In Guardian letter, Jackie Walker’s Jewish supporters mischaracterize antisemitism definition

Jackie Walker was recently suspended from the Labour Party (and removed from her role of vice chair of the radical-left pro-Corbyn group Momentum) after she falsely claimed, during a meeting about antisemitism organised by the Jewish Labour Movement, that Holocaust Memorial Day did not honor victims of other genocides.  

She also questioned the need for security at Jewish schools, and mischaracterized what’s known as the Livingstone Formulation

Walker had previously been suspended from the party (and then readmitted) after she accused Jews of being the chief “financiers of the slave trade”.

On Oct. 4th, the Guardian published a letter by “Jewish members and supporters of Momentum” defending Walker. The letter, signed by (among others) Tony Greenstein and Ilan Pappe, included the following claims:

The Jewish Labour Movement, which ran the event, states that the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism’s [EUMC] working definition of antisemitism is the standard definition, despite the fact that its successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency [FRA], has junked this definition, which equates criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism

First, it’s misleading to claim that the FRA “junked” the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism. Whilst it’s narrowly true that the FRA doesn’t include the definition on its new website due to the fact that its mandate differs from EUMC, FRA certainly did not in any way repudiate the definition. Further, the definition is still used by major government bodies in the US and the UK (including the US State Department and the UK Police Hate Crime Operation Guide.)

More importantly, the claim in the Guardian letter that the EUMC definition “equates criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism” is, at best, extraordinarily misleading.  

Here’s the relevant section of the Working Definition as it pertains to Israel:


The Working Definition makes a clear distinction – as do most pro-Israel activists and campaigners against antisemitism – between criticism of Israel which crosses the line to antisemitism (per the bullet points above) and that criticism (when leveled in a manner similar to criticism of any other country) which “cannot be regarded as antisemitic”.

Whilst Jewish supporters of Jackie Walker are of course entitled to their own opinion on the current antisemitism row, Guardian editors have a responsibility to ensure that all letters published on its site do not contain claims which are clearly inaccurate.

44 replies »

  1. When criticism of Israel relies on well-worn antisemitic stereotypes, the criticism is antisemitic – period, end of story. It is no different than considering a critique of an African country to be racist if it were couched in racial stereotypes. Neither is an attempt at constructive crticism nor even at an honest evaluation of reality. Scratching the surface, one often finds that the “facts” presented are anything but. Instead, they use straw-men to vent a personal prejudice gussied up as an intellectual argument.
    The real question is “why the obsessive focus on Jews?” Surely, if you need to start somewhere, as has been famously said, there are far more countries in the world deserving of far more serious criticism than Israel. On the other hand, if your preference is for “victim inversion”, then it does make a certain perverted sense to attack the lone bastion of Western-style liberalism in the region. And if you don’t like Western-style liberalism, I suppose that’s another reason.

  2. The letter in the Guardian stated

    “You report Jackie as saying that “she had not found a definition of antisemitism she could work with”.
    This is not surprising – there isn’t one. ”

    Aha. You mean, in the whole world, there is not one definition of antisemitism? Really? Not a single one? My goodness, it is certainly time that somebody, somewhere, came out with a definition. In all those centuries, people were killing, maiming and persecuting Jews but you couldn’t call it antisemitism, not really, because antisemitism just hadn’t been defined. Not till it is properly defined can you call it antisemitic.

    Well, possibly not defined in a way that suited people like Jackie Walker. What it boils down to is that only people like Jackie Walker can define antisemitism properly. Or perhaps those nice people who signed that letter can form a committee and do the job.

    • “‘Jackie Walker is anti-Semitic’ is hardly breaking news”

      Are you trying to make a point, or just stating the bloody obvious Webber?

            • Well that would be silly of me since you obviously would.Was interesting to find out, Do you plan to hunt her down ? Interesting, you have issues with Malia too. Now what do they have in common,,,,,,,,lemme think.

                    • Ah right. You have seen or heard them express hatred of Jews, and or express a desire to discriminate against Jews and or express a wish to persecute Jews. I am always willing to learn, I may have missed it. Point me in the direction? Or is it simply a case of ” Gabriel Knows ” ?

                    • But he gave evidence to the HC Select Committee that Antizionism= Antisemitism. Just about every Palestinian is Antizionist, almost down to the last man, woman and child. He is perfectly aware of this. To label a whole people racist, is well racist. I mean you would have something to say if I said all Jews were racist, I have no doubt. That is not a wager so don’t start asking how much.

                    • I’m really confused now Stephen. Your Mirvis example seems to indicate that you believe that, if a characteristic is held by the vast majority of a racial group, criticism of that characteristic is racist. That’s why you think it’s racist to suggest that an ideology held by most Palestinians is discreditable.

                      But then presumably you *agree* with Rabbi Mirvis that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, because the vast majority of Jews are Zionist?

                    • > Just about every palestinian is antizionist, almost down to the last man, woman and child.

                      So just about every palestinian, almost down to the last man, woman and child is bigoted, racist, fascist, terrorist supporting, imperialist, islamofascist.

                    • Not quite. If you have declared the characteristic to be racist and you know it to be a characteristic of a whole ” people ” then you are labelling that whole people racist, which is at least prima facie racist. Just as if I declared some characteristic that is a characteristic of ( as near as makes no difference) all Jews then I would be labelling the Jewish people as a whole as racist. I think that I might then find accusations of racism directed at me. Not unfairly. I mean by sane, regular people, not certain people that hang out on this blog spot.

                      I don’t think Mirvis is a racist. I think he has internalised the sound bite Zionism= antisemitism and just keeps churning it out.To be honest, he doesn’t strike me as being very bright. I would therefore cut him some slack. Before I would call him a racist I would want to talk to him. Like you know, point out some of the implications of what he was saying, and see how he responded.

                      Also I don’t think, Malia, say, is antisemitic. She is very emphatically anti Zionist. She regards Zionism as a political ideology, or a basket of political ideologies. So Zionists are her political opponents. It is, therefore no more racist for her to point out that Birmingham uni is an outpost of Zionism than it would be to say it was an outpost of Toryism.

                      ” with a large JSoc”. She clearly doesn’t see a JSoc as some kind of Jewish cultural/ religious organisation. But rather as an organisation of her political opponents. As a one issue political organisation, that issue being The State of Israel. Say she is wrong on that but I think it is not irrational. JSoc’s do seem to me to often behave that way.

                      I don’t see anything wrong in lamenting the strength of those you regard as your political opponents.

                      ” with a large Conservative Association ”

                      But we have it that Malia is antisemitic because she says ” there are too many Jews at Birmingham Uni “

                    • ‘If you have declared the characteristic to be racist and you know it to be a characteristic of a whole people then you are labelling that whole people racist, which is at least prima facie racist.’

                      So you think that the ‘Zionism is racism’ trope is itself racist?

                    • Bellend, you have no idea what Zionism is.
                      You have no idea what racism is.
                      You have no grasp of elementary logic.
                      You are a ridiculous waste of oxygen.

                    • I’ll rephrase:

                      ‘If you have declared the characteristic to be racist and you know it to be a characteristic of a whole people then you are labelling that whole people racist, which is at least prima facie racist.’

                      So you think that the ‘Zionism is racism’ claim is itself racist?

                    • oops that was so mis typed I don’t understand it myself. I will try again. ……. First you would have to explain to me what a trope is. I have heard of them of course but never been able to figure out what they were.

                    • Figures of speech like “Islamophobia”.

                      Why would anyone fear islam especially in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Nice, Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Orlando, San Bernardino?

                    • Prima facie yes. But I would cut this person the same slack that I would cut Mirvis. Like, have you thought through the implications of what you are saying ? This person and Mirvis are mush better candidates for being racists than is Malia Bouttia.

                      The para on Malia is the most disgraceful in the whole of the abysmal ” report ” that is currently being discussed. And it has plenty of competition. A horrible mix of ignorance and cowardice.

  3. I tend to worry more about the way Israel bashers have changed the meaning of the word “criticism.” Were there a concerted campaign to use the same ‘fair’ rules of “criticism” on these characters that they display toward Israel, there would be nothing left of them but a brown stain on a bathroom wall.

  4. The FRA

    We are not aware of any official definition of antisemitism.”

    ” We have never viewed the document as a valid definition of antisemitism”.

    ” The document has been pulled along with other NON OFFICIAL documents”.

    ” The Agency does not need to develop its own definition of antisemitism in order to research these issues” .

    ” The Agency has no mandate to develop its own definitions.”.

    When it was pointed out the The Agency had in 2008 published a document that contains definitions of homophobia and transphobia The Agency replied….

    ” The Agency has defined neither, but has used international standards of certain definitions, terms and concepts”

    In other words in those cases they had simply restated THE concepts.

    An FRA press officer went on to explain to the BBC Trust that the definition was ” never adopted by the European Union.”

    • European Commission Directorate

      ” Neither the Commission in particular, nor the European Union have an established definition of antisemitism and there is no policy to create one.”