Uses and abuses of the word ‘Zionism’

Be under absolutely no illusions about what is going on with the Labour Party’s fabricated “anti-Semitism crisis” right now. This is nothing less than a coup attempt aimed at ending the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn, of course, is a long-standing socialist and veteran Palestine campaigner. The embittered Ultras of the Blairite right will see the party go down in flames, sacrificing every election, before they allow a Labour government under Prime Minister Corbyn come to power.

Continue reading over at MEMO.

The wild beast of Israeli racism

This week the prime minister of Israel slandered Arabs in disgustingly racist terms. This was nothing new for the man who, during the last election, warned the Israeli people that “the Arabs” were turning out to vote “in droves”. But the terminology he used was a notable new low, even for him.

Touring a new border fence between part of present-day Israel and Jordan, Benjamin Netanyahu said: “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts. At the end of the day as I see it, there will be a fence like this one surrounding Israel in its entirety. We will surround the entire state of Israel with a fence, a barrier.”

For Israel’s politicians use such dehumanising terminology about Palestinians and other Arabs is nothing new. Israeli leaders have a long history of such racism, stretching back to the pre-state Zionist settler-colonial era. It also draws on the long history of Western colonial racism.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Israel, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State bogey

The terrorist bogeyman de jour is nowadays of course the so-called “Islamic State”. Do you remember back in the decade or so following the 9/11 attacks on the US? Back then it was all al-Qaeda, all the time. We were all meant to fear and quake in our boots over them. Ironically, the group is probably more of a threat now than they were then, and the actions taken by western governments back then helped to birth the creation of something of the ven more horrific “Islamic State.”

Al-Qaeda were a conveniently ghoulish enemy which tabloid newspapers could use to whip up fear and loathing and which western governments used to build public support for ever-increasing powers for their various domestic spy agencies.

Even though the British media and government constantly obsessed about al-Qaeda and the threat it posed, it was greatly exaggerated. This was especially the case in the aftermath to 9/11 and the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. The so-called War on Terrorism was envisaged as a sort of endless war, in large part for the benefits of western capital, especially the arms firms, and for control of Middle Eastern oil.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Netanyahu’s Hitler remarks part of a disturbing trend

Last week Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a speech to the World Zionist Congress with an extraordinary claim.

“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time” he said. He only wanted to expel them. It was, he claimed, none other Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s and ’30s who convinced the Nazi leader to embark on the extermination programme which ultimately led to 6 million dead.

“Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here [to Palestine].’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he asked. ‘Burn them!’,” Netanyahu claimed, quoting an imaginary conversation between the Palestinian leader and Hitler.

And it really was imaginary: there is no record that any such conversation ever took place, and Netanyahu’s speech has been widely criticised as ahistorical.

It seems astounding that, in an attempt to vilify the Palestinians by association with an old leader (albeit one appointed by the British occupation forces of the time), an Israeli leader would stoop even to exonerating Hitler.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Israel moves to cover-up its alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria

As totally sceptical as I am about the propaganda system that is the mainstream media, it still surprises me that this story is getting almost zero media attention. Israel has admitted being in active military alliance with a group considered one of the Western world’s greatest terrorist threats. And all purely to make sure Syria bleeds for as long as possible:

Al-Maqet was detained without access to a lawyer for ten days, and the military court eventually ruled that he must use a lawyer with a high-level security clearance (in other words he has to use a former Israeli military officer as a lawyer … as his defender in a military court).

The amount of trouble that Israel’s Deep State is going to in order to shut this man up is deeply emblematic of the state’s fundamentally anti-democractic nature. It also shows that, the more press coverage there is of Israel’s alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria (it has been pretty much ignored by mainstream media to date) the more Israel is sensitive to the facts being exposed.

After all, by aiding al-Qaeda in Syria, Israel is by providing material support to a group that it itself defines as a terrorist organization, as do the US and British governments.

Read the whole column over at MEMO.

My column from yesterday: Israel’s love-in with Europe’s new Nazis

Yarosh replied: “No, absolutely not. In the last days, I have met the Israeli ambassador and we started a friendly relationship.” Yarosh reportedly now sits on the current government’s security council as Deputy Secretary of National Security. His allies in Svoboda, a fascist political party, now control the defence ministry, and several other government seats – all the way up to deputy prime minister. With such a massive share of power in the emerging “new” Ukraine, it is no surprise, therefore, that the Israelis should want to meet with an odious fascist like Yarosh.

Time to start talking about Zionist anti-Semitism

On why Zionist anti-Semitism is a thing:

To return to Brummer’s comments, there is a more sinister element to what he told the Today programme – something that went almost entirely unnoticed by commentators. As proof the Mail could not possibly be anti-Semitic he said it was “one of the most pro-Israel papers on Fleet Street.” This statement is itself anti-Semitic, since it implies all Jews are responsible for the actions of Israel. If that was not bad enough, he made this vile equation more explicit, claiming that the other papers’ “demonis[ing]” of Israel ipso-facto “demonise[s] the broader Jewish community”. There you have it: according to Brummer “Israel” is equivalent to “the broader Jewish community”. This is a disgusting anti-Semitic statement, but it is a common argument for Zionists to make.

My review of Tony Lerman’s book

A great read and most interesting (and incidentally nice to see Pluto put out an affordable hardback edition). This positive review by me for EI will likely be grist to his enemies’ mill, but Tony doesn’t seem too worried about that any more. An extract:

What happens when a mainstream public figure within the Jewish community develops doubts about Israel and Zionism? Can the head of an important Jewish think tank who has come to reject his Zionist convictions sustain his position as a critical insider?

These questions are addressed in The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist, a new memoir by Antony Lerman.

Born to moderate orthodox parents in Golders Green (3), London, Lerman joined the Habonim labor Zionist youth movement in his teens. Along with its youth centers, Habonim owned a remote East Sussex farm known as the hachshara (“training”) where it prepared members for life in the kibbutzim, Israel’s collective agricultural colonies (31).

He eventually went on to become leader of the movement in the UK. Although after 1967 Habonim activists still saw themselves “as guardians of moderate and liberal socialist Zionism … the vast majority of us slipped so easily into a way of thinking that legitimized the occupation” of the West Bank, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights (34-5).

Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate

I have reviewed Nurit Peled-Elhanan’s import study of Israeli school textbooks for EI. It’s been going viral online, especially on Twitter (sometimes I’m not quite sure why certain articles take off more than others). I previously blogged a video of her being interviewed too. Here’s an extract of my review:

In an important new book, Palestine in Israeli School Books, Israeli language and education professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan buries the second part of Livni’s myth once and for all.

Peled-Elhanan examines 17 Israeli school textbooks on history, geography and civic studies. Her conclusions are an indictment of the Israeli system of indoctrination and its cultivation of anti-Arab racism from an early age: “The books studied here harness the past to the benefit of the … Israeli policy of expansion, whether they were published during leftist or right-wing [education] ministries” (224).

Update: this article was pretty popular, probably my most popular book review. It has been translated into Flemish Dutch (I can’t vouch for the translation and know nothing about the website). I think it was translated into French as well, but I can’t find the link now.

Angry Arab talk: “The Case Against Israel”

As`ad AbuKhalil speaks on “The Case Against Israel”. Audio recorded at Goldsmiths, 17 January 2011. The opening night of his UK tour, hosted by Goldsmiths Palestine Campaign. Mostly about Palestine, but some Syria and other interesting discussion in the Q&A.

Click play above to listen, download the MP3 here, or download in other formats here.

Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

Europe’s Islamophobes and Israel: The Right Alliance

Published by Al-Akhbar English and protected by copyright under a Creative Commons license.

By: Asa Winstanley

Published Monday, January 2, 2012

London – While the European far-right once made the Jewish community their primary scapegoat, their more recent focus on Muslims has made them Israel’s latest bedfellows.

Islamophobia has been on the rise in recent years, with Muslim communities coming under increasing attack both rhetorically and physically. This political climate of Islamophobia has been dubbed “The Cold War on British Muslims” by a recent report.

These right-wing rabble-rousers are increasingly coming to view Israel as an embattled front-line state against what they consider the threat of Islamist expansion. For its part, Israel has made a conscious effort to appeal to such paranoid scenarios of inter-civilization conflict for decades. While in the past, Israel touted its anti-communist credentials and belligerent role against the “threat” of Arab nationalism as reasons for Western support, Islam is the current bête noire.

Far-right parties and groups across Europe are starting to talk warmly about Israel, even making contacts as high as the governmental level. While many are “new right” groups such as the English Defence League, some like France’s National Front and the British National Party have historical roots in neo-fascism and anti-semitism.

The far right’s newfound love for Israel has gone hand-in-hand with a related trend: the idea that there is a “new anti-semitism” primarily carried out by leftist and Muslim opponents of Israel. Antony Lerman, the founder and former director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, describes this thesis as “the radical notion that to warrant the charge of antisemitism, it is sufficient to hold any view ranging from criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government to denial that Israel has the right to exist as a state, without having to subscribe to any of those things which historians have traditionally regarded as making up an antisemitic view.”

While some Zionists have been pushing this concept for decades, it has gained increased prominence over the last 10 years. As Lerman has written, it has reached such an absurd point that French intellectual and Zionist Bernard Henri-Levy claimed in a 2008 book that the “antisemitism of the 21st century would be ‘progressive’ – meaning essentially left-wing hatred of Israel – or not exist at all.”

This is essentially an attempt to re-define anti-semitism from the phenomenon of bigoted or racist views against Jews, to any and all hostility towards Israel. Hatred of Jews as Jews, the belief that Jews are racially inferior or a belief in a world-wide Jewish conspiracy could all be forgiven, or at least overlooked, as long as ideological loyalty to Israel is maintained.

This is where the “new right” of Europe has fitted right in. They see alliances with Israel as natural in what they think is a battle against the “Islamization of Europe.”

Lerman traces the beginnings of this trend back to even before the 9/11 attacks. In the early 2000s Italian former neo-fascist party National Alliance (AN) led by Gianfranco Fini “reached out to the Italian Jewish community to apologize for the party’s ‘former’ antisemitism and to express support for Israel.”

Geert Wilders, whose anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) is currently the third-largest party in the Netherlands, has visited Israel numerous times, including in 2008, the year his anti-Muslim film Fitna made international headlines. In 2010 he met with far-right Israeli foreign minister (and settler) Avigdor Lieberman and gave a speech in Tel Aviv in which he called for more Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank. Speaking to Reuters, he explained the counter-jihad ideology that so many in Europe’s far right are now adapting: “Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism and [the Israelis] are fighting our fight…If Jerusalem falls, Amsterdam and New York will be next.”

The day after Wilders spoke in Tel Aviv, a delegation of politicians from European anti-Islam parties toured West Bank colonies, reported settler news site Arutz Sheva. They included leaders from Germany, Austria and Belgium; “and yet these parties had by no means abandoned their antisemitic roots” according to Lerman.

In October 2009, BNP leader Nick Griffin made a controversial appearance on Question Time, the BBC’s flagship political talk show. He used the occasion to express enthusiastic support for Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip: “I have brought the British National Party from being, frankly, an antisemitic and racist organization into being the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists.”

The BNP won almost a million votes in 2009 elections to the European parliament, so Griffin cannot be dismissed as a totally unrepresentative quack. Nonetheless, he clearly is an extremist in mainstream political terms. But the leading British parties feed into BNP rhetoric on issues like immigration.

Also in 2009, David Cameron, leader of the UK’s Conservative party and the current prime minister, broke with the centre-right bloc in the EU parliament and allied his party with the new Euro-skeptic EP bloc. But its chairman Michal Kaminski was well known for his past anti-semitic views. Objections were raised in the Jewish community, but many Zionist leaders, editor of the Jewish Chronicle Stephen Pollard and the Israeli ambassador praised Kaminski because he expressed strong support for Israel.

The English Defence League, an anti-Muslim street gang that contains many football hooligan elements, regularly waves Israeli flags during its demonstrations. Since it rose to prominence in 2009, it was open about its counter-jihadist orientation. EDL leader Tommy Robinson said that one of the main principles the group was founded on was “support for Israel’s right to defend itself…Israel is a shining star of democracy. If Israel falls, we all fall.”

In 2010 the EDL launched a so-called Jewish Division. Although this sub-group is thought to be numerically insignificant, it is emblematic of the EDL’s counter-jihadist, pro-Zionist ideology. There are also more recent reports that the EDL may be developing links with the Jewish Defense League, founded in America by Meir Kahane the extremist American rabbi who later settled in occupied Palestine and founded the Kach party (later banned under US terrorism legislation).

While visiting Berlin in July this year Israeli deputy minister Ayoob Kara met Patrik Brinkmann, who has ties with the German neo-Nazi party. Brinkman has reportedly visited Kara in Israel several times. In November, Israel’s new UN ambassador Ron Prosor was photographed smiling next to Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front (laughably, he later claimed this was an accident).

And then there is the Islamophobic Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who reportedly confessed to the murder of 77 people in a combined bombing and mass-shooting in July. Press reports noted that some of his young leftist victims had held Palestine solidarity workshops at their summer camp on Utøya island.

From what he’s written, it’s clear Breivik is a big fan of Israel. His rambling online book is full of flattering references to the state. For example: “let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists,” he wrote, “against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists.” This is from page 1163 of his “compendium,” large chunks of which were reportedly copied from other Islamophobic sources.

These connections and affinities between Zionism and the far-right do not stop at Europe of course. In the US, right-wing fundamentalist Christianity is a far bigger political factor, and this current very much tends to side with Israel. It has even been argued that this Christian Zionism the greatest factor fueling political support for Israel in the United States. John Hagee of Christians United for Israel is openly anti-semitic, with his fundamentalist rantings about how Hitler was supposedly sent by God and so forth.

The extent to which this developing new alliance between Israel and the far-right is sustainable remains to be seen. From the Zionist point of view, it could be argued that Israel is strategically foolish to throw its lot in with European fascists. Making friends with Nick Griffin is hardly likely to win many of the “progressive friends of Israel” that seem to be so important to the Reut Institute these days.

On the other hand, it seems possible the far-right stands to gain from the ever-increasing signs of economic meltdown in Europe. Maybe elements in Israel have just scented that the Islamphobic far-right is just the way the tide is turning in Europe.

More likely, there is no single plan. Israel is a creature of the West after all. From that perspective, it’s no surprise that a European settler-colonial entity such as Israel would mimic, echo and amplify the worst of European racism.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London who writes about Palestine.

EI exclusive: UK charity with Mossad links secretly denounced anti-Zionist Jews to government

Published by Electronic Intifada, protected by copyright. Republished by permission.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 21 December 2011

An influential UK charity denounced Jewish critics of Israel in secret reports to the government earlier this year, The Electronic Intifada has learned.

The Community Security Trust (CST) is known for its work recording anti-Semitic attacks and for security patrols at Jewish communal events.

But evidence uncovered by The Electronic Intifada suggests the CST works behind the scenes with an assertively pro-Israel agenda not stated in its charitable remit. There are also serious questions over the CST’s links to the government of Israel and, allegedly, to its intelligence services.

The Electronic Intifada contacted the CST and inquired about these points, but representatives of the organization declined to comment.

In a report sent to government department the Home Office, the CST denounced several “anti-Zionist British Jewish individuals and groups” as “extreme groups,” claiming they were “unrepresentative of the vast majority of British Jews.”

Dating from August, the report was primarily an attempt to help the government in its court case to deport Palestinian political activist Raed Salah. The report expressed concern that certain Jews had “voiced support for Salah,” recommending that the “extent of their credibility to speak on these issues should be considered.”

The CST denounced as “extreme” well-known Palestine solidarity activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and the anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta. The report highlights that Wimborne-Idrissi is secretary of Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods.

Use of the term “extreme groups” is significant. It’s a phrase the CST usually reserves for violent far-right groups such as the British National Party, the National Front and Combat 18; or for Islamic political groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The CST sent a second document to the Home Office at the same time titled “Neturei Karta & Raed Salah” as part of a larger dossier. This four-page report suggests the group is guilty of everything from Holocaust denial to “defending” a 2008 terrorist attack against Jews in Mumbai.

Both texts formed part of the Home Office’s defense against Salah’s attempt to resist deportation. In September, a civil servant testified in court that the CST had been its “principal source.”

The full text of both secret CST reports can be read in the blog post accompanying this article.

“Pure lies”

The Electronic Intifada sent copies of the reports to the activists attacked in the documents and asked for comments.

Rabbi Yacov Weisz of Neturei Karta UK replied that the report was “pure lies” and “absolute nonsense.” He said it was no surprise to find the CST trying to marginalize his organization. Weisz said the CST was a provocative organization not wanted by many in his own Orthodox community in Stamford Hill, London, since it “plays into political Zionism.” He said there is a problem with racism in the UK, but it could be directed at Muslims just as much as Jews.

Wimborne-Idrissi said the CST does not like the fact that Jewish critics of Israel are becoming more numerous and vocal.

“Our existence shows that organizations like the Board of Deputies [of British Jews], the Zionist Federation and CST cannot legitimately claim to represent all Jews,” she told The Electronic Intifada. “We give the lie to their insistence that defending Israel is central to Jewish identity and that to defend Palestinian interests against it is synonymous with anti-Semitism.”

In a statement, IJAN said the CST was “known to many as the Zionist police… We would ask who but racists would call opposing all forms of racism ‘extreme’? It is the CST that is ‘unrepresentative’ — most of the world does not support Israeli apartheid, including a substantial and rapidly-increasing number of Jewish people.”

Lauded by government

As demonstrated in The Electronic Intifada’s coverage of the Raed Salah case, the CST has strong links with government departments — especially the Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government. In some areas CST volunteers jointly patrol with the police.

It has also been lauded by politicians at the highest levels of government. Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have both given speeches at black tie CST dinners this year.

Founded as a charity in 1994, the CST had several notable predecessors. The Group Relations Educational Trust (GRET) was founded by Gerald Ronson in 1978. Now CST chairman, Ronson wrote in his memoir Leading from the Front that he hoped GRET would “operate as a sort of umbrella organization” for the 62 Group and other militant anti-fascist groups.

The 62 Group was a street-fighting Jewish activist group formed to combat the rise of neo-Nazis in the 1960s. It reportedly specialized in infiltration and intelligence gathering.

Ronson wanted to distance GRET from such militant direct action approaches. He wrote that although he was the chief fundraiser for the 62 Group and “I was once a foot soldier out there fighting on the front lines,” he increasingly came to think that “being hooligans to fight hooligans wasn’t the smartest way.”

The CST’s immediate predecessor was the Community Security Organization — part of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In 1994, it broke away from the Board and established itself as a new charity — the Community Security Trust.

Trained by Mossad?

Antony Lerman, founder and former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), told The Electronic Intifada that CST volunteers had in the past received self-defense training from Mossad, Israel’s overseas spy agency.

Mossad is perhaps most well known for its assassinations of Palestinian intellectuals, activists and fighters around the world. It is thought that the Mossad was behind the 1972 Beirut car bomb that murdered writer and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine activist Ghassan Kanafani. In 1986, Mossad agents kidnapped Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician turned whistleblower. More recently, it was thought to be behind the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, in which the killers used forged passports as part of their operation.

But Mossad also claims to protect Jews, says Lerman. “On one level you can understand why” CST trained with the Mossad, he said. “One of the things the Mossad believes that it should be responsible for is Jewish security all around the world.”

The Electronic Intifada had a wide-ranging conversation about the CST with Lerman. JPR ran the first project to monitor anti-Semitism in a human rights fashion, he added. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Lerman had “very close relations” with GRET and, later, the CST.

In the early 1990s “the Israeli government was trying to exert control over the monitoring of anti-Semitism through diaspora communities around the world,” he recalled. Lerman and the CST both resisted this, preferring to remain independent. They were “quite angry with the way the Israelis were handling this kind of thing.”

The Israelis’ list of anti-Semitic incidents “was appalling stuff,” he added. “I wouldn’t say at that time they were so much into exaggerating the problem, but they just had no real feel for what anti-Semitism really was. They would take any kind of incident, anything that involved Jews often would sometimes go down as an anti-Semitic incident when it hadn’t [really been one] and often they would miss anti-Semitic incidents as well.”

The Israel Government Monitoring Forum on Anti-Semitism at that time operated through representatives at embassies throughout the world, and “they were mostly Mossad representatives,” said Lerman.

“During that time the CST … felt they needed to keep good relations with the Board, with the Israelis, with the Israel embassy … [but] they were broadly supportive of our position throughout the 1990s,” he recalled. “During that time my experience with them as a whole was rather good.”

This didn’t last. “My relations with them began to deteriorate at the end of the ’90s and from 2000 onwards,” he said. “I from the beginning was never in agreement with this idea of the ‘new anti-Semitism.’” But the CST was “very much behind that kind of line.”

Lerman is a noted critic of this “new anti-Semitism” line. Writing earlier this year, he described it as “the notion that Israel has become the Jew among the nations and that therefore extreme criticism and anti-Zionism are a new version of the anti-Semitism that existed prior to the establishment of the state.”

He added, “The entrenchment of the concept of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ [has] so extended the range of expressions of what can be regarded as anti-Semitic that the word anti-Semitism has come close to losing all meaning” (“The farcical attack on the UCU for voting against use of the EUMC ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism,” Antony Lerman’s blog, 2 June 2011).

Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism

Lerman’s is far from the only Jewish voice critical of the the CST. Tony Greenstein is a Palestine solidarity and anti-racist activist who has blogged extensively on the CST. He has frank criticisms of their methods. “The CST has a long record of barring anti-Zionist Jews from meetings and harassing them,” he wrote on his blog in January 2009 (“Community Security Thugs Bar Jewish Opponents of Gaza War from Liberal Judaism Meeting”).

While leftist critics such as Greenstein allege the CST exaggerates or inflates its anti-Semitism figures, Lerman disagrees. “They’re not making up the numbers, it’s what they do with the information [that’s more problematic],” Lerman said. “It’s the role that they play behind the scenes with government, it’s the connections with the Israelis — whether it’s lobbying on their behalf or not, they’ve got very close relations.”

Lerman still gives the CST credit for the rigor it uses when deciding which incidents to record as anti-Semitic and which to reject. He said that it does not record incidents as anti-Semitic unless it is absolutely sure. But the “new anti-Semitism” logic means they will be predisposed to see an anti-Israel statement as being anti-Semitic, he added.

What its critics tend to agree on is that the CST conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Its latest report describes anti-Zionism as “in effect anti-Semitic” (Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2010, 8 December 2011 [PDF]).

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi said the CST “try to undermine our credibility by noting that we are small in number. They cannot acknowledge that growing numbers of Jews are breaking with the unquestioning loyalty to Israel that has been the norm in past decades.” Wimborne-Idrissi was barred from a 2009 “liberal Judaism” meeting by CST guards.

Greenstein has accused the CST of thuggish behavior against Jewish critics of Israel, and has written that CST security volunteers guard pro-Israel demonstrations and events. “Its stewards looked benignly on as the EDL [English Defense League] joined a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in August 2010 to celebrate the murder of nine unarmed activists aboard the Mavi Marmara,” Greenstein wrote on his blog (“Community Support Trust supplies false information to deport Sheikh Raed Salah,” 3 October 2011).

Lack of transparency

Although the CST claims to represent the Jewish community, it has asked for a special dispensation from the Charity Commission so that the names of its trustees are not publicly accessible (most charities in the UK have the names of their trustees listed on the Charity Commission’s website). A spokesperson from the Charity Commission said such dispensations were only given in “very exceptional” cases, such as for women’s shelters where the trustees were thought to be “in personal danger.”

However, in May 2003 the CST established a private company called Support Trustee limited. The Memorandum of Association filed at Companies House in Cardiff says Support Trustee limited acts as “trustee, custodian trustee, nominee or director of or for the charity Community Security Trust.”

According to documents filed at Companies House, the current directors of Support Trustee Limited are: Keith Black of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), Lloyd Dorfman (chairman of the Travelex currency exchange group), banker and UJIA trustee Jeremy Isaacs, solicitor Brook Land, property investor Gary Landesberg, former chairman of the British division of Jewish educational group ORT Mark Mishon, CST chairman Gerald Ronson and accountant Jeremy Trent. Its secretary is CST Chief Executive Richard Benson.

A multi-million pound operation

CST chairman Gerald Ronson is a property magnate and the multi-millionaire owner of the Heron Group. Accounts on the Charity Commission website show that Ronson’s charitable trust has donated almost £500,000 ($780,000) to the CST since 2007. In the early 1990s, he was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in the “Guinness affair.” This was a share price inflation scam The Daily Telegraph has described as the best-known British stock market scandal of the 1980s (“Famous stock market scandals,” undated).

In a 2009 interview with The Jewish Chronicle, Ronson claimed to have friends at the highest levels of the Israeli government: “He received a phone call from the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and met [current Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu, at the time a minister in Shamir’s government, while on a day-release for a medical examination,” the article states (“Interview: Gerald Ronson,” 4 June 2009).

Greenstein described the CST as “a well-paid gravy train.” Accounts available on the Charity Commission’s website show the CST spent £5.3 million ($8.3 million) in the year ending December 2010 — £2.1 million ($3.3 million) of this was on salaries and wages. It is thought to employ 64 staff, some full-time on security issues.

Last year the government announced £2 million ($3.1 million) in new funding for security at Jewish faith schools. The CST’s Chief Executive Richard Benson wrote in The Jewish Chronicle that this came in response to five years of CST lobbying (“Let’s recognize our friends,” 22 December 2010). Antony Lerman said the schools are likely to give the CST an advisory role in how the money is spent.

The CST and “infiltration”

In April and June, historian Geoffrey Alderman wrote two pieces for The Jewish Chronicle taking the CST to task for being unaccountable to the community. “What right does a completely private body that happens to call itself the CST have to involve itself in the safety and well-being of British Jews?”

Alderman is a Zionist and hostile to the Palestinian people and their supporters. In May of this year, he wrote a column saying nothing had caused him “greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called ‘peace activist’ Vittorio Arrigoni,” the International Solidarity Movement volunteer murdered in Gaza (“This was no ‘peace activist,’” The Jewish Chronicle, 13 May 2011).

In one of his columns, Alderman made reference to a more “murky dimension” of the CST’s work — possible “infiltration” of “extremist organizations” (“Our unrepresentative security,” The Jewish Chronicle, 18 April 2011).

What does Lerman think of that accusation? “I certainly wouldn’t rule it out,” he replied. “What I am absolutely certain about is that they’ve got connections with people who have [infiltrated]. So whether that’s through Searchlight or others, I’ve no idea”

Searchlight is an anti-fascist organization and magazine which has long been criticized by anti-fascist activists on the left for allegedly strong links to intelligence services and law enforcement entities. Its central figure, Gerry Gable, was involved in the 62 Group with Ronson.

In 1980 The New Statesman magazine published the “Gable Memo,” a secret memorandum to Gable’s then bosses at London Weekend Television. In the 1977 memo, Gable makes various accusations against a journalist, Phil Kelly, and infamously concluded: “I have now given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British/French security services … I may try somebody in the Israeli Foreign Office.”

Gable’s accusations against Kelly included that he “acted as a cheerleader on several Arab demonstrations in London” and “he could have blown the cover of a man who had infiltrated the Palestinians and some left groups” (“The Gable Memo,” Lobster, December 1992).

When the Raed Salah case came to the attention of the British government, it called on the CST for information. As reported in detail by The Electronic Intifada, government departments asked the CST to send information on Salah that they could use to ban him from entering the UK.

As Salah prepared to go to the High Court hearing that would ultimately release him on bail, the CST posted two Jerusalem court indictments against Salah on its blog. Both related to old incidents (one from 2007). And both were dated 23 June — the exact date that Home Secretary Theresa May said she banned Salah (“Sheikh Raed Salah: The Indictments,” 6 July 2011).

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the Mossad,” said Lerman. “They had close relations with the Mossad when I was working with them, and I’m sure that they still do.”

A freedom of information request to the UK Border Agency sent by The Electronic Intifada in July was finally answered this month. A request for a copy of the original banning order signed by May was denied on data protection grounds.

Israeli government links

The Israel Government Monitoring Forum on Anti-Semitism with which Lerman was at odds in the early 1990s now has a successor body called the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism. The forum’s website lists the CST as one of the “members of the forum” along with the Anti-Defamation League and the Israeli prime minister’s office.

Lerman said that CST volunteers “go along at their own expense to guard Jewish sites and meetings and things of that kind. Well they get training, and I believe that the training has been done in the past by people from the Mossad, who come over and give them training in self-defense and that sort of thing.”

How likely is it that the CST lobbies politically for Israel behind the scenes?

In September, the law on universal jurisdiction was changed, making it easier for Israeli ministers and generals charged with war crimes to visit the UK. The Jewish Chronicle published an article quoting the Board of Deputies as acknowledging “the efforts of the various communal groups, in particular the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Board of Deputies, CST and Friends of Israel groups that have helped to ensure the safe passage of the bill.”

But “CST” was soon removed from the online version of the article, apparently after spokesman Mark Gardner intervened (see The Electronic Intifada’s correspondent Ben White’s screen capture).

Though Lerman’s relations with the CST have deteriorated, he thinks it unlikely that the CST would lobby for Israel in any way that would contravene its charitable status. “It would have undermined the role that they are trying to play on the issue of anti-Semitism,” he said. “Having said that, the very fact that they support the ‘new anti-Semitism’ kind of arguments … [means] they are doing the work of the Israel government, because it … is a very strong Israel government line.”

CST declines to comment

For its part, the CST has previously denied acting on behalf of Israel. Of its role in having Salah banned from the UK, the CST stated: “We did not do this on behalf of Israel or in pursuit of Israel’s policy objectives.” It said its only concern is anti-Semitism.

The Electronic Intifada wrote to the CST and asked the following questions: Why did the CST denounce Wimborne-Idrissi, Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network as “extreme”? Why did the CST do so privately not publicly? In light of Alderman’s “infiltration” comments, can you give assurances you are not involved with the infiltration or subversion of pro-Palestinian activist groups? In light of the allegation that the CST has received Mossad training, what is the current nature of the CST’s relations to the Israeli intelligence services? Did Israeli authorities help the CST with its case against Raed Salah?

The Electronic Intifada enclosed the part of the Salah report that denounced anti-Zionist Jews.

Despite having been given several days notice in advance of publication, the CST did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A phone call to the CST office three days after the original email request produced “no comment.”

Nevertheless, the CST will need to respond to these serious charges eventually. In court in September, UK Border Agency case worker Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng referred to the CST as “the Jewish community” — yet it is clear the group does not represent the entire community. The British government should ask itself how appropriate it is to maintain such strong links to an organization so politically compromised.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who writes about Palestine. His website is