Theresa May has announced a new policy that could silence undesirable criticism, within a speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI).
The UK will be formally adopting the intergovernmental International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism:
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
But its definition goes above and beyond this common sense assertion. The organisation expands on the definition to include Israel. For Jewish activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the definition provides ample space for equating criticism of the State of Israel with antisemitism.
The Arab-Jewish Forum’s Tony Klug wrote in The Jewish Chronicle:
While antisemitism is monstrous – and, like all forms of racism, should be vigorously dealt with – false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too. Not only are they damning, they diminish authentic occurrences, of which, sadly, there are still many.
The State of Israel and its UK allies in the Conservative and Labour parties are known to smear critics of Israeli governmental policy as antisemitic. Since Labour has been led by a staunch critic of the State of Israel, Jeremy Corbyn, an antisemitism crisis has been concocted within the party. In reality, the majority [pdf, p18] of politically-motivated antisemitic incidents come from the far right.
The Prime Minister, unsurprisingly, got fully behind the smear campaign in her speech to the CFI:
it is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics.
Of course, I am talking mainly about the Labour Party and their hard-left allies
The UK’s new official definition of antisemitism provides ample space for equating criticism of the State of Israel with antisemitism, according to Jewish activist Wimborne-Idrissi.
Within the definition, the following example is given:
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.
Wimborne-Idrissi explains how this can be favourable to Israeli policies:
If this is anti-Semitic, then Jewish organizations that uphold loyalty to Israel – as most do – will be immune from criticism for doing so. Dissenting Jews, or anyone else who wonders aloud why the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which claims to represent all Jews in the country, persists in supporting Israel right or wrong, will be silenced.
Here is another example of antisemitism given within the UK’s new definition:
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.
Wimborne-Idrissi points out that a lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of self-determination:
Asserting the right to self-determination does not give any group a right to suppress others in its name. Palestinians also have rights, including the right to protest at the injustices inflicted upon them in the name of Jewish self-determination. It is not anti-Semitic for them to do so, nor for anyone else to support them.
She also noted the origins of the State of Israel:
It was almost by definition a racist endeavor since the intention was to conquer and occupy the maximum amount of land while ensuring that the fewest possible non-Jewish inhabitants remained on it.
Of course, holding Jewish people collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel is antisemitic and wrong, as asserted by the new definition.
But what about Palestinian rights? The human rights of Palestinians are violated daily, but the UK government seems only concerned with the rights of the perpetrator: the State of Israel. The definition specifies: “Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries”. Yet that’s precisely what the State of Israel is doing to Palestinians, often under the thinly-veiled guise of “cultural incompatibility”.
In a broader context, Islamophobia has risen and been almost normalised by politicians like Donald Trump. If the Prime Minister is concerned about prejudice, why the action on antisemitism only?
Well, when it comes to UK foreign policy, prejudice against Muslims is useful. It can help generate support for wars in the Middle East. But antisemitism is not useful, and criticism of the State of Israel is undesirable for UK foreign policy efforts. The UK is Israel’s second largest trading partner.
Antisemitism should always be condemned. But politically appropriating antisemitism to smear critics is wrong. It only diminishes the real incidents.
– Take action against Israeli settlements with the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
– Support the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
Featured image via Flickr
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