14 December 2016

The Government's new definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ is an attempt to criminalise support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism

Jeremy Corbyn’s acceptance of this Tory definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ is shameful and must be reversed

Tzipi Hotoveli is a virulent racist who believes it is a crime for Jews and non-Jews to have sexual relations or marry.  This is what the Nazis also believed in yet Theresa May is happy to be photographed with her. 
On Monday the Guardian reported that the government was going to ‘formally adopt a definition of what constitutes antisemitism, which includes over-sweeping condemnation of Israel.’  According to Theresa May this would ‘help efforts to combat hate crime against Jews.’

Britain would ‘become one of the first countries to use this definition of antisemitism’ and the intention was to “ensure that culprits will not be able to get away with being antisemitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organisations or bodies have different interpretations of it”.
Theresa May is happy to keep company with Tzipi Hotoveli, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, a religious nut-case
The idea that because there is no agreed definition of anti-Semitism that people will get away with arson at a synagogue or attacking someone who is Jewish is ludicrous.  Jewish self defence against the pogromists in Czarist Russia did not depend on an academic definition of anti-Semitism!

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government issued a statement saying it was ‘legally non-binding’ and should be seen in the light of the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on anti-Semitism, which recommended that ‘For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic.’  In other words, if you equate Zionism and racism in the same breath you could be guilty of a ‘hate crime’. 
Tzipi Hotoveli, Theresa May's friend invites Lehava, a fascist group into the Knesset and  secures them a grant to prevent mixed marriages
Although this definition will be ‘legally non-binding’ it will be part of the operational policy of the Police and other statutory bodies and it will begin to take on the force of a legally accepted definition.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions except that neither May nor Javid have any good intentions.  
Having being attacked himself as 'anti-Semitic' it is baffling that Corbyn refuses to call out May's abuse of anti-Semitism as a weapon against the Palestinians
Corbyn retreats again from facing up to the Zionists

What is staggering, stupefying, unbelievable is that Jeremy Corbyn simply accepted this new definition without demur.  It is as if he has learnt no lessons from the past year.  Simply repeating 'I condemn anti-Semitism' just encourages those who accuse anti-Zionists of 'anti-Semitism'.  Corbyn should know since he himself has been called it enough.

If Corbyn were to combined condemnations of anti-Semitism with a condemnation of those who make bogus accusations of anti-Semitism against supporters of the Palestinians then he would call the bluff of those who will never be satisfied by his protestations.

If Corbyn or his team thinks he is going to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party by signing up to this bogus definition of anti-Semitism then he should think again.  Theresa May used the introduction of this new, Orwellian definition of anti-Semitism to attack Corbyn for the increase in anti-Semitism:
“It is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics,” May said, adding that “of course, I am talking mainly about the Labour Party and their hard-left allies.” 
What was Corbyn’s feeble response?  ‘A spokesman for Corbyn said in a statement that he fully supports the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.’ 

If Corbyn had called out May for her opportunism, if he had attacked her for using the issue of anti-Semitism for narrow party political purposes and for a defence of the indefensible racist Zionist policies of Israel, Corbyn would have gained respect rather than contempt.  This feebleness by Corbyn just makes a rod for his own back.  It encourages May and the Right to continue to attack him rather than putting them on the defensive.  It bodes ill for other areas of policy that Labour is ambiguous on.

What is this definition?  Well the first part of it reads:

“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.”

The Government's new definition of anti-Semitism is based on this old, discredited 'working definition' that the EU junked
This is a rewording of the discredited EUMC’s Working Definition on Anti-Semitism which was junked by its successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency, in 2013.  EU body disowns antisemitism ‘definition’ endorsed at NUS conference  

EUMC is the Undead of Anti-Racism
Despite being rejected by the University Colleges Union, NUS, anti-racists and the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, the European Union Monitoring Committee’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism resurfaces in different guises like the Undead of Dracula

The EUMC was junked because it had become embroiled in controversy.  Draw up by an openly Zionist group, the American Jewish Committee, it consciously sought, not to combat anti-Semitism, but to redefine opposition and hostility to Israel, the ‘Jewish’ state as anti-Semitism.  The EUMC Working Definition is like Dracula and the Undead.  However many times a stake is driven through its heart, it seems to revive, because US imperialism and its satraps have a vested stake in it.  Anti-Semitism is the 'anti-racism' that justifies imperialist barbarism.  That is why those who most oppose the 'new' anti-Semitism, like the Zionist Organisation of America, AIPAC and our own Board of Deputies, President, Jonathan Arkush, are so effusive in welcoming Donald Trump and his Breibart allies into government in the USA.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism followed on naturally from what was called the ‘new anti-Semitism’.  Ideologues such as the former Canadian Minister Irwin Cotler believed that Israel was the ‘new Jew’ and that opposition to Israel had nothing to do with the fact that it was a barbaric, racist state, the world’s only settler colonial and Apartheid state.    

The argument that Israel is attacked because it is a ‘Jewish’ state is fundamentally flawed.  It rests on the assumption that if Israel had been a Christian state which had occupied the West Bank and introduced different set of laws for the occupied Palestinians and for the Christian settlers, then no one would have objected!  If a Christian Israel had demolished ‘unrecognised’ Arab villages like Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the Negev, in order to make way for a Christian settler town, then no one would have objected.  If two weeks ago born-again Christian Prime Minister of Israel , Benjamin Netanyahu, had blamed Israeli Arab terrorists for the fires that had spread out of control in Israel and threatened to revoke the citizenship of all those found guilty, then no one would have objected to this racist pillorying of a minority community.

Even the introduction to the IHRA definition is unsatisfactory.  There is no need to include discrimination against a non-Jew in a definition of anti-Jewish hatred.  What is called ‘associative’ discrimination, which is when someone wrongly believes that a person is Jewish and therefore discriminates against them, may be appropriate in employment law but it serves no purpose in a definition which is aimed at defining what anti-Semitism is.  For example in Israel a year ago, an Israeli Jew stabbed another Jew mistakenly believing him to be an Arab!  That is associative discrimination.

The inclusion of Jewish property is also unnecessary since hostility to Jews will cover this e.g. an arson attack at a synagogue.  But the destruction of property belong to a Jew will not always be anti-Semitic, it depends on the circumstances.  The inclusion of Jewish communal organisations is even more absurd.  The Board of Deputies for example should be attacked for its support for the attack on Gaza.  Yet a definition such as this is likely to catch in the net quite genuine political criticism. 
Brian Klug is a Philosophy lecturer at Oxford University and an expert in anti-Semitism as well as being Jewish.  His article in Patterns of Prejudice [Vol. 37, No. 2, June 2003, Routledge The collective Jew: Israel and the new antisemitism is well worth reading.  In it he defines anti-Semitism much more simply.  It is ‘a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.’ The ‘Jew’ towards whom the antisemite feels hostile is not a real Jew at all. In short anti-Semitism can be defined as ‘hostility to Jews’.

Brian Klug goes on to argue, quite persuasively, that anti-Semitism is not just hostility to Jews but also envy and even admiration of them, sometimes called philo-semitism.  We saw an example of this in the summer when Owen Smith MP, the hapless anti-Corbyn candidate was asked what he admired most about the Jews and he said their ‘entrepreneurial skills’ which is a classic anti-Semitic trope! 

But if your intention is not to define anti-Semitism but to redefine it in order to outlaw and criminalise criticism of Israel and to provide an ideological comfort blanket for British foreign policy in the Middle East, then it makes sense to dress it up as opposition to racism.  There were those who said our opposition to the Iraq war was a form of anti-Americanism and that opposition to Apartheid in South Africa was anti-White prejudice.  These arguments never got very far because they were so transparent.

In the case of Israel however, there are much more powerful and determined forces seeking to outlaw any criticism of Israel that challenges the state itself.  Yes you can criticise individual policies but it is verboten to criticise the Jewish state itself.

The IHRA definition does this by saying that ‘Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism... could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to’ the examples listed below. 

1.             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.

But this is what Zionism does all the time.  It would be amusing if it were not so serious.  Ha’aretz, a liberal Israeli paper reported in an article:  Israel Asks U.S. Jews, Israelis: Where Do Your Loyalties Lie? that:

it's strange that representatives of Israel’s immigrant absorption and foreign ministries have just distributed a questionnaire to tens of thousands of Israelis living in the United States and Jewish Americans, which includes problematic questions on exactly these issues, and asks them to indicate where their allegiance would lie in the case of a crisis between the two countries....

One question in the survey asked specifically which side the respondents would support publicly if there was a crisis in the relationship between the United States and Israel.

Israel proclaims itself as a Jewish state, a state of the Jewish people throughout the world not just Israeli Jews.  The Jerusalem Program of the World Zionist Organisation speaks of ‘the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation.’ The Jewish nation means all Jews wherever they live.  Dual loyalty is part of the Zionist’s DNA. 

2.             ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour).’

This is a non-sequitur.  Saying that the existence of the State of Israel is racist is not a consequence of a denial of Jewish self-determination.  The argument that Jews or anyone has a ‘right of self-determination’ is founded on the idea that they are a nation.  It used to be the anti-Semites who claimed that Jews were a nation.  When Theodor Herzl, founder of Political Zionism set out to establish a Jewish state, he freely conceded that:

It might more reasonably be objected that I am giving a handle to Anti-Semitism when I saw we are a people – one people; that I am hindering the assimilation of Jews where it is about to be consummated and endangering it where it is an accomplished fact.’ [The Jewish State, H Pordes, London 1972, p. 17]

3.             ‘Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’ 

This of course assumes that Israel is a ‘democratic nation’.  The definition therefore depends on whether you accept Israel is a democratic state, which is a politically contentious issue.  It is a strange basis on which to rest a neutral definition of anti-Semitism.  In any case the definition is flawed in itself, since it refers to ‘any other democratic nation’.  There is no Israeli nationality.  In the case of Tamarin v State of Israel 1972 and Uzzi Ornan v State of Israel 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court made it crystal clear that there was no Israeli nation.  Judge Agranat ruled in the former that:

‘the desire to create an Israeli nation separate from the Jewish nation is not a legitimate aspiration. A division of the population into Israeli and Jewish nations would … negate the foundation on which the State of Israel was established.... There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish People. The Jewish People is composed not only of those residing in Israel but also of Diaspora Jewry.” [see O. Kraines, The Impossible Dilemma: Who Is a Jew in the State of Israel? (Bloch Publishing Company, 1976), p.67.  Supreme Court Rejects Citizens' Request to Change Nationality From 'Jewish' to 'Israeli', Revital Hovel , Ha’aretz 3.10.13]. 

This is the root of Zionist and Israeli racism.  Israel is not a state of its own citizens but a state of its Jewish citizens and Jewish nationality is not confined to Israeli Jews.

4.              ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.’ 

This is the most ludicrous and hypocritical of all.  There are numerous examples of where Israelis have identified with the Nazis when engaging in the repression of the Palestinians. 

For example Israeli soldiers called some of their companions 'Our Nazis' meaning those who like to beat. [Hotam, 24 June 1988, Sara Ben Hillef] They identified themselves with the Nazis and the Palestinians with their Jewish victims: [Israeli Soldiers Called Themselves the Mengele Unit’],  Al Hamishmar 24 July 1989, Ha'aretz 27th July 1989 and 24th July 1989 and Hadashot 25 July 1989]. Ha’aretz described how groups of soldiers who “were called the Auschwitz 10” and “Demjanjuks’ had plotted to kill Arabs.” [Ha’aretz, 1.10.10. The Mengele Squad, see also Tom Segev, The Seventh Million, p. 408, Hill & Wang].

Many comparisons of Israel’s actions to the Nazis between 1933 and 1939 are extremely valid and have nothing to do with anti-Semitism.  Is it seriously claimed that when Jewish mobs in Tel Aviv chant ‘death to the Arabs’ that this is not similar to what took place in the Europe of the 1930’s?  Or when the Chief Rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, supported by dozens of Jewish rabbis, forbids the renting of Jewish flats and apartments to Arabs that this doesn’t smack of the Third  Reich?

Labour Prime Minister David Ben Gurion responded to a call for his resignation by an Israeli professor by asking ‘Is he not aware that the Mufti [a leader of the Palestinian before the war] was a counselor and a partner in the extermination schemes and that in all  Arab countries the popularity of Hitler rose during World War II?’ [Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, Idith Zertal, p.101 CUP, 2011].  Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of having been partners with the Nazis in the Final Solution.  These claims were false but the Palestinians and Arab leaders have repeatedly been called ‘new Nazis’ by Zionist leaders.

5.             ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.’ 

I agree with this but it is Zionist organisations in Britain which regularly claim that Israel’s actions are undertaken on behalf of all Jews.   Running through this definition is an institutionalized form of ruling class hypocrisy. See for example The Board of Deputies of British Jews is condoning genocide in Gaza. They don’t represent us.

The key question is why the focus on anti-Semitism and not Islamaphobia and anti-Muslim racism?  In 2015 Tell Mama reported that  Incidents of anti-Muslim abuse were up by 326% in 2015.  They spoke of an ‘exponential growth’ in anti-Muslim hate crimes.  Even the Daily ‘Hate’ Mail recognised that anti-Muslim hate crimes have doubled in London between 2013 and 2015.

Yet we don’t have a new definition of Islamophobia nor any statements of concern shown by Theresa May or lapdog Sajid Javid at the real incidents of anti-Muslim racism which have resulted in death, serious injury, firebombing of mosques etc.

The level of anti-Semitic incidents is trivial and mainly confined either to social media or verbal attacks on Jews because of the actions of Israel.  In Antisemitic Incidents Report 2015, the Community Security Trust’s recorded the third-highest annual total, 924, of antisemitic hate incidents in the UK during 2015. This was a 22 per cent fall from 2014’s record high of 1,179 incidents, which had been caused by antisemitic reactions to the conflict in Israel and Gaza during July 2014 (316 incidents) and August 2014 (228 incidents).  The CST noted that ‘the second-highest annual total of 931 incidents came in 2009, also a year when there was a major conflict in Israel and Gaza.’    

The 924 antisemitic incidents in 2015 included 86 violent antisemitic assaults, an increase of 6 per cent from 2014 and the highest number of violent incidents since 2011. This is the only antisemitic incident category that increased in 2015. Four of these violent incidents were classified by CST as ‘Extreme Violence’, meaning they involved potential grievous bodily harm (GBH) or threat to life.
In the Antisemitic Incident Report January-June 2016 it was stated that in the first six months of 2016 there was an 11 per cent increase in antisemitic hate incidents, 557, compared to the same period in 2015, 500.  However if one looks beyond the bare statistics one finds that there were 41 violent antisemitic assaults in the first six months of 2016, ‘a 13 per cent fall from the 47 violent assaults recorded in the first half of 2015’ and none of these 41 ‘were serious enough to be classified as Extreme Violence.’  In other words the 2016 anti-Semitic incidents were a distinct improvement on 2015 yet the government, like the Home Affairs Select Committee has used an alleged increase in anti-Semitic incidents in order to justify adopting a bogus new definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ which conflates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
If we want to get some form of perspective for the approximately 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents, most of them either verbal abuse or abuse on social media, then one can look at the Report ‘Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2015/16’ by Hannah Corcoran and Kevin Smith, in which it states that the number of hate crime offences in 2015/16 were:
·        49,419 (79%) race hate crimes;
·        ·7,194 (12%) sexual orientation hate crimes;
·        · 4,400 (7%) religious hate crimes;
·        3,629 (6%) disability hate crimes; and
·        858 (1%) transgender hate crimes.

In other words, not only are anti-Semitic hate crimes less serious than other hate crimes, but they constitute at most 2% of the total yet they command 90%+ of the political attention that hate crimes receive.  The only explanation for this is that anti-Semitism is being used to justify British foreign policy that is related to Israel.

Tony Greenstein 

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