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British gov’t: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is antisemitic.

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British gov’t: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is antisemitic. Empty British gov’t: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is antisemitic.

Post  dirge on Mon Dec 12, 2016 1:51 pm

Since this blog’s founding in 2009, we’ve always had a dual mission:

1. To promote fair and accurate coverage of Israel in the British media.
2. To expose and combat tropes and narratives about Israel in the British media which cross the line from legitimate criticism to antisemitism – what’s known as the ‘New Antisemitism’.

To this latter end, we were always quite clear that when we use the word “antisemitism”, our guide would be the EUMC (European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia) Working Definition (WD). Whilst you can read the entire WD here, here’s how the WD defines antisemitism with respect to Israel:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

We’ve been extremely careful about using the word antisemitism with regard to coverage of Israel, and generally only evoked the term if articles or op-eds employed rhetoric or endorsed ideas consistent with the above bullet points.  (Just yesterday, in fact, we called out The Independent  – per the first bullet point – for legitimising the charge that Zionism is a racist movement.)

The WD has been the most widely respected definition for those tasked with fighting the resurgence of anti-Jewish racism, and one which was adopted or recommended (in some form) by organisations, government bodies and agencies including the UK All-Party Inquiry into antisemitism, the US State Department, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

This morning, however, recognition was taken to the next level, as multiple news outlets reported that the British government will officially adopt the WD.  Downing Street said that the WD would assist “in efforts to fight hate crimes and incitement targeting Jews” and ensure that “culprits will not be able to get away with being antisemitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organisations or bodies have different interpretations of it”.
CST issued the following statement:

“CST welcomes and applauds the government’s adoption of this clear and powerful definition of antisemitism. This is an important step that can help the necessary work of reducing antisemitism and tackling those who promote it. We also appreciate the government’s efforts to encourage the use of this definition in international arenas and we hope that other governments and international bodies will follow suit.”

Beyond the benefits afforded to media monitors like UKMW by the adoption of the WD, the real winners (as the CST statement alluded to) of course will be British Jews.  As we argued in our post yesterday, given the overwhelming support for Zionism within the Jewish community in the UK, and how important Zionism is to British Jewish identity, those who denounce Zionism as an inherently racist (or even Nazi-like) ideology are in effect saying that most Jewish Britons embrace – as part of their very ethnic/religious identity – a racist or Nazi ideology.

Simply put, this ugly, vicious and politically toxic smear should have no place in modern British discourse, and it is our hope that such racist manifestations of anti-Zionism are relegated to the dustbin of history.

Well done the British Government for recognizing this increasing growing problem of antisemitism


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British gov’t: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is antisemitic. Empty Re: British gov’t: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is antisemitic.

Post  dirge on Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:27 pm

Theresa May’s announcement that the government was formally adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism split commenters down predictable lines. David Hirsh supported the move – do read his post here – whereas Ben Whitecautioned it would prove counterproductive. And the most hostile reactions on Twitter combined to display just about every antisemitic trope identified by the IHRA.

One of the longer responses is this piece by Richard Silverstein which addresses both the UK move and the US’s Antisemitism Awareness Act. I felt it demanded to be unpicked – I won’t attempt to cover every point, but I’m sure commenters will go on to fill in the gaps.
After agreeing that antisemitism exists and should be resisted, he continues:
But here’s where I part company with the institutional Jewish community.  If you were to poll Jews about their priorities in life and issues that most concern them, anti-Semitism would be very far down the list.

I’m not sure what point he’s trying to make – or combat – here. Your main worries might well be to do with work, health or family – but you could still be very concerned about antisemitism and indeed strongly support a capacious definition which recongizes the ‘new’ antisemitism. He goes on:
Of course, members of all religions react with great concern to threats to their co-religionists.  That is understandable.  But Jews aren’t the only religion under threat: true, Jews have been attacked by Islamists in Europe and places like Turkey.  But Coptic Christians were attacked by ISIS in Egypt this week and Rohingya Muslims have been ethnically cleansed by Burmese Buddhists for several years.  Jews in today’s world don’t have a monopoly on victimhood.  But the organized Jewish community acts as if it does.  As if they own the field of religious hatred and are the only victims, or at least the only ones who really matter, because of our past suffering in the Holocaust.

This is highly tendentious. Rene Cassin supports those working on anti-Roma prejudice and the CST has supported Tell MAMA, to give just two examples.  Of course Silverstein is US based, but I’d be surprised if there were no parallel examples of cooperation there.  And Jews are disproportionately represented as victims of hate crime in both the USA and the UK.  He criticises the ADL and AJC because they are predicated on antisemitism – I wonder if he has ever targeted CAIR for similar disapproval.

He goes on to assert that Israel has replaced other aspects of Jewish culture, including Judaism, as a key marker of Jewish identity.  This immediately put me in mind of the Tricycle Theatre’s threatened withdrawal from the Jewish Film Festival in 2014 because of the presence of Israeli embassy funding. The 2016 programme advertises films from twenty countries – perhaps it’s less the Jewish community than Israel’s indefatigable opponents who obsess about the country. Although of course Israel is of importance to many Jews, not surprisingly given that about half the world’s Jewish population is based there.  This brings me to another of Silverstein’s points – that there is a dangerous conflation between Israel and Jewishness.
How do you embrace the claim by the Likudist far-right that Iran aims to destroy not just Israel, but the entire Jewish people?  Especially when the Iranians have never made such a sweeping claim?

I’ve never come across the Likudist claim cited, but it’s certainly not too much of a stretch to see any threat to annihilate Israel as motivated by genocidal antisemitism.
There’s an annoying slippage here:
That is why the Israel Lobby has worked so diligently to insinuate criticism of Israel as a primary tenet of anti-Semitism.  That is why the current far-right Israeli government repeats the smear that BDS is not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic.

For BDS is not simply ‘criticism of Israel’, and the IHRA definition of course explicitly states that criticism of Israel is not, unless accompanied by some aggravating circumstance, antisemitic.
Finally – although there’s more that could be said – this is a particularly perverse question.
How do you stand against acts of terror by Islamists aimed at Jews, when the terrorists believe that in attacking Jews they are also attacking Israel?
If Jews have to disavow Israel to be defended against terrorist attacks – where does this leave Israeli victims of terrorism?


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