Yesterday, we posted about a positive development in the fight against anti-Jewish racism in the UK: Downing Street’s announcement that the government was going to adopt a version of the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism – the most widely respected and recognized official definition of antisemitism. The decision, which Theresa May reiterated in a speech at a Conservative Friends of Israel event yesterday, goes a long way to codifying the view we’ve long advocated concerning where legitimate criticism of Israel crosses the line to antisemitism.
Whilst you can read the entire definition here, here are WD’s examples of antisemitism as it relates 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.
Among those who aren’t pleased by the government’s adoption of the WD, per the first example cited above, are of course those who deny Israel’s right to exist – and, presumably, those news outlets which sanction voices advancing anti-Zionism.
So, it wouldn’t surprise anyone who follows our coverage of the British media to learn that The Independent – one of the most consistent disseminators of delegitimisation – decided that Ben White was the most qualified commentator to address May’s decision. White’s Indy op-ed, titled ‘By limiting criticism of Israel, Theresa May’s new definition of anti-Semitism will do more harm than good’ was published on Dec. 12th.
Whilst there’s nothing especially noteworthy in his op-ed to those of us who’ve fisked his propaganda over the years, let’s briefly touch on the sentence which inspired the headline.
This definition is not new, however, and it poses a familiar threat to legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.
White fails to acknowledge that the WD clearly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic“.
Indeed, this is the most important point: criticism of the Jewish state only becomes antisemitic when it holds the state to a moral standard no other state is held to, and when it evokes historic antisemitic tropes and narratives – such as the view that Jews (individually or collectively) represent a uniquely malevolent force in the world, what the late historian Robert S. Wistrich characterized as an ‘organic obstacle to peace and progress’.
To those anti-Zionist activists who claim they have no problem with Jews qua Jews, and that their obsessive vilification of the only Jewish state on the planet is a mere coincidence, we ask that you consider following: Even if there is no antisemitic intent, when you live in a country in which 93% of Jews feels that Zionism informs at least part of their Jewish identity, your demonisation of Israel – at the very least – necessarily has an antisemitic impact. When you say that Zionism is beyond the pale, you’re effectively ‘no-platforming’ the expression of their Jewish identity.
The British government’s bold decision to adopt the WD doesn’t just narrowly assert the illegitimacy of anti-Zionism, but in fact sends a signal that it’s serious about protecting the future of Jewish life in the UK.
- BBC News reports new UK definition of antisemitism – without the definition (BBC Watch)