Theresa May adopts a definition of anti-Semitism that demonizes Israel’s critics
Speaking at a meeting with the Conservative Friends of Israel yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK is formally adopting a definition of anti-Semitism agreed to earlier this year by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (henceforth IHRA). She added praise of Israel, describing it as a state that “guarantees the rights of people of all religions, races and sexualities.”
The significance of her statement cannot be underestimated, in light of the serious problems that the IHRA definition poses, in its vague language, as well as its conflation of critique of Israel with actual anti-semitism. As Jewish Voice for Peace noted, such definitions could be construed to silence any criticism of Israeli policies.
The text of the IHRA definition is a near copy of a 2005 draft document first circulated by a European anti-racism agency, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (henceforth EUMC), which was drafted with the help of pro-Israel groups, yet abandoned by the European Union since 2007. When the EUMC was replaced with another body, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, all non-official documents were removed from the new agency’s website – including the working definition. The agency has in fact officially disavowed the document several times (2010, 2013), with the spokesperson clarifying that “creating definitions” is not even “part of its mandate”, which instead pertains to providing “evidence-based advice on a wide range of fundamental rights, including anti-Semitism.”
Partisan outlets such as “Honest Reporting” praise the EUMC definition in no uncertain terms and note that even the US State Department regards it a “useful framework,” but the State Department’s reliance on the language is not appreciated by many others, including Jewish Voice for Peace, which complained in an official letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials last year that “the so-called “State Department definition” includes clauses about “demonizing,” “delegitimizing,” and “applying a double-standard to the state of Israel,” prohibitions that are so vague that they could be, and have been, “construed to silence any criticism of Israeli policies.”
The EUMC definition of Anti-Semitism is also the basis upon which British members of Labour were ‘trained’ during the recent attempt to straighten out the ranks and banish any signs of alleged or supposed anti-semitism. The initial outrage concerning Labour’s supposed ‘anti-Semitic problem’ focused upon Member of Parliament Naz Shah’s criticism of Israel in a 2014 Facebook post suggesting the Jewish state should be relocated to the United States, as well as former London mayor Ken Livingston saying that ‘Hitler supported Zionism’. (Norman Finkelstein provides a perspective on both cases, as well as noting Livingston’s ‘more or less’ accuracy here.)
In one of these ‘trainings’ organized by the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, leftwing Labour activist Jackie Walker complained the definition was not something she could work with. “In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of anti-Semitism,” Walker said. “This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community.” This suggestion, together with statements such as “in terms of Holocaust Day I would also like to say, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all peoples who have experienced holocaust?”, only seemed to further infuriate Walker’s Zionist opponents, and resulted in her second ousting from Labour’s Momentum group.
Let us then scrutinize the critical passages in the IHRA definition. I assess these to be the few final points, which, as I have checked, are identical to those in the EUMC document.
–Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
– 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.
Let’s look at them one by one:
– “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
Well, if you look at critique even by Israeli Jewish journalist Gideon Levy, this even extends further – into how US Senator “ignoramuses” are “enabling destruction” by increasing military aid to Israel, money that “is being spent on maintaining a brutal, illegal occupation that your country claims to oppose”.
This funding surely wouldn’t come out of the blue if it weren’t for the ceaseless pressure of well-funded Israeli lobby organisations working for conservative Zionist interests. Sometimes it’s at the level of pathetic, how people such as Kerry complain about giving more than half of the global aid to Israel, but then Israel “doesn’t listen” to American warnings… Levy states that the current situation could be regarded as “the United States of Israel”.
Or what about Jewish comedian Jon Stewart’s blasting of Netanyahu’s Congress speech last year, where Netanyahu spoke against a sitting Administration’s foreign policy on Iran? Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker Boehner without prior notice to the White House in a clearly partisan and offensive move. Stewart called the 26 standing ovations the “Longest Blowjob a Jewish Man Has Ever Received”.
Are these really Jewish anti-Semites, self-haters (I’m sure some will hurry to say “yes!”), or are they really criticizing a political issue? And how can one separate between “Israel” and “Jewish” when Israel is officially “the Jewish State”? We’ll return to that later.