The Working Definition of Antisemitism was first published in 2005 by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, later in 2007 was adopted by the U.S Department of State. On May 29, 2017, it was adopted by the European Parliament in a resolution which "Calls on the Member States and the Union institutions and agencies to adopt and apply the working definition of anti-Semitism employed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)(4) in order to support the judicial and law enforcement authorities in their efforts to identify and prosecute anti-Semitic attacks more efficiently and effectively, and encourages Member States to follow the example of the UK and Austria in this regard." Bulgaria followed suit last October. Interestingly, Israel hasn't officially adopted the Working Definition yet.
The European Union takes this matter seriously. On December 7, 2017 The European Parliament has held a conference on "New-Antisemitism" hosted by MEP Péter Niedermüller, Member of the Delegation for relations with Israel, by MEP Heinz K. Becker, the chair of the European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism and by MEP Fulvio Martusciello, the chair of Delegation for relations with Israel. The conference was organized into two panels of academics and representatives of Jewish advocacy organizations. The first panel dealt with "The new Antisemitism in politics" featured Jonathan Rosenzweig of the Mission of Israel to the EU & NATO; David Hirsh, senior lecturer of Sociology and author of the book Contemporary Left Antisemitism; Raya Kalenova, the executive vice-president of the European Jewish Congress; Antony Lerman, senior fellow of Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue; and Daniel Schwammenthal, the director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Transatlantic Institute which is based in Brussels. The second panel, "New Antisemitism and the young generation" brought together young Jewish activists and representatives from different European backgrounds to explore challenges and solutions. One speaker stressed that the IHRA working definition, the European Commission Code of Conduct and the upcoming EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey are essential tools in combating antisemitism.
Soon after, Thomas de Maiziere, the German Interior Minister called in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag for the creation of an anti-Semitism officer who will tackle increasing violence against Jews in Germany. He said that "hatred towards Jews must never be allowed to take hold again in Germany... Each crime motivated by anti-Semitism is one too many and shameful for our country," and that the number of disparaging remarks, inappropriate jokes and discriminatory behavior against “our Jewish citizens" has increased. "We cannot tolerate it when a country's flag is burned in public... It is the symbolic annihilation of a country's right to exist."
The Working Definition declares that criticism of Israel per se is not antisemitic but some forms of criticism include anti-Semitic elements. For instance, "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"; "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis," and; applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation" are construed as anti-Semitic.
The Working Definition does not deal with the identity of the critics, be it Europeans, Arabs or, for this matter, Jews. The emphasis is on the content of the critique.
For example, Professor Neve Gordon, who is currently on Sabbatical at SOAS London University fits the Working Definition well. Earlier this month he participated in a meeting held at the House of Commons as part of a group "Free Speech on Israel" where he delivered a talk requesting that "the equation between antisemitism and anti-Zionism must first be rejected". Gordon postulated that the "Israeli government needs the ‘new antisemitism’ to justify its actions and to protect it from international and domestic condemnation. Antisemitism is effectively weaponised, not only to stifle speech... its purpose is ‘to cause pain, to produce shame, and to reduce the accused to silence’ – but also to suppress a politics of liberation. The non-violent BDS campaign against Israel’s colonial project and rights abuses is labelled antisemitic not because the proponents of BDS hate Jews, but because it denounces the subjugation of the Palestinian people. This highlights a further disturbing aspect of the ‘new antisemitism’. Conventionally, to call someone ‘antisemitic’ is to expose and condemn their racism; in the new case, the charge ‘antisemite’ is used to defend racism, and to sustain a regime that implements racist policies. The question today is how to preserve a notion of anti-antisemitism that rejects the hatred of Jews, but does not promote injustice and dispossession in Palestinian territories or anywhere else. There is a way out of the quandary. We can oppose two injustices at once. We can condemn hate speech and crimes against Jews, like the ones witnessed recently in the US, or the antisemitism of far-right European political parties, at the same time as we denounce Israel’s colonial project and support Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination."
By evoking anti-Zionism Gordon negates the right of Jews for self-determination.
Gordon's comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany is included in his article "Don't Fence me in" from 2002. He wrote of "explicating and trying to understand the continued widespread use of barbed wire" after the Holocaust: "For example, examining the architectural similarity and differences between the camps Israel has constructed to hold Palestinians and the concentration camps Jews were held in during the Holocaust, urges one to ponder how it is that the reappearance of barbed wire in the Israeli landscape does not engender an outcry among survivors."
As for applying double standards, Gordon's found striking similarities between Israel and South Africa under apartheid. In his book Israel’s Occupation he compares the South African model of apartheid to the Israeli “model of apartheid.” He finds only one major difference between the two regimes, notably, the apartheid regime in South Africa was institutionalized, while “in the West Bank no legislation was introduced to support this practice, and no official government decision was taken to put such legislation into effect". This, according to Gordon, is the only difference between them.
There is no reason why Ben Gurion University should tolerate such an abuse of academic standards.
Combatting Antisemitism versus Free Speech
DATE AND TIME
Tue, December 5, 2017
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
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Committee Room 12, House of Commons
Cromwell Green entrance
“Misusing the term antisemitism for pro-Israel political purposes deprives it of its charge and its critical role in naming those who hate Jews because they are Jews.”
This was part of a letter to the Guardian in October signed by, among more than 130 others, Oxford historian Professor Avi Shlaim. He heads the panel at this meeting organised by the campaign group Free Speech on Israel.
He will be joined by Israeli academic Neve Gordon who has received death threats in response to his criticisms of Israeli actions. He writes of an “increasingly violent attitude to any dissent within Israel.”
The third speaker is Norma Cohen, actor and writer. She will contribute her personal reflections as a cultural professional.
We invite lawmakers, journalists and members of the public to hear eminent Jewish speakers from academia and the arts reflect on the implications for freedom of speech of current attempts to redefine antisemitism.
Organizer:Free Speech on Israel
Organizer of Combatting Antisemitism versus Free Speech
Free Speech on Israel is a Jewish-led campaign group established in April 2016 to counter alarmist claims exaggerating the extent of antisemitism in the UK, particularly in the Labour Party. FSOI defends those unjustly accused, combats attempts to suppress solidarity with Palestine by conflating criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry, and works to build understanding of antisemitism in the context of the real racist threats we face in society today.
The ‘New Antisemitism’
Text of Neve’s address to FSOI meeting ‘Combatting Antisemitism versus Free Speech’ at the House of Commons on 5 December 2017
Not long after the eruption of the Second Intifada in September 2000, I became active in a Jewish-Palestinian political movement called Ta’ayush, which conducts non-violent direct action against Israel’s military siege of the West Bank and Gaza. Its objective isn’t merely to protest against Israel’s violation of human rights but to join the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination. For a number of years, I spent most weekends with Ta’ayush in the West Bank; during the week I would write about our activities for the local and international press. My pieces caught the eye of a professor from Haifa University, who wrote a series of articles accusing me first of being a traitor and a supporter of terrorism, then later a ‘Judenrat wannabe’ and an antisemite. The charges began to circulate on right-wing websites; I received death threats and scores of hate messages by email; administrators at my university received letters, some from big donors, demanding that I be fired.
I mention this personal experience because although people within Israel and abroad have expressed concern for my wellbeing and offered their support, my feeling is that in their genuine alarm about my safety, they have missed something very important about the charge of the ‘new antisemitism’ and whom, ultimately, its target is.
The ‘new antisemitism’, we are told, takes the form of criticism of Zionism and of the actions and policies of Israel, and is often manifested in campaigns holding the Israeli government accountable to international law, a recent instance being the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In this it is different from ‘traditional’ antisemitism, understood as hatred of Jews per se, the idea that Jews are naturally inferior, belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy or in the Jewish control of capitalism etc. The ‘new antisemitism’ also differs from the traditional form in the political affinities of its alleged culprits: where we are used to thinking that antisemites come from the political right, the new antisemites are, in the eyes of the accusers, primarily on the political left.
The logic of the ‘new antisemitism’ can be formulated as a syllogism: i) antisemitism is hatred of Jews; ii) to be Jewish is to be Zionist; iii) therefore anti-Zionism is antisemitic. The error has to do with the second proposition. The claims that Zionism is identical to Jewishness, or that a seamless equation can be made between the State of Israel and the Jewish people, are false. Many Jews are not Zionists. And Zionism has numerous traits that are in no way embedded in or characteristic of Jewishness, but rather emerged from nationalist and settler colonial ideologies over the last three hundred years. Criticism of Zionism or of Israel is not necessarily the product of an animus towards Jews; conversely, hatred of Jews does not necessarily entail anti-Zionism.
Not only that, but it is possible to be both a Zionist and an antisemite. Evidence of this is supplied by the statements of white supremacists in the US and extreme right-wing politicians across Europe. Richard Spencer, a leading figure in the American alt-right, has no trouble characterising himself as a ‘white Zionist’ (‘As an Israeli citizen,’ he explained to his interviewer on Israel’s Channel 2 News, ‘who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites … I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel’), while also believing that ‘Jews are vastly over-represented in what you could call “the establishment”.’ Gianfranco Fini of the Italian National Alliance and Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, have also professed their admiration of Zionism and the ‘white’ ethnocracy of the state of Israel, while on other occasions making their antisemitic views plain. Three things that draw these antisemites towards Israel are, first, the state’s ethnocratic character; second, an Islamophobia they assume Israel shares with them; and, third, Israel’s unapologetically harsh policies towards black migrants from Africa (in the latest of a series of measures designed to coerce Eritrean and Sudanese migrants to leave Israel, rules were introduced earlier this year requiring asylum seekers to deposit 20 per cent of their earnings in a fund, to be repaid to them only if, and when, they leave the country).
If Zionism and antisemitism can coincide, then – according to the law of contradiction – anti-Zionism and antisemitism are not reducible one to the other. Of course it’s true that in certain instances anti-Zionism can and does overlap with antisemitism, but this in itself doesn’t tell us much, since a variety of views and ideologies can coincide with antisemitism. You can be a capitalist, or a socialist or a libertarian, and still be an antisemite, but the fact that antisemitism can be aligned with such diverse ideologies as well as with anti-Zionism tells us practically nothing about it or them. Yet, despite the clear distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, several governments, as well as think tanks and non-governmental organisations, now insist on the notion that anti-Zionism is necessarily a form of antisemitism. The definition adopted by the current UK government offers 11 examples of antisemitism, seven of which involve criticism of Israel – a concrete manifestation of the way in which the new understanding of antisemitism has become the accepted view. Any reproach directed towards the state of Israel now assumes the taint of antisemitism.
Is the Israeli army antisemitic?
One idiosyncratic but telling instance of the ‘new antisemitism’ took place in 2005 during Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. When soldiers came to evacuate the eight thousand Jewish settlers who lived in the region, some of the settlers protested by wearing yellow stars and insisting they would not ‘go like sheep to the slaughter’. Shaul Magid, the chair of Jewish Studies at Indiana University, points out that by doing so, the settlers cast the Israeli government and the Israeli military as antisemitic.
In their eyes, the government and soldiers deserved to be called antisemites not because they hate Jews, but because they were implementing an anti-Zionist policy, undermining the project of settling the so-called greater Israel. This representation of decolonialisation as antisemitic is the key to a proper understanding of what is at stake when people are accused of the ‘new antisemitism’. When the professor from Haifa University branded me an antisemite, I wasn’t his real target. People like me are attacked on a regular basis, but we are considered human shields by the ‘new antisemitism’ machine. Its real target is the Palestinians.
There is an irony here. Historically, the fight against antisemitism has sought to advance the equal rights and emancipation of Jews. Those who denounce the ‘new antisemitism’ seek to legitimate the discrimination against and subjugation of Palestinians. In the first case, someone who wishes to oppress, dominate and exterminate Jews is branded an antisemite; in the second, someone who wishes to take part in the struggle for liberation from colonial rule is branded an antisemite. In this way, Judith Butler has observed, ‘a passion for justice’ is ‘renamed as antisemitism’.
The Israeli government needs the ‘new antisemitism’ to justify its actions and to protect it from international and domestic condemnation. Antisemitism is effectively weaponised, not only to stifle speech – ‘It does not matter if the accusation is true,’ Butler writes; its purpose is ‘to cause pain, to produce shame, and to reduce the accused to silence’ – but also to suppress a politics of liberation. The non-violent BDS campaign against Israel’s colonial project and rights abuses is labelled antisemitic not because the proponents of BDS hate Jews, but because it denounces the subjugation of the Palestinian people. This highlights a further disturbing aspect of the ‘new antisemitism’. Conventionally, to call someone ‘antisemitic’ is to expose and condemn their racism; in the new case, the charge ‘antisemite’ is used to defend racism, and to sustain a regime that implements racist policies.
The question today is how to preserve a notion of anti-antisemitism that rejects the hatred of Jews, but does not promote injustice and dispossession in Palestinian territories or anywhere else. There is a way out of the quandary. We can oppose two injustices at once. We can condemn hate speech and crimes against Jews, like the ones witnessed recently in the US, or the antisemitism of far-right European political parties, at the same time as we denounce Israel’s colonial project and support Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination. But in order to carry out these tasks concurrently, the equation between antisemitism and anti-Zionism must first be rejected.
Germany needs anti-Semitism commissioner, says interior minister
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin
Abby Young-Powell, berlin
17 DECEMBER 2017 • 4:18PM
Germany's interior minister Sunday called for the creation of an anti-Semitism officer to tackle increasing violence against Jews in the country.
Thomas de Maiziere, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) said "hatred towards Jews must never be allowed to take hold again in Germany".
"Each crime motivated by anti-Semitism is one too many and shameful for our country," Mr de Maiziere told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
He said the number of disparaging remarks, inappropriate jokes and discriminatory behavior against “our Jewish citizens" has grown.
Germany's Central Council of Jews has repeatedly called for the government to appoint a commissioner to combat rising anti-Semitism in the country.
The council has suggested the new anti-Semitism officer could record attacks and serve as a point of contact for people who experience prejudice.
Jewish people in Germany are increasingly worried about their safety, a report conducted by an independent group of experts, published in April, found.
The internet and social media in particular are sources of anti-Semitic hate, according to the findings. At the time, experts called for better detection and prosecution of anti-Semitic offenses, as well as better counseling services and a new anti-Semitism officer.
Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews, previously told Bild newspaper that there are still parts of Germany where it is dangerous to be Jewish.
"In some districts in major cities, I'd advise people not to identify themselves as Jews," he said. The issue has been in the spotlight recently, after homemade Israeli flags were burned during a protest against American President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
"We cannot tolerate it when a country's flag is burned in public," Mr de Maiziere said. "It is the symbolic annihilation of a country's right to exist."
A Jewish Youth Voice within the "New Antisemitism in Europe" Conference
Alina Bricman represented EUJS at the "New Antisemitism" Conference that took place in the European Parliament, on 7 December. The event was hosted by MEP Péter Niedermüller, Member of the Delegation for relations with Israel and co-hosted by MEP Heinz K. Becker, Chair of the European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism and MEP Fulvio Martusciello, Chair of the Delegation for relations with Israel.
The cross-party effort was room for an insightful and multi-faceted discussion. The conference was organized into two panels. A distinguished panel of academics and representatives of Jewish advocacy organizations dealt with "The new Antisemitism in politics". The panel featured: Jonathan Rosenzweig - Mission of Israel to the EU & NATO, David Hirsh - Senior Lecturer in Sociology and author of the book Contemporary Left Antisemitism; Raya Kalenova - Executive Vice-President of the European Jewish Congress; Antony Lerman - Senior Fellow of Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue and Daniel Schwammenthal - Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute.
The second panel, "New Antisemitism and the young generation", moderated by Michael Sieveking from AJC, brought together Jewish young activists and representatives from different European backgrounds to explore challenges and solutions in dealing with this sensitive topic from the youth's perspective. Alina Bricman launched the debate, focusing not only on the different forms antisemitism takes on in Europe these days, but also on what EUJS is doing and "what we believe the role of youth should be". In this regard, Alina stressed that "A positive Jewish identity is vital and should not be defined by antisemitism". In her concluding remarks, the IHRA working definition, the European Commission Code of Conduct and the upcoming EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey were mentioned as essential tools in combating antisemitism.
Samuel Lejoyeux, National Treasurer of the Jewish Student Union of France (UEJF), emphasized the importance of finding resourceful ways of dealing with online hate speech which he considers to be "the challenge of our generation." while Dalia Grinfeld, President of the Jewish Student Union Germany (JSUD) brought secondary antisemitism to the attention of the audience. "Secondary antisemitism is on the rise. In Germany, 40% of the population are latent anti-Semitic", she said, while stressing the need for proper education on Judaism. Concerning the Muslim antisemitism reality in Germany, she stated that "it has to be tackled within the Muslim community but unfortunately, no one wants to talk about it".
The panel was a remarkable opportunity to present a youth perspective on the challenges antisemitism poses to Jewish students in Europe, as well as to bring new approaches into the discussion, highlighting the relevance of engaging young people in this shared effort.
We once again thank Mr. Niedermüller, Mr. Becker and Mr. Martusciello for their gracious invitation!
Justice and fundamental rights
Racism and xenophobia
EU activities to combat antisemitism including remembrance, education, and legislation.
On 1 June 2017, the European Parliament adopted its first ever resolution
on combating Antisemitism, including the IHRA working definition on Antisemitism.
Coordinator on combating Antisemitism
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
The Holocaust is a defining legacy of European history. Remembrance of the Shoah is an important instrument also in the prevention of Antisemitism today.
On 27 January every year, the European Commission commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day with training for EU staff, exhibitions and dedicated events to raise awareness.
The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)
collects and analyses Eu countries' data on antisemitic hate crime. An annual FRA report on antisemitic hate crimes compiles data submitted by international, governmental and non-governmental sources.
In 2013, the FRA conducted a large-scale survey on experiences and perceptions of Antisemitism among European Jews.
Under the Europe for Citizens programme, the European Commission supports initiatives that raise awareness of remembrance, common history and values of the European Union and to commemorate the victims.
Erasmus+ is supporting transnational projects promoting social inclusion, our shared values and intercultural understanding and grassroots initiatives, including education targeting specific groups and their biases.
In June 2016, the European Commission adopted an action plan to improve the integration of newcomers in European societies. Integration is a two-way process that includes expectations that newcomers will embrace EU values, including no tolerance of antisemitism.
European legislation combating Antisemitism
Holocaust denial and antisemitic hate speech inciting to violence and hatred is outlawed in Europe.
The aim of the framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia (2008)
is to fight against hate speech and crime, by means of criminal law. The European Commission is committed to monitoring closely its implementation at national level. EU countries were obliged to transpose the framework decision into their national laws by 28 November 2010.
EU-Israel seminar on combating racism, xenophobia and Antisemitism
Since 2005, politicians, diplomats, experts and civil society actors have met for an annual EU-Israel seminar on combating racism, xenophobia and Antisemitism to exchange best practices and improve cooperation to combat Antisemitism.