Nazis. We approached the Quakers to make them aware of the nature of this booking.

"We are glad that, having considered the matter in line with Quaker values, the decision was taken to cancel the booking.

"We applaud this step, taken in solidarity with our community in the struggle against racism. It underlines that Quakers are more interested in peace and reconciliation than the hate promoted by Cambridge PSC.”

Jonathan Hoffman, an activist who is familiar with the book, said "I am very pleased that the Wardens of the Friends Meeting House had second thoughts. 

“This book demonises Israel by falsifying history and contains a number of false and hateful allegations - such as that  the Israeli government systematically stole reparation money intended for survivors. This meeting would only have fuelled hatred of Jews.  I know that several students were very upset about it. "

A spokesman for Cambridge PSC said: “Naturally we are disappointed with the decision.

"We had been in detailed dialogue with the Friends Meeting house about the proposed meeting and understand the pressure they have been put under. We have had a strong relationship with Friends Meeting House over the years and this will continue, given our shared deep commitment to human rights and justice for the Palestinian people.”

The JC also approached Friends Meeting House for comment.

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