A response to Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Antisemitism

[NB: The following is cross-posted with my Facebook page]

In response to the publication of Campaign Against Antisemitism’s latest ‘Antisemitism Barometer’, I recently wrote an article for the Jewish Chronicle explaining my concerns about the methodology and the organisation’s lack of collegiality. In the following week’s paper, Gideon Falter, chair of the CAA, responded to my article, taking issue with some of the points I raised.

In order to continue the exchange, I have written with a public letter to Gideon Falter:

Dear Gideon

I’m pleased that you publicly responded to my JC article on the CAA survey. Given that you have rarely directly engaged with critics before, this is certainly a positive step. I’d like to continue the conversation by responding to your article with some further questions and comments:

- First of all, you state that I ‘might just as well have asked us by email as in a newspaper column.’ First of all, I think that, given that antisemitism is such a public issue and that research is a public act, this kind of debate does need to happen in public. But more importantly, one of the reasons I have not tried to engage with the CAA privately is from my frustrations at past attempts to engage with you. During the fieldwork phase of your first survey and also after it came out, I tried to post comments asking questions about the methodology on Facebook. Those comments were deleted. In addition, one your activists — who has played a central role in your organisation — with whom I had previously enjoyed cordial relations, defriended me. Those experiences, together with your general lack of reference to the work of others, gave me no confidence in your willingness to engage with critics.

- On the 2015 survey of Jews, I note that you have substantially changed your methodology. Do you now accept that the criticisms made at the time were valid? Do you now disown the survey?

- Can you explain your decision to carry out fieldwork partially during the summer break? And can you explain how you made the decision to keep the survey open for just 3 weeks? Was this always the plan? If so, how could you be confident in advance that this period would be sufficient? Can you explain why you think this was sufficient time?

- You claim to have reached out to Jewish communal organisations to ensure that the survey was widely circulated. Which organisations did you contact? How did they respond? Who shared and promoted the survey? Did you reach out to organisations that are on the left of the community that might have been suspicious of the CAA? And how far do you think your survey represents the views of the Haredi community?

- The survey of non-Jews was branded by Yougov, which probably ensured higher response from those who might have been suspicious of the CAA. Did you consider doing the same with the Jewish survey?

- You claim to have modelled the analysis on the JPR’s National Jewish Community Survey. Did you consider contacting JPR for methodological advice? While you did receive assistance from a specialist survey researcher, did you consider reaching out to a specialist in surveying the UK Jewish community?

- Why did you not compare the responses to the question regarding emigration to JPR’s Aaliyah and emigration statistics?

- Why did you not discuss or compare your results (from both surveys) from any other study on antisemitism? More broadly, why do you not comment on CST figures? Will you issue a statement on the new JPR survey when it comes out later this month?

- I note that you emphasise that CAA is a small, volunteer-led organisation with limited capacity. Fair enough. But survey research costs money. Where did this money come from? How did you make the judgement that you had the institutional and financial capacity to conduct research? Did you review existing research on antisemitism before concluding it was necessary to conduct your own.

- You claim that ‘CAA is excluded from the Jewish community’s cosy club of established bodies, but we will always be willing to collaborate constructively against antisemitism.’ In which case, can you detail any attempts you have made to collaborate with other organisations on research where you have been knocked back?

- You end your piece ‘Next time there is a conference, if he invites us, we will be delighted to come.’ Well if I organise a conference on antisemitism I will do so. However, there is nothing to stop you from registering and presenting at any number of events. Did you consider attending the ‘Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism’ conference organised by the Pears Institute last May? It included participants across the whole political spectrum. At the Limmud conference in December, why not proactively organise a panel with other organisations?

I look forward to your responses.

Best wishes

Keith