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General Articles
Israeli Scholars Protest Against Conflating Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism Could be Construed as Anti-Semitic

 

13.12.18

Editorial Note

 

The growing incidents of anti-Semitism in the West has prompted the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) to conduct a survey on how Jews experience anti-Semitism across 12 EU Member States. "Experiences and Perceptions of Antisemitism – Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU" was published as a report on December 10, 2018. The report points to rising levels of antisemitism in Europe. About 90% of the respondents felt that anti-Semitism is growing in their country; Around 90% felt it is particularly problematic online; And some 70% cited the public space, the media and politics as common sources of anti-Semitism; Almost 30% have been harassed, with those being visibly Jewish were most affected.

 

To tackle this growing atmosphere of anti-Semitism, the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU has hosted a high-level conference on November 21, 2018, billed as "Europe beyond anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism – securing Jewish life in Europe". The European Jewish Congress, representing the official Jewish community organizations in 42 states, initiated the conference.  The Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at the conference, “I find it almost inconceivable that almost 100 years after the Shoah, such a thing as anti‑Semitism even still exists and that we continuously see newly imported anti‑Semitism in our society. It is all the more essential never to forget the past and to also raise awareness among subsequent generations that in Austria there were not only victims but also many perpetrators.”   It is also noted that the political forces behind the comprehensive survey were First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans and Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová.  In the conference, Jourová "underlined that the European Union was aware of anti‑Semitism being a serious problem that can only be combatted jointly. Societies should not stand and watch as anti‑Semitism is once again on the rise."

 

However, a day before the conference took place, some 35 Israeli scholars wrote a public letter in response. "As Israeli scholars, most of whom research and teach Jewish history, we say to Europe: Relentlessly fight anti-Semitism to protect Jewish life in Europe, and allow it to thrive. Do so while maintaining a clear distinction between criticism of the state of Israel, harsh as it may be, and anti-Semitism. Don’t mix anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. And preserve free speech for those who reject the Israeli occupation and insist that it ends."  The group expressed concerns over conflating criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism, and in particular, over the official announcement of the conference by the Austrian government, which said: “Very often, anti-Semitism is expressed through exaggerated and disproportionate criticism of the state of Israel.” According to the group, these words "echo the anti-Semitism definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Several examples of contemporary anti-Semitism attached to this definition, relate to harsh critique of Israel. As a result, the definition can be dangerously instrumentalized to afford Israel immunity against criticism for grave and wide-spread violations of human rights and international law – criticism which is considered legitimate when directed at other countries. This has a chilling effect on any critique of Israel." 

 

While the group urged Europe to reject "efforts to restrict free speech and to silence criticism of Israel on the false ground of equating it with anti-Semitism," it also stated that "Zionism, like all other modern Jewish movements in the 20th century, was harshly opposed by many Jews, as well as by non-Jews who were not anti-Semitic. Many victims of the Holocaust opposed Zionism. On the other hand, many anti-Semites supported Zionism. It is nonsensical and inappropriate to identify anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”  

 

The scholars’ claim that many Jews rejected Zionism (and quite a few still do) is an ingenious distraction from the debate about the extent of overlap of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. 

 

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism which has been widely accepted in Europe and the United States, makes a clear distinction between criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.  Even before IHRA, it was always understood that criticism of Israel should be allowed as part of a healthy democratic discourse.   IHRA states that “criticism of Israel similar to that is leveled against any other country cannot  be regarded as antisemitic.”  But the group conveniently ignores this clear distinction to create the impression that IHRA and its supporters protect Israel. "Extending this fight to protect the state of Israel from criticism feeds misconceptions that Jews equal Israel – and are thus responsible for what Israel does.”

 

By omitting the carefully worded distinction, the scholars push a false narrative banking on the fact that few of their readers would be familiar with the entire IHRA text.  But this amazing dishonesty has an additional goal. As IAM has repeatedly documented, virtually all radical academics in Israel engage in criticism of Israel which far exceeds that of other countries.  Indeed, reading this large literature one could conclude that blaming Israel for everything is the norm, but criticizing Palestinian behavior is taboo.  

 

Clearly, by the standards of IHRA, the writings of radical Israeli academics should be judged anti-Semitic. 

 

 

 

 

  




Experiences and perceptions of antisemitism - Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU
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December 2018
This report outlines the main findings of FRA’s second survey on Jewish people’s experiences with hate crime, discrimination and antisemitism in the European Union – the biggest survey of Jewish people ever conducted worldwide. Covering 12 EU Member States, the survey reached almost 16,500 individuals who identify as being Jewish. It follows up on the agency’s first survey, conducted in seven countries in 2012.

Download

Experiences and perceptions of antisemitism/Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU

en  (1.82 MB)

Experiences and perceptions of antisemitism - Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU - Questionnaire

en (417.71 KB)

The findings make for a sobering read. They underscore that antisemitism remains pervasive across the EU – and has, in many ways, become disturbingly normalised. The important information provided herein can support policymakers across the EU in stepping up their efforts to ensure the safety and dignity of all Jewish people living in the EU.  


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Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU 
Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: We need to fulfill our historical responsibility

Published 22 Nov 12:00
 

High Level Conference ‘Europe beyond anti‑Semitism and anti‑Zionism – securing Jewish life in Europe’

“I find it almost inconceivable that almost 100 years after the Shoah, such a thing as anti‑Semitism even still exists and that  we continuously see newly imported anti‑Semitism in our society. It is all the more essential never to forget the past and to also raise awareness among subsequent generations that in Austria there were not only victims but also many perpetrators”,

said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the High Level Conference ‘Europe beyond anti‑Semitism and anti‑Zionism – securing Jewish life in Europe’ on 21 November in Vienna.

Discussions with contemporary witnesses – awareness-raising

In his speech, the Federal Chancellor emphasised that for all initiatives aimed at preventing the past being forgotten, contact with contemporary witnesses and discussions with survivors, “even if they are often painful”, are an essential foundation of awareness-raising. It is now also important to develop awareness of the current prevalence of anti‑Semitism and the fact that “anti‑Semitism and anti‑Zionism increasingly go hand in hand”. The Republic of Austria has to take responsibility for looking not only at the past, but also at the present and to the future.

“If we look ahead there are many ways to fulfil our historical responsibility”,

said Sebastian Kurz and added that this involved not only the building of memorials such as the wall of names in Vienna, but also events similar to the one today, from which further steps can be derived.

During the panel discussion the Federal Chancellor pointed to several areas of action in Austria:

“Based on our history we have very strict legislation and tough sanctions with regard to anti‑Semitism.”

Moreover, the security of the Jewish community is an important concern, just as is awareness‑raising and addressing the topic of anti‑Semitism in schools. The President of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, thanked the Federal Chancellor for his efforts in the fight against anti‑Semitism. During its presidency of the Council of the EU, Austria had played a crucial role, making anti‑Semitism a priority and raising it for discussion at the highest level. According to Moshe Kantor, combating anti‑Semitism and ending it are only possible, however, if there is close cooperation on all issues.

Security for Jews

Sebastian Kurz was pleased about the video message sent by the Israeli prime minister, who had to cancel his participation at the conference due to the internal political situation in Israel.

“In a telephone call Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasised how important it is for him that we in Europe develop greater awareness, not only in the fight against anti‑Semitism, but also for the need for security in Israel. I think that today’s conference under the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU can be a first step in this direction”,

said the Federal Chancellor. He would now like this to be followed by sustainable steps in the fight against anti‑Semitism and anti‑Zionism, “so that Jews in Austria, Europe and beyond can live in security.”

With courage against anti‑Semitism in Europe

EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vêra Jourová, underlined that the European Union was aware of anti‑Semitism being a serious problem that can only be combatted jointly. Societies should not stand and watch as anti‑Semitism is once again on the rise.

“I would have never imagined how much courage it takes to raise your voice against anti‑Semitism. I thank you, Federal Chancellor, for showing this courage”,

said Vêra Jourová.

Coalition of the willing – mobilising society

In his concluding statement Rabbi Arthur Schneier called for vigilance in the light of an “epidemic” that is spreading like a virus.

“I suggest that the EU builds a coalition of the willing – representatives from the areas of business and finance, education and science – in order to reach and mobilise society.” 

He wished for a meeting of all EU education ministers, with the sole topic on the agenda of this meeting being educational measures combating anti‑Semitism and anti‑Zionism with the aim of teaching democratic values.

“We can achieve a future of peace, freedom and democracy for our children and grandchildren”, said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, and underlined: “I never thought I would see the day when a Federal Chancellor stands at the fore and, with the support of the European Jewish Congress, invites us all.” 

Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz concluded by thanking all partners, supporters and initiators who made this conference possible.

More information about the event can be found on the event page.    

 
 
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To Europe We Say: Don’t conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism

20 November 2018

In the context of its EU Presidency, the Austrian government will hold a high-level conference on November 21st, titled “Europe Beyond Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism – Securing Jewish Life in Europe.”

We fully embrace and support the EU’s uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism. The rise of anti- Semitism worries us. As we know from history, it has often signaled future disasters to all mankind. The rise of anti-Semitism constitutes a real threat and should be a major concern in contemporary European politics.

However, the EU also stands for human rights and has to protect them as forcefully as it fights anti- Semitism. This fight against anti-Semitism should not be instrumentalized to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel’s occupation and severe violations of Palestinian human rights.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was to address the conference in Austria, until he cancelled to stabilize his government. He has worked hard to conflate criticism of the state of Israel with anti- Semitism.

To our great concern, we see this conflation also in the official announcement of the conference by the Austrian government. It says: “Very often, anti-Semitism is expressed through exaggerated and disproportionate criticism of the state of Israel.”

These words echo the anti-Semitism definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Several examples of contemporary anti-Semitism attached to this definition, relate to harsh critique of Israel. As a result, the definition can be dangerously instrumentalized to afford Israel immunity against criticism for grave and wide-spread violations of human rights and international law – criticism which is considered legitimate when directed at other countries. This has a chilling effect on any critique of Israel.

Moreover, the conference announcement identifies anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. However, Zionism, like all other modern Jewish movements in the 20th century, was harshly opposed by many Jews, as well as by non-Jews who were not anti-Semitic. Many victims of the Holocaust opposed Zionism. On the other hand, many anti-Semites supported Zionism. It is nonsensical and inappropriate to identify anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

We must also not forget that the state of Israel has been an occupying power for more than 50 years. Millions of Palestinians under occupation lack basic rights, freedom and dignity. As the Israeli occupation is now transforming into annexation, it is essential, more than ever, that Europe rejects efforts to restrict free speech and to silence criticism of Israel on the false ground of equating it with anti-Semitism.

Europe also needs to do so for the credibility and effectiveness of its fight against anti-Semitism. Extending this fight to protect the state of Israel from criticism feeds misconceptions that Jews equal Israel – and are thus responsible for what Israel does.

As Israeli scholars, most of whom research and teach Jewish history, we say to Europe:

Relentlessly fight anti-Semitism to protect Jewish life in Europe, and allow it to thrive. Do so while maintaining a clear distinction between criticism of the state of Israel, harsh as it may be, and anti-Semitism. Don’t mix anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. And preserve free speech for those who reject the Israeli occupation and insist that it ends.

Signed by

Professor Gadi Algazi, Department of History, Tel Aviv University. Dr. Yael Berda, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Jose Brunner (emeritus), Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, and Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University. Former director of the Minerva Institute for German History and founding academic supervisor of Israel’s first legal clinic for the rights of Holocaust survivors, Tel Aviv University. Professor Alon Confino, Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Professor Arie M. Dubnov, Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies, Department of History, George Washington University. Professor Rachel Elior, John and Golda Cohen Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Mystical Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor David Enoch, Rodney Blackman Chair in the Philosophy of Law, Faculty of Law, Philosophy Department, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dr. Yuval Eylon, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Ideas, Tel Aviv University, Department of History, Philosophy and Judaic Studies, Open University of Israel. Professor Gideon Freudenthal (emeritus), Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science Studies and Ideas Dr. Amos Goldberg, former Chair Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor David Harel, Weizmann Institute of Science; Vice-President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Israel Prize recipient (2004); EMET Prize recipient (2010). Professor Hannan Hever, Department of Comparative Literature and the Judaic Studies Program, Yale University. Professor Eva Illouz, Department of Sociology, Hebrew University Jerusalem; former president of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. Daniel Karavan, sculptor, creator of the Memorial to Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism in Berlin (2012) and the Way of Human Rights at Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg (1989-93); Israel Prize recipient (1977). Professor Hannah Kasher (emerita), Department of Jewish Thought, Bar-Ilan University. Professor Michael Keren (emeritus), Department of Economics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Yehoshua Kolodny (emeritus), Institute of Earth Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel Prize recipient (2010). Miki Kratsman, former Head of Photography Department at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; EMET Prize recipient (2011). Nitzan Lebovic, Associate Professor, Apter Chair of Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values, Lehigh University Alex Levac, Israel Prize recipient (2005). Dr. Anat Matar, Department of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University. Professor Paul Mendes-Flohr (emeritus), Department of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Jacob Metzer (emeritus), former president of the Open University Israel; Alexander Brody Professor of Economic History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Michal Naaman, artist, Israel Prize recipient (2014). Professor Yehuda Judd Ne’eman (emeritus), Faculty of Arts, Tel Aviv University; Israel Prize recipient (2009). Professor Dalia Ofer (emerita), Max and Rita Haber Professor of Contemporary Jewry and Holocaust Studies, Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Head Talmud and Late Antiquity section, Department of Jewish Philosophy, Tel Aviv University. Professor David Shulman (emeritus), Department of Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; EMET Prize recipient (2010); Israel Prize recipient (2016). Dr. Dmitry Shumsky, Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, former Director Bernard Cherrick Center for the Study of the Zionism, the Yishuv and the State of Israel, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Zeev Sternhell (emeritus), Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel Prize recipient (2008). Professor David Tartakover, Israel Prize recipient (2002). Professor Idith Zertal, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Institute for Jewish Studies University of Basel; author of ‘Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood’. Professor Moshe Zimmerman (emeritus), former Director Koebner Center for German History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Moshe Zuckermann (emeritus), Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University.


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