For the Jewish News July 2 2018
The Israeli-born jazz musician, Gilad Atzmon, was obliged to make a humiliating apology in the High Court on Monday after having libelled the chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), Gideon Falter.
But Atzmon, whose costs and damages are understood to have run into tens of thousands of pounds, was not in court himself, instead obliging his solicitor, Jeffrey Smele, to speak on his behalf.
Atzmon had used his website for five months from July to December 2017 to publish a series of allegations against Mr Falter, under the title “Antisemitism is merely a business plan”. He claimed that Mr Falter had dishonestly fabricated antisemitic incidents in order to profit personally and to support the activities of the CAA.
At an earlier hearing Atzmon’s lawyers attempted to claim that the words complained of in the libel action were not what Mr Falter said they meant, but this claim was dismissed by Judge Nicklin.
Instead, as Mr Falter’s counsel, William Bennett, made clear, “the allegations were false. They were hugely insulting to Mr Falter and caused him significant consternation. To make such allegations against a Jew and someone who uses his free time to lead an organisation committed to fighting antisemitism was offensive to Mr Falter.”
In his statement, read out in open court, Atzmon acknowledged that the allegation were false, agreed not to republish, and to pay damages to Mr Falter.
Nevertheless Atzmon made one last-ditch attempt to defend his actions, instructing his solicitor to say that he had “never in fact intended that his article would suggest to the reader that Mr Falter was a ‘fraudster’ or that he personally profited from his position at the CAA.” He offered a “sincere apology” to Mr Falter for his actions.
Mr Falter, who told the JN he was “not surprised that Atzmon had not shown his face in court”, said: ““For four years, I have led Campaign Against Antisemitism without earning a penny from it and at enormous personal and financial cost to myself. I am proud that we have built an organisation with great integrity to lead the fight against antisemitism in Britain. We are often accused by antisemites of seeking to stifle criticism of Israel or of making antisemitic incidents up, and I am delighted that through the work of libel lawyers Mark Lewis and William Bennett I have been able to set the record straight and expose one such antisemitic liar for what he truly is.”