Campaign Against Antisemitism UK

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The Campaign Against Antisemitism UK (CAA) was established in early August 2014. Its stated mission is to '[empower] individuals to counter antisemitism in all its forms, including both classical antisemitism as well as antisemitism which masquerades as political opposition to Israel'.[1] It is led by Gideon Falter (chairman).[1]

Establishment

The CAA was established 'by half-a-dozen activists and funded by private donations', presenting itself as a response to the alleged increase in the presence of anti-Israel and antisemitic behaviour and sentiment in the UK.[2] It was set up in early August 2014, during Israel's 'Operation Protective Edge' operation in Gaza.

In an account of his involvement, current CAA chairman Gideon Falter describes having been outraged during the Gaza conflict by the British media's 'insistence on holding Israel to exceptional, impossible standards', which 'helped to feed the oldest hatred'. The result was that in Britain 'Israel's case was deliberately stifled', while expressing 'support for Israel was enough to make the disinterested "right thinking" mainstream of British society wince'. His discomfort grew, he says, when pro-Palestinian protestors did not object to some in their midst who chanted antisemitic slogans. He was dismayed to find that the antisemites, at rallies and online, 'were not arrested'. At this point, Joseph Cohen, Darren Borg, Justin Chorn and Jordan Jay created a Facebook group, Campaign Against Antisemitism. When the Tricycle Theatre then decided to boycott the UK Jewish Film Festival (which was funded by the Israeli state), Rupert Nathan launched a Facebook campaign, which 'soon joined forces' with the CAA. Nathan Hopstein and Mandy Blumenthal also 'entered the fray'.

Falter sent the group a Facebook message with advice, and they admitted him as a member. He called in Jonathan Sacerdoti as a 'media man', and within a week, they had 'developed a plan': to call for 'zero tolerance enforcement of existing laws against anti-Semitism by the police'. According to Falter, the group and the subsequent rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice it organised was set up by a 'group of like-minded people who did not know each other just a month before'.[3]

Activities

The CAA presents itself as a grassroots direct-action alternative or supplement to the quieter, and for some British Jews complacent, approach supposedly taken by the Board of Deputies. Says the CAA:

Alongside the traditional channels (reporting antisemitism to the police and community security trust). We believe the community must also take direct action to combat the increasing hostility Anglo-Jewry is experiencing. We counter antisemitic protests, seek out antisemites online and apply direct pressure to organisations and institutions that enable antisemitism in the UK.[1]

Demonstrations

The group is primarily active online, but has also organised several demonstrations:

  • 7 August, 2014: the group staged a protest outside the Tricycle Theatre against its dropping of the UK Jewish Film Festival, which is funded by the Israeli state.[4] It claimed an attendance of 350 people.[5] Other sources reported 'more than 100'[6] and 'around 250'.[7]
  • 4 September, 2014: CAA members staged a counter-protest against a demo by the 'increasingly hostile BDS movement' outside Marks & Spencer's in Marble Arch. They report being 'subjected to a range of antisemitic abuse', including 'Nazi salutes', and that 'a number of arrests followed'.[13]
  • 11 January, 2015: CAA invited its Facebook followers to attend a demonstration in Trafalgar Square organised by the French Embassy in response to an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, in which four hostages were killed.[14] The CAA designed placards reading Je Suis Juif - a reference to the 'Je Suis Charlie' slogan widely voiced to express solidarity with the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, 12 of whose staff were killed in an attack by two gunmen on 7 January, 2015.[15]

Facebook campaigns

As well as its website (former URL), the CAA maintains an active Facebook group, which as of 14 January 2015 has 6,518 likes. It was set up on 1 August, 2014. As well as sharing links about antisemitism and protests against Israel, it organises online 'Action Campaign[s]' and 'Call[s] to Action'. Issues have included:

  • Antisemitic tweets: the FB group posts images of tweet deemed antisemitic and urges followers to contact report their authors to the police and to their employers.[16]
  • Tricycle Theatre: Tricycle Theatre refused to host the Israeli state-funded UK Jewish film festival; the CAA called for a 7 August 2014 protest against this echo of 'the Nazi boycott of Jewish enterprise after Hitler's election'.[17]
  • Counter-boycott: the CAA urged support for the Kedem cosmetics shop in Manchester, targeted by some Palestinian activists for boycott. The CAA tried to show that much of the activism was motivated by antisemitism.[18] (On 22 August, 2014, Greater Manchester Police imposed restrictions on Gaza protestors in Manchester.[19]
  • Sainsbury's kosher drop: CAA was one of a number of groups organising protest, primarily online protest, against the decision by a Sainsbury's store in Holborn to remove kosher food items from its shelves in advance of a pro-Palestinian protest.[20]

2015 Antisemitism polls

In January 2015, newspaper headlines reported that nearly half of Britons subscribe to at least one antisemitic belief.[21] They were based on the findings of a YouGov survey commissioned by CAA,[22] which polled, inter alia, the following beliefs: 'Jews chase money more than other British people'; 'Jews' loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people'; 'Jews think they are better than other people' and 'have too much power in the media'; and 'Jews talk about the Holocaust too much in order to get sympathy'. The poll found, CAA claimed, that 45% of British adults believe at least one of the polled statements; 26% believe at least two and 17% believe at least three. The YouGov poll was published by the CAA together with the results of a second, separate online survey they had carried out themselves of self-selected British Jews, finding high levels of fear and insecurity.

In news reports, Jonathan Sacerdoti was quoted as CAA spokesperson.[21] A foreword to the CAA report, co-authored by Sacerdoti (Director of Communications) and Gideon Falter (Chairman) claimed:

Whilst antisemitism in Britain is not yet at the levels seen in most of Europe, the results of our survey should be a wakeup call. Britain is at a tipping point: unless antisemitism is met with zero tolerance, it will continue to grow and British Jews may increasingly question their place in their own country.[22]

In the context of the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre the findings were widely reported.[23] The Independent, for example, ran a front-page story headlined 'The new anti-semitism', which quoted CAA chairman Gideon Falter as follows:

These results are shocking wake up call straight after the atrocities in Paris. Britain is at a tipping point: unless antisemitism is met with zero tolerance, it will grow and British Jews will increasingly question their place in their own country.[24]

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles issued a bland response to the report, affirming that the government will 'continue to take a zero-tolerance approach' to prosecuting 'hate crimes'.[25]

The CAA's report also attracted serious criticism, including from more established Jewish organisations, many of whom were reportedly 'absolutely furious' with its unprofessionalism.[26]

Ha'aretz reporter Anshel Pfeffer argued that several of the allegedly antisemitic beliefs polled by YouGov do not necessarily amount to antisemitism, and criticised methodology of CAA's survey of British Jews as leading to an unrepresentative sample. He added:

The last finding in the survey is that 56 percent agree that 'the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Britain has some echoes of the 1930s'. If the majority of British Jews and the authors of the CAA report actually believe that, then it’s hard to take anything they say about contemporary anti-Semitism in their home country seriously. If they honestly think that the situation in Britain today echoes the 1930s when Jews were still banned from a wide variety of clubs and associations, when a popular fascist party, supported by members of the nobility and popular newspapers, were marching in support of Hitler, when large parts of the British establishment were appeasing Nazi Germany and the government was resolutely opposed to allowing Jewish refugees of Nazism in to Britain, finally relenting in 1938 to allow 10,000 children to arrive — but not their parents who were to die in the Holocaust (that shameful aspect of the Kindertransport that is seldom mentioned) — and when the situation of Jews in other European countries at the time was so much worse, then not only are they woefully ignorant of recent Jewish history but have little concept of what real anti-Semitism is beyond the type they see online.[27]

Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), dismissed CAA's own survey of British Jewish opinion as having 'little, if any, methodological credibility'. He also characterised the CAA's presentation of the YouGov poll as 'deeply flawed'.[28] In a detailed critique, the JPR found the CAA's survey to be 'littered with flaws' and 'irresponsible'. Due to 'quite basic methodological flaws and weaknesses', its poll of British Jews had 'very limited capacity' to assess the representativeness of its sample. The survey of British attitudes towards Jews conducted by YouGov was methodologically 'much better', but its findings had been presented by the CAA in a 'sensationalist' manner. Whereas the CAA claimed that nearly half of Britons harbour antisemitic views,

A far more accurate and honest read of the YouGov data would highlight the fact that between 75% and 90% of people in Britain either do not hold antisemitic views or have no particular view of Jews either way, and only about 4% to 5% of people can be characterised as clearly antisemitic when looking at individual measures of antisemitism. This figure is similar to Pew data gathered in 2009 and 2014 which estimated the level of antisemitic attitudes at somewhere between 2% and 7%, and Anti-Defamation League data gathered in 2014 which, while also flawed, put it at 8%, and, more robustly, identified the UK as among the least antisemitic countries in the world.[29]

Community Security Trust deputy director of communications Dave Rich dismissed CAA's poll as 'essentially repeat[ing]... the findings of last year’s ADL Global 100 Survey: a stubborn minority of British people – between 10 per cent and 20 per cent – clings onto stereotypical ways of thinking about Jews'. 'This does not', he added, 'necessarily translate into conscious or active dislike of Jews... So much for the numbers'. He emphasised, as against CAA's alarmism, that 'most of the time, most British Jews do not encounter antisemitism and are able to live whatever Jewish lives they choose'.[30] In a radio interview, CST director of communications Mark Gardner commented of the survey that 'the methodology is not perhaps as good as it should be'. He continued:

The survey asks seven different questions, and it says if you answer 'yes' to one of them, then that makes you some kind of antisemite'... and 45% of British people are therefore antisemites. And that's not the case... For example, 'I would be unhappy if a family member married a Jew' [this was one of the statements polled]. Is it antisemitic if you say 'yes'?... If a Jewish person says, 'I would be unhappy if a family member married a non-Jew', would that make that Jewish person a racist?'[31]

In a joint statement, the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies noted the 'methodological flaws' of the CAA's poll of Jewish attitudes but agreed that 'we should not be complacent'. It insisted, however, that 'it is important to remember that the current level and nature of antisemitism in Britain is not as bad as we have seen in France and other European countries and incidents of a violent nature are much lower than they have been in previous years', and concluded that Britain is 'unquestionably' a 'safe place for Jews to live'.[32]

Dr. Keith Kahn-Karris, lecturer at Leo Baeck College and Birkbeck College and editor of the Jewish Quarterly and Jewish Journal of Sociology, dismissed the CAA survey of British Jewish opinion as 'methodologically invalid. There can be no confidence in its representativeness'.[33]

The results of a more robustly sampled survey by the Jewish Chronicle were published shortly after the CAA's report, and painted a far less pessimistic picture of Anglo-Jewish opinion. Whereas the CAA survey had found that one in four Jews have considered leaving Britain, the JC poll returned a figure of just 11%.[34]

On 8 January, 2015, CAA chairman Gideon Falter attended a meeting with Home Secretary Theresa May 'to address last year's recording-breaking number of antisemitic incidents' in the UK. (Notably, the CAA was not represented at a meeting organised by the Jewish Leadership Council of leading Jewish organisations with Prime Minister David Cameron.)[35] Falter reportedly proposed a 'five-point plan':

1. Production of a quick reference guide on how to enforce the law against antisemitic hate crime for police officers and prosecutors;
2. Strengthening oversight mechanisms within the Police and CPS to ensure that the response to antisemitism is as firm as the law will permit;
3. Taking enforcement action against the organisers of marches and protests which become intimidatory or antisemitic;
4. Ensuring that social networks tackle online hate crime effectively; and

5. Formally adopting a definition of antisemitism which includes antisemitism disguised as anti-Israel political discourse.[36]

It is not clear what if anything this 'plan' adds to existing Home Office policy, nor in what specifically CAA's 'zero tolerance agenda' consists.

The fifth point of the 'plan' merits attention. In an op-ed published in the wake of the report, Gideon Falter wrote:

In three separate questions 80% linked antisemitism with anti-Israel activity and media bias. These figures will now feed into our discussions with the government.[37]

In another such op-ed, he wrote:

What many will probably seek to brush aside from our survey is the crossover between anti-Israel activism and anti-Semitism. 84% of Jews think boycotts of Israeli businesses are intimidatory. 82% of Jews think anti-Semitism has been fuelled by biased reporting on Israel. 77% have personally witnessed anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel activism. The tone of debate around Israel has become one of pure hatred – there is no debate. When thugs enter shops and throw all of the kosher food on the ground because it’s ‘Israeli’ or stand outside Jewish events shouting “Baby killers!”, it’s not hard to understand what is really happening. Anti-Israel protests are increasingly the scene of anti-Semitic acts, and we must cease to allow the perpetrators to get away with saying that they only meant to criticise Israel.[38]

This second survey, still cited by Falter and by Sacerdoti as suggesting a popular association between boycotts of goods produced in occupied territories and anti-semitism,[39] was of 2,230 self-selected Jewish people by circulating a web link, and not carried about by a polling agency.[22] It was this survey that was criticised as unrepresentative, "littered with flaws" and potentially "irresponsible" by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research[29], as well as by the JLC, Board of Deputies and Kahn-Harris.[40]

Pro-Israel groups have long sought to promote definitions of anti-semitism, such as the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which threaten to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. It is not clear how the CAA proposes to distinguish 'antisemitism disguised as anti-Israel political discourse' from 'anti-Israel political discourse' that has nothing to do with antisemitism.

Criticism from Board of Deputies

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) criticised the CAA's study in a March 2015 email to subscribers. It explained that BOD representatives had reassured concerned American Jewish leaders about the level of anti-Semitism in the UK, during a visit to the U.S., saying they articulated the belief that:

the methodology of the widely circulated Campaign Against Anti-Semitism poll was flawed and had exaggerated the degree of fear.[41]

Anglo-Jewish politics

As noted, the CAA's 31 August, 2014 rally against antisemitism in London was supported by the United Synagogue and Board of Deputies. CAA spokesperson Jonathan Sacerdoti said of this backing: 'The establishment was very supportive; some might say they didn’t want to get left behind'.[2] On the day of the protest, he told a reporter,

It is great that the communal organisations who have been criticised for not doing enough have come on board and have supported us in organising an important day.[42]

As Sacerdoti's comment suggests, and as Ha'aretz reports, the Campaign Against Antisemitism is an intervention in Anglo-Jewish politics.[2] Its context appears to be one of increasing grassroots discontent among Jewish and pro-Israel activists with the performance of communal bodies on Israel and antisemitism. As one newspaper reported:

At the rally, there was audible booing when the representatives of the Board of Deputies – President Vivian Wineman and Senior Vice President Laura Marks – ascended the podium to speak. The Jewish Chronicle’s Marcus Dysch tweeted that people were shouting things like 'you need to do more', 'resign', and 'shame'.[43]

The Community Security Trust (CST), the most important UK Jewish organisation concerned with (inter alia) monitoring antisemitism, reacted coolly to the CAA. CST deputy director of communication Dave Rich observed that, while the frequency of antisemitic incidents spiked during Israel's 'Operation Protective Edge', 'a lot of anti-Israel language and activism isn’t anti-Semitic or illegal'.[2] Of the two grievances that CAA has concentrated on[44] - the Tricycle Theatre's dropping of the Israeli state-funded UK Jewish Film Festival and a decision by a Sainsbury's supermarket in Holborn to remove kosher food from display lest it provoke pro-Palestinian protestors - Rich stressed that these were 'very much isolated incidents... bad decisions quickly overturned'.[2] Rich also played down suggestions that antisemitism was a significant motor of popular protest against Israel's attack on Gaza: 'Examples of anti-Semitism at the demos did exist, on the fringes, with home-made banners – it didn’t characterize the demos as a whole'. He added that protests against 'Protective Edge' were much better than those against 'Operation Cast Lead' in 2008-9.[2]

People

The CAA's 2015 report, Annual Antisemitism Barometer: 2015 Annual Report lists the following staff members:

The CAA's website lists an additional four members:[1]

Previously listed members include:[45]

Links to Israel advocacy

Several people involved in the CAA have strong links to pro-Israel campaigning. Jonathan Sacerdoti formerly worked for the Zionist Federation[46], while Joseph Cohen founded the Israel Advocacy Movement.[47] In 2014 Mandy Blumethal described herself as "very active in" West Midlands Friends of Israel.[48]

Contact

Website: http://www.campaignagainstantisemitism.com/ | http://antisemitism.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/campaignagainstantisemitism
Twitter: https://twitter.com/caantisemitism
Email: info@antisemitism.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)330 822 0321

Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 'About Us', CampaignAgainstAntisemitism.com; accessed: 16 September, 2014 at 7.49am.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Daniella Peled, 'Shaken by post-Gaza war hostility, U.K. Jews push back', Ha'aretz (15 September, 2014).
  3. Gideon Falter, 'Let’s turn fear of anti-Semitism into fight', Jewish News (3 September, 2014).
  4. Sandy Rashty, 'UK Jewish Film Festival banned from the Tricycle Theatre: But some won’t attack boycott, Jewish Chronicle (7 August, 2014).
  5. CAA, Facebook post (7 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 2014, at 9.05am.
  6. Anna Dubuis, Louise Jury and Alexandra Rucki, 'Huge protest calling on boycott of Tricycle Theatre over Jewish Film Festival ban, Evening Standard (7 August, 2014).
  7. Sandy Rashty, 'Demonstrators at Tricycle protest against UK Jewish Film Festival boycott', Jewish Chronicle (7 August, 2014).
  8. CAA, 'Rally to Demand Zero Tolerance of Antisemitism', Facebook event page (22 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 2014, at 9.25am.
  9. CAA, Facebook post (31 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 9.36am.
  10. Anil Dawar, 'Police must do more to tackle the rise of anti-Semitism, campaigners say', Daily Express (28 August, 2014).
  11. 'IN PICTURES: Thousands rally for zero tolerance to anti-Semitism, Jewish News (2 September, 2014); CAA, Facebook post (31 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 2014, at 9.40am.
  12. 'Following Campaign Against Antisemitism's rally, David Cameron speaks out against antisemitism', YouTube video (uploaded 1 September, 2014, by Jonathan Sacerdoti); accessed: 16 September 2014, at 9.43am.
  13. CAA, Facebook post, (5 September, 13:05).
  14. CAA, Facebook Event' (10 January, 2015); accessed: 14 January 2015, at 10:14.
  15. CAA, 'Facebook post' (11 January, 2015); accessed: 14 January 2015, at 10:18.
  16. See, for instance, CAA, Facebook post (4 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 2014, at 8:51am. In a 6 August, 2014 update (accessed: 16 September, 2014, at 8.58am), the CAA reported that one outed tweeter's employer had reminded him of 'their Social Media policy and Code of Conduct', and that he had been reported to the police. 'Hopefully' he 'will learn his lesson'. Cf. Facebook post (7 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 2014, at 9.04am); Facebook post (7 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 2014, 9.10am.
  17. CAA, Facebook post (5 August, 2014); accessed: 16 September, 2014, at 8.56am.
  18. See, e.g., CAA Facebook posts on 17 August, 2014; 14 August, 2014; 13 August, 2014; 6 August, 2014; accessed: 16 September, 2014, 9.21am.
  19. Todd Fitzgerald, 'Gaza protesters banned from King Street after weeks of demonstrations', Manchester Evening News (22 August, 2014).
  20. See, e.g., CAA Facebook posts on 17 August, 2014; 18 August, 2014 accessed 16 September, 2014, at 9.23 am.
  21. 21.0 21.1 E.g. Ben Quin, 'Almost half of Britons hold antisemitic view, poll suggests', Guardian (14 January, 2015).
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 CAA, Annual Antisemitism Barometer: 2015 Full Report.
  23. E.g. Gregory Walton, 'Survey shows anti-Semitic views are common among Britons', Daily Telegraph (14 January, 2015); Ben Quin, 'Almost half of Britons hold antisemitic view, poll suggests', Guardian (14 January, 2015); Barclay McBain, 'Agenda: No room for complacency in confronting anti-Semitism, the hate that outlives all others', Herald Scotland (15 January, 2015); 'Surveys show spike in British anti-Semitism', Ha'aretz (14 January, 2015); 'Warning over rising tide of anti-Semitism in Britain with one in eight people claiming that Jews talk about the Holocaust to get sympathy', Daily Mail (14 January, 2015).
  24. Cahal Milmo, 'The new anti-Semitism: Majority of British Jews feel they have no future in UK, says new study', The Independent (14 January, 2015).
  25. Eric Pickles MP, 'Statement from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles following the publication of a survey by the Campaign Against Antisemitism', Gov.uk (14 January, 2015); accessed: 16 January 2015, at 9.26am.
  26. Marcus Dysch, Tweet (14 January, 2015); accessed: 16 January 2015, at 10.07am.
  27. Anshel Pfeffer, 'U.K. anti-Semitism report highlights disturbing trend - among British Jews', Ha'aretz (14 January, 2015).
  28. Jonathan Boyd, 'Analysis: British Jewry and a feeling of insecurity', Jerusalem Post (15 January, 2015).
  29. 29.0 29.1 Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 'Researching antisemitism' (14 January, 2015).
  30. Dave Rich, 'We must ensure that antisemitism gets no foothold in Britain', Left Foot Forward (14 January, 2015).
  31. Mark Gardner, 'Keep Calm and Carry On: The future of Britain’s Jews', TLV1 radio interview (14 January, 2015); accessed: 16 January 2015, at 9.51am.
  32. 'The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews Response To "Poll of Jewish Attitudes"', Jewish Leadership Council (14 January, 2015).
  33. 'JC poll reveals 88 per cent of British Jews have not considered leaving UK', Jewish Chronicle (14 January, 2015).
  34. 'JC poll reveals 88 per cent of British Jews have not considered leaving UK', Jewish Chronicle (14 January, 2015); Stephen Pollard, 'A better way to report the views of British Jews', Jewish Chronicle (14 January, 2015).
  35. 'Jewish Community Leaders Meet With Prime Minister David Cameron]', Jewish Leadership Council (13 January, 2015).
  36. CAA, 'CAMPAIGN AGAINST ANTISEMITISM MEETS WITH HOME SECRETARY, POLICE AND CPS CHIEFS TO ADDRESS ANTISEMITISM, Facebook (10 January, 2015); accessed: 14 January 2015, 11.12am.
  37. Gideon Falter, '‘Campaign Against Antisemitism is the freedom litmus test’', Jewish News (15 January, 2015).
  38. Gideon Falter, 'Britain’s tsunami of anti-Semitism', Times of Israel (14 January, 2015).
  39. Sacerdoti was interviewed on BBC R4's The Moral Maze, broadcast 17 Feb 2016.
  40. "Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia", Clive D. Field, 18 Jan 2015, British Religion in Numbers: http://www.brin.ac.uk/2015/anti-semitism-and-islamophobia/ accessed 21 Feb 2016
  41. Community Briefing 5 March 2014, Board of Deputies, 5 March 2015
  42. Rosa Doherty, 'Thousands turn out for London rally against antisemitism', Jewish Chronicle (31 August, 2014).
  43. Liam Hoare, 'Thousands rally in London against rising anti-Semitism', Times of Israel (1 September, 2014).
  44. As of 16 September, 2014, they were the only specific issues to be granted their own Categories on the CAA website: Sainsbury's Holborn and Tricycle Theatre.
  45. 'Who we are', CampaignAgainstAntisemitism.com; accessed: 16 September, 2014.
  46. ZIONIST FEDERATION CONDEMNS TUC CONGRESS APPROVAL OF DISCRIMINATORY BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI GOODS, Zionist Federation News, accessed 19 July 2012
  47. The Team Israel Advocacy Movement, accessed 5 May 2016.
  48. OPINION: The Power of a letter: From West Midlands Friends of Israel, Jewish News, 23 November 2014, accessed 5 May 2016.