AS a proud self-identifying Jew and Zionist, I’m under constant pressure to support a wide variety of campaigns that affect the Jewish world.
In each case, I have to make a choice, and central to the making of that choice is the question of whether the cause is worth fighting for — whether, to quote the time-honoured phrase, “the game is worth the candle”.
If I decide that “the game is not worth the candle”, or that I risk invoking the law of unintended consequences, I decline the invitation.
Bearing this in mind, I want to consider the recent prosecution of Alison Chabloz.
Last month, Chabloz was convicted of posting “grossly offensive” material on YouTube.
This material consisted of songs, written and sung by her, that accused Jews of “bleeding dry” the rest of the world and controlling the media.
More specifically, she mocked the Holocaust.
Set in part to traditional Jewish folk music (such as Hava Nagila), the renditions included one song describing Auschwitz as “a theme park” and the gas chambers a “proven hoax.”
As prosecutor Karen Robinson told Westminster magistrates’ court: “Miss Chabloz’s songs are a million miles away from an attempt to provide an academic critique of the Holocaust.
“They’re not political songs. They are no more than a dressed-up attack on a group of people for no more than their adherence to a religion.”
District judge John Zani agreed. He ruled that he was satisfied the material was grossly offensive and that Chabloz intended to insult Jewish people. Chabloz was, accordingly, convicted on two charges of causing an offensive, indecent or menacing message to be sent over a public communications network. She may well go to prison.
That this case was brought to court at all is due to the heroic efforts of the Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Originally, the Crown Prosecution Service declined to take the case forward. It was only after the intervention of the CAA, which began a private prosecution, that the CPS was persuaded to change its mind.
That being the case, I must put on record my genuinely sincere admiration for the CAA’s single-minded tenacity — of which the successful Chabloz prosecution is merely the latest example.
But having done this, I have to ask: Was the game worth the candle?
I’ve no doubt whatsoever that Chabloz is a nasty piece of work.
Watching her calculated sarcastic antics on YouTube, I recalled that when I visited Auschwitz it did not strike me as a “theme park” at all.
None of the visitors who accompanied me laughed or even smiled. I wept. Chabloz’s light-hearted lyrics are indeed grossly offensive, as I imagine she fully intended them to be.
But within the morbid, twisted circles in which she apparently delights to move, her prosecution and conviction risk turning her into a folk heroine — a martyr (it will be said) to the cause of freedom of expression and a victim (it will be asserted) of a Jewish conspiracy.
Chabloz has, in fact, claimed that she was provoked to write the songs for which she has been convicted following her losing her job with Aida Cruises, which reacted thus to an anti-Israel tweet she had posted.
Her alibi is that the tweet may have been anti-Israeli, but it was not antisemitic.
The danger now is that, as a convicted criminal, her credibility will be bolstered, not broken.
And this possibility is likely to gain further momentum following post-trial remarks by CAA patron Sir Eric Pickles, who has called for a new law against Holocaust denial to ensure perpetrators can receive sentences longer than the current maximum of six months.
I cannot see the point of lengthening this maximum. Indeed I cannot see the point of wasting any public money on keeping Chabloz in any sort of prison.
Chabloz was convicted under the Communications Act 2003. The best outcome would be for her to be tasked with a significant period of unpaid community service, perhaps (under strict supervision) caring for Holocaust survivors.
In the UK, there is currently no law against Holocaust denial. This is a status quo that I also support. Freedom of expression is a precious flower, and to mutilate just one of its petals — even with the best of intentions — is to endanger its very survival.
British Jewry has bigger battles to win than the conviction of an insignificant nobody like Alison Chabloz.
She has reportedly been disowned by her daughter and thrown out by her elderly parents.
Let’s leave it at that!