Did an Israel Lobbyist Confect an Antisemitism Story About a Palestine Demo?

Evidence shared with Novara Media suggests so.

by Rivkah Brown

22 April 2024

A group of people hold banners that say 'zero tolerance for antisemites' and similar slogans
Gideon Falter (second from right) on a march organised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, alongside (left to right) Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and actors Eddie Marsan and Tracy-Ann Oberman, November 2023. Photo: Steve Eason/Flickr

On Thursday, a video began circulating of a Metropolitan police officer instructing a Jewish man to leave a pro-Palestine march.

“You are quite openly Jewish,” the officer told Gideon Falter, who’d seemingly stumbled across the central London demo on 13 April. “This is a pro-Palestinian march. I’m not accusing you of anything, but I am worried about the reaction to your presence.” The officer threatened Falter with arrest for breaching the peace, and he left voluntarily.

The video spread like wildfire. Evidence shared with Novara Media suggests it was set up.

Working the media.

By Friday, the video was in every UK mainstream media outlet, including the Telegraph, Independent, Daily Mail, Guardian, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC. The Met was forced to apologise, retract its apology, then apologise for the apology. While the Home Office issued a statement welcoming the Met’s contrition over the incident, Falter continued his media crusade unappeased.

On Saturday, he published a comment piece on his ordeal in the Times. By Sunday his story had gone global, featuring on Fox News and ABC as well as Israel’s Ynet and Haaretz. By Monday, Falter was the subject of hastily written puff pieces in the Times of Israel and the Sunday Times.

Following his gangbuster media round, on Sunday Falter called for Met commissioner Mark Rowley’s head. His call did not go unanswered: Rowley’s boss Sadiq Khan will meet him on Monday to discuss community relations, though it appears the commissioner has narrowly escaped dismissal. Rowley will also get a dressing down from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust later this week.

Perhaps sensing an opportunity to develop his “Britain is in chaos” narrative, prime minister Rishi Sunak added his two cents on the matter on Monday, saying he was “appalled” by the police’s treatment of Falter.

Yet just as quickly as the incident was making headlines, Falter’s account of it was unravelling.

Citation needed.

Media coverage of the altercation described Falter as an “antisemitism campaigner” – as well as running the UK arm of the land-grabbing Jewish National Fund, Falter is CEO of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), an organisation established in 2014 during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge that killed 2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, and which published the video of Falter’s police interaction.

Most outlets failed to mention that Falter has for months been lobbying to ban the weekly pro-Palestine demonstrations.

In December, Falter gave oral evidence to the home affairs committee, castigating Rowley for permitting the demos. In November, the CAA held a rival anti-antisemitism march, which caused controversy after attracting far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson. Falter has on multiple occasions driven CAA propaganda vans through the Palestine demos.

Falter claims he was just passing through when he came across the demo. Evidence shared with Novara Media suggests he wasn’t.

“Last weekend I went to synagogue, as I do most Saturdays,” Falter wrote in his Times op-ed. “After the service I went for a walk, as I do most Saturdays.”

“I’m just a Jew in London trying to cross the road,” Falter can be heard telling an officer in the video.

Yet video footage and eyewitness testimony shared with Novara Media calls Falter’s narrative into question.

Getting to the truth.

Caolán, who requested that Novara Media only use his first name, saw Falter in Russell Square at around 11.30am on 13 April, over an hour before the march set off and long before any Shabbat service would have ended. Dan, who also asked to be referred to by his first name for fear of professional reprisal, spotted the group walking along Southampton Street near Holborn at around 1pm. It would be a further hour before freelance investigative journalist John Lubbock captured Falter’s altercation with police a few hundred metres away, on Aldwych, at around 2pm.

Speaking to Novara Media, Lubbock said that Falter appeared to have crossed onto Aldwych from the righthand side of the road, where a small pro-Israel counter-demonstration was taking place. “The obvious conclusion was that he had been part of that demonstration,” said Lubbock. In the CAA video, the officer can be seen offering to escort Falter to the Israel flags.

In his Times op-ed, Falter speaks of being accompanied by a group of five men. The video evidence suggests these weren’t just any individuals but included bodyguards and a videographer (in the majority of traditions, it is against Jewish law to use electronic devices on the Sabbath).

“He wasn’t being provocative because he was wearing a kippah,” said Lubbock. “He was being provocative because he was with a group of large bouncers. People wear uniforms that show political affiliations, we know how subcultures work. … He’s gone there to provoke.”

Sure enough, the officer in the video can be seen telling Falter: “I’ve already seen you deliberately leave the pavement and walk against this march”, describing his claim to be simply passing through as “disingenuous”.

On Monday morning, Falter was interviewed on Sky News alongside Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) director Ben Jamal.

Hours earlier, the PSC and other march co-organisers had published a joint statement condemning Falter’s “dishonest antics”. Jamal elaborated on these remarks in the Sky interview, pointing out to Falter that hundreds of Jews have participated in the pro-Palestine demonstrations as part of an organised Jewish bloc.

Falter described Jamal’s claim as “rubbish” before saying “I don’t want to continue having a conversation with Ben Jamal”.

A photo has since emerged of a group of Jewish elders – among them Hungarian Holocaust survivor Stephen Kapos – holding up pro-Palestine placards metres away from Falter.

A group of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants pose with pro-Palestine placards on a march
Photo: Mark Etkind

By Monday, Falter’s story was beginning to ring hollow even to establishment politicians and journalists.

“Listening now to the full account of the ‘openly Jewish’ incident,” tweeted ex-Times journalist David Aaronovitch, “it is apparent that Gideon Falter was angling for an incident just like this.”

“Having now seen the longer video of the police interaction with Gideon Falter, I see that we have been misled,” wrote former crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal, “The officer may have been more careful with his words, but Mr Falter was provocative to the point that an arrest for breach of the peace might have been justified.”

“I have watched the … clip that’s on Sky News and it’s a totally different encounter to the one Gideon Falter has reported,” former Metropolitan police chief superintendent Dal Babu told the BBC. “The narrative that’s been pushed is not accurate.”

Meanwhile, government “antisemitism tsar” Lord John Mann appeared on BBC News arguing that Falter and the CAA “have other objectives in this” and “are not playing it straight”.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism did not respond to Novara Media’s request for comment.

Rivkah Brown is a commissioning editor and reporter at Novara Media.

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