Anti-Semitism watchdog CST “abusing” mandate to defend Israel

The Community Security Trust (CST), a UK charity which records and combats anti-Semitic incidents, is “abusing its mandate” in order to give “political support for Israel,” according to former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and author Antony Lerman.

The CST has been frequently cited in the British media this summer as the authoritative source for monitoring anti-Semitism, while its communications director Mark Gardner has been a prolific contributor to news reports and op-ed pages.

Speaking in London on 5 August, Gardner claimed that “the most serious impact for the Jewish community” going forward would be a growth in boycotts of Israel.

Answering a question on the National Union of Students’ recent endorsement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), Gardner said that while the Jewish community would “get through” the spike in anti-Semitic incidents, “the boycott stuff is really, really serious”:

Israel has, I think, come right up to that red line, to that tipping point, where it becomes in danger of really seriously being the new South Africa, the new South Africa that everybody should boycott, that Israel is equivalent to apartheid South Africa, and that therefore, if you support Israel well you’re just like the Afrikaners of old.

Gardner highlighted the loss of support for Israel among British politicians, before returning specifically to the NUS decision, and warned that when Jewish students “try to bust the sanctions,” there will be “fierce political scenarios” and some “anti-Semitic over spills.”


Antony Lerman, who has in the past critiqued how many supporters of Israel define and publicly discuss anti-Semitism, wrote on his blog last week that this is kind of approach is irresponsible:

The conflation of the political campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), which aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law, with attacks on synagogues and violent, abusive insults leveled at individual Jews, is completely unjustified. There is nothing inherently antisemitic in the aims of BDS yet the CST clearly implies that there is.

Lerman cites other examples, such as Gardner’s comments made to the Jewish News last week that while “anti-Semitic incidents will subside … the long term damage to Jews of anti-Israel boycotts will persist,” as well as a piece written for The Express (where, tellingly, Gardner claims that “boycotts of Israel” are “not strictly CST’s business”).

Since Israel’s attack on Gaza began on 7 July, there have been a number of despicable anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, including an assault on a rabbi, vandalism of a synagogue in Belfast, a swastika being painted on a family home, and numerous racist tweets.

In an article last week, Gardner said there were at least 200 antisemitic incidents in July – but he then went on to condemn those who are asking supermarkets to stop “sell[ing] Israeli goods.”

The reason for this disturbing conflation is that CST is not simply an anti-racism charity.

As recently as 2012, as revealed by The Electronic Intifada, the CST was helping to lead the so-called Fair Play Campaign Group, a “coalition of major pro-Israel organisations” that works to “fight boycotts of Israel.”

As revealed in secret documents published by The Electronic Intifada in 2011, CST privately denounced to the government campaigners like Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network as “extreme groups.” It has also participated in Israeli government conferences where strategies to undermine and fight Palestine solidarity campaigners are discussed and planned.


Now, as more people heed the Palestinian call to challenge complicity with Israeli war crimes through boycott and divestment strategies, those seeking to single out Israel for impunity are likely to get more desperate – and shameless – in the tactics they deploy to smear solidarity activists.

That includes linking “pro-Palestinian protesters” to violence, or claiming demonstrations are the work of “Islamists” and “their far-left allies” (a long-standing talking point of Israel’s propagandists).

This kind of shrill defensiveness is likely to be particularly pronounced on campuses, as students return after an unparalleled massacre in Gaza with renewed energy for BDS campaigns. Support for Palestinians under occupation, and campaigns to end complicity with war crimes in Gaza, will no doubt be portrayed as “intimidation“ of Jewish students. It is currently an official policy of the Union of Jewish Students to “counter the BDS movement.”

But it is unlikely to work. Those calling for an arms embargo, those urging divestment from complicit companies, those organizing boycotts in all their forms, are people of different backgrounds, including Jews. They are responding to the Palestinian call for solidarity which, at its heart, is an anti-racist struggle for liberation and decolonization.




It is time the CST, and other supporters of Israel, face up to the fact that Israel IS AN APARTHEID STATE. This has nothing to do with anti-semitism. BDS is growing worldwide precisely because Israel has abused every decent universal law on human rights. Sixty seven years of Palestinian dispossession, 47 years of military occupation, and now the massacre of a besieged Gaza population of 1.8 million cannot - and MUST not - continue. Israel is crumbling, and the sooner the better.
Huda Giddens


I have heard so many reports lately about the "new" anti-Semitism in Europe. These reports are all on NPR, and discuss Italy and France where Jewish businesses have been supposedly boycotted because the owners support Israel. I don't believe these reports. I think they must be reports conflating BDS with anti-semitism in order to whip up fear. But I have no proof about that. Does anyone have actual information that hasn't gone through "watchdogs" and propaganda groups?


It's absolutely heinous the way Israeli Zionists move steadily and ruthlessly on their course of apartheid, expulsion and extermination while their filthy lying propaganda machines generate a bullshit rhetoric about totally neutralized and virtually non-existant "terrorist" threats against poor besieged, embattled Israel to justify their murderous brutality. There is absolutely NO ONE and NOTHING on earth that threatens Israel. They are as unified and militaristic as army ants, determined to either dispossess into exile or kill all who "differ" from them. The first step is to completely rebuke the lies that their "community" organizations worldwide are spewing, especially in North America, to decieve us into helping them commit the holocaust that they intend to commit. Join BDS and be active, demonstrate at Israeli Consulates and recruit your friends and their friends. This NEEDS TO BE ALL OF HUMANITY TOGETHER...if there IS any Humanity we need to earn the right to use that word again by saving Gaza. Peace is for EVERYONE.


I'm a despora, though I say despora, you wouldn'rt probably say so.... but my grandfather was jewwsish nd I have felt the fear of antisemitism, I don't know if you would even count it as newsworthy but it happens between the lines and you don't even know. If my grandfather was gabdmother maybe you would, but you won't. I wish you all the luck in the world and I no means wish you ill but I probably wish you better then you wish me.

Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.