27 April 2021

Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s 2021 Virtual AGM was exactly that – completely divorced from reality

 PSC’s leadership showed its contempt for members when it refused to support either David Miller or Palestine Action

 On Saturday PSC held its AGM, delayed from January because of COVID. Holding the conference online was an opportunity to involve people who normally would not have been able to attend. It also provided a chance to fightback against the ongoing attacks by Zionist organisations against Palestine solidarity activists and support for the Palestinians.

Needless to say PSC’s leaders were determined to squander the opportunity just as they have done for the past 5 years. It was clear from the start that the main concern of PSC Executive was to ward off criticism. The first thing they did was to rule out of order two emergency resolutions.

Despite being attacked itself PSC refused to respond to Zionist attacks

There were 2 possible formats for the AGM. Either a webinar, in which no member of the audience can see another member or a normal zoom session where everyone is equal. Clearly equality with the membership was the last thing PSC’s leaders had in mind so they used the webinar format in order to tightly control proceedings.

One of the few good things about PSC AGMs previously has been that you get to meet different people. The chat feature replicates that. People chatting amongst themselves without being supervised was the last thing that Ben Jamal, Ben Soffa, Kamel Hawwash and Louise Regan wanted. The ‘chat’ feature was therefore disabled. I asked repeatedly in the Q&A feature why this was so but of course no answer was forthcoming. I was simply told not to use the ‘Q&A’ feature for discussing such matters!

It is clear that Socialist Action, the clique that controls PSC, was determined that PSC would maintain a façade of democracy whilst at the same time clamping down on members’ ability to communicate with each other.

Learning from the past

Members were presented with an Annual Report and an Annual Plan. Unsurprisingly no mention was made of the Zionists’ 5 year long ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign which led to the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party’s only pro-Palestinian leader. Nor was any mention made of the actions of Labour’s new Zionist without qualification leader, Keir Starmer, in suspending Corbyn for comments made about the trite and flawed EHRC Report. Indeed the EHRC Report itself was not mentioned. The only mention of the Labour Party was in the following objective:

Lobbying, with allies, the Labour Party regarding the protection of space to campaign for Palestine, at various levels within the Party.

That is the extent of PSC’s ambition. Meaningless verbiage.

For over 5 years the Zionists and the British Establishment, led by the BBC, waged a campaign alleging that Labour was an anti-Semitic party. During that time PSC sat on the sidelines like a frozen rabbit. It believed if it got on with business as normal, then it would all blow over. In fact the crisis has become deeper as PSC sinks into political irrelevance. The adoption of the IHRA and attacks on dissident and anti-Zionist academics is one part of that. As I predicted at the time the war in the Labour Party has spilt out into wider society.

In April 2016 I wrote a letter to the current Secretary of PSC, Ben Soffa, arguing that PSC should not be abstaining from the Zionists’ political attacks. Ben’s response oozed with complacency.

PSC Conferences in Previous Years

We have since seen the IHRA being wielded by the Zionists and their supporters. A Stand Up To Racism meeting with a JVL speaker Glynn Secker was banned from meeting at Tower Hamlets town hall and to prevent a Big Ride meeting in the same borough.

Despite 14 trade unions being affiliated to PSC, there has been an adamant refusal to raise the issue of the IHRA in the unions. Since the unions effectively control the Labour Party this would have been a means to combat the adoption in 2019 of the IHRA.

Pal Action activist Huda Ammori being arrested

What is Missing from the Annual Plan & Report

The Annual Report was more interesting for what was not in it than what was in it.

For example there was no mention of the fact that 4 members of PSC Executive resigned in the last year. This followed on from the forced resignation from PSC of a staff member, Huda, who claimed she had been bullied and harassed out of her post by PSC’s Director.

Huda went on sick leave with depression. Before going she had submitted a Grievance. Instead of investigating it PSC Chair Kamel Hawwash pressurised Huda to withdraw the Grievance. Huda was also forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of a settlement. In this time of #metoo PSC members might want to ask questions about the ethics involved in this.

Emily Thornberry telling Labour Friends of Israel that Israel is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East - PSC nonetheless put her on its platform

Last year Adie Mormech from Manchester PSC was overwhelmingly elected as Campaigns Officer displacing the person who had held the post for a decade without seeming to do anything. Adie was a long standing activist.  Kamel Hawwash’s first comment to him was that  the post was being abolished the following year!

Apart from the fact that there had been no discussion on this proposal it shows the depth of bitterness felt by PSC leaders at the removal of one of their own. Suffice to say shortly after Adie resigned along with the others, thus demonstrating that in practice ordinary members of PSC Executive don’t control the organisation.

Propaganda blast from the Jewish Chronicle - PSC sees no need to defend the victims of the Zionists

Emergency Motions on David Miller and Elbit

Brighton & Hove PSC proposed 2 emergency motions – one supporting David Miller, the Bristol University academic under attack by the Union of Jewish (i.e. Zionist) Students. The second one was in support of Palestine Action, which has been conducting a series of high profile actions against Elbit Systems arms company in Britain.

Suffice to say the Executive has given PA no support. But instead of the Executive and Ben Jamal defending their refusal to give support they simply ruled out both motions on the grounds that they weren’t emergencies, which they clearly were given that both motions referenced events occurring since the closing days for motions.

The reason for this political cowardice was that their behaviour has been indefensible. There is a refusal to be honest with members about PSC’s leaders unwillingness to have anything to do with issues or groups involved in direct action which might lead to conflict with the state.

The motion on Palestine Action extended support and solidarity to a group formed last July. PA has engaged in a campaign of direct action against Elbit Arms factories. PA has done more in its short history than PSC has in the past decade to make the issue of Elbit into a live campaign.

In the Annual Plan there is one passing reference to Elbit and this:

Work with key partners including CAAT and Drone wars to look at building strategic campaigns focussed on arms manufacturers complicit in the arming of Israel with a presence in the UK, including Elbit Systems.

In other words PSC plans to do nothing. Yet instead of supporting Pal Action PSC has done its best to undermine it.

Scottish PSC is an example of a Palestine solidarity group which doesn't compromise on its principles and abandon its friends

Why? A combination of sectarianism towards any other solidarity group on Palestine coupled with an aversion to direct action that may mean that PSC ends up supporting those who break the law. The fact that Elbit is actively complicit in war crimes in Gaza, supplying 85% of Israeli drones is irrelevant. This is the price of ‘respectability’.

Earlier this year PSC distributed the gist of a legal opinion (but not the opinion itself) to the branch forum. The opinion was based on a far-fetched scenario whereby the Police would target those who gave money and support to Pal Action. This has never happened before and is highly unlikely.  Not content with this PSC contacted the Boycott National Committee to get them to join in the attack. Unfortunately the BNC made the mistake of believing it had the right to tell activists in this country, of which they have no knowledge or experience, how to conduct solidarity action. 

In March I wrote to Omar Barghouti of the BNC. Omar hasn’t replied which suggests that both he and the BNC are embarrassed by their stance. It is particularly unfortunate because Omar promised me two years ago that he and the BNC wouldn’t get involved in internal differences with the solidarity movement in Britain.  I wrote:

Under the guise of ‘discharging its duty of care to members’ PSC branches were told of “possible legal consequences of their association or support for Palestine Action's activities.” The legal advice is hypothetical and extremely unlikely to materialise in practice because of the difficulty of proving any causal link between support in general for PA with a particular action. To my knowledge such a prosecution has never been attempted before by the State as a way of attacking direct action campaign groups.

The advice of Hawwash and Jamal can best be characterised as irresponsible scare mongering whose primary motive is to harm PA rather than protect individual members of PSC.  The advice is irresponsible because, if it were adopted, it would cut off the source base of direct action groups from sympathisers. Not just PA but Extinction Rebellion, anti-road groups such as the HS2 campaign and Greenpeace.

The motion on David Miller recognised that the attack on him, like a similar attack on Ken Loach was not because of ‘anti-Semitism’ but because both of them were anti-Zionists. The motion declared

its full support for David Miller and any other anti-Zionist academics who are attacked by the Union of Jewish Students. This AGM sees any attempt to discipline David Miller as an attack on academic freedom and in particular the freedom of academics to research the links between Zionism, its organisations, and Islamaphobia and British racism

Zionist Establishment academic David Feldman sticks the knife into David Miller in Haaretz

This was too much for PSC’s leaders who had previously issued a mealy mouthed statement Protecting Palestinian Rights and Academic Freedom. The crucial part of the statement read:

This month saw the IHRA being cited by groups campaigning for an Oxford college to deny space for celebrated film maker Ken Loach to discuss his career. More recently we have witnessed calls from a range of groups, including student groups, for the sacking of David Miller, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol. This followed Professor Miller condemning Zionism as a racist ideology, describing the role of the state of Israel in promoting and coordinating efforts to delegitimise activism for Palestine globally, and outlining the links between some pro-Israel groups and the promotion of Islamophobic narratives.

When addressing such issues, it is crucial to apply depth, context, and clarity, and to avoid narratives that oversimplify the interlinks between groups which oppose actions in support of Palestinian rights, and Israeli state actors. Doing so obscures our understanding of the way political actors’ function. At worst, it can risk drawing on anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power.

Whilst some have criticised Professor Miller for lacking such depth and clarity in the way he has couched his remarks, those leading the call for Professor Miller to be sacked are straightforwardly asserting that to define Zionism as a movement and political ideology that is racist is inherently anti-Semitic..

Far from giving full support to David, who was subject to a vicious attack by the Israeli funded Union of Jewish Students and over 100 right-wing MPs and Peers, PSC joined in the attack suggesting that David Miller’s writings on Zionist groups and their links risk(s) drawing on anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power.’

There is one word for this and it is scabbing.  Ben Jamal, PSC Executive don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘solidarity’ in PSC’s name.

Why did this occur?  Because PSC Executive refuses to see the links between Zionism, the movement and ideology that formed Israel, and the racism and human rights abuses that Palestinians experience. It take a particular kind of stupidity to make this arbitrary distinction.

PSC believes if it concentrates on human rights and ignores Zionism then it can continue as usual. This is like a group campaigning against human rights abuses under Apartheid in South Africa refusing to take a stance on Apartheid.

Zionist attacks on Professor Miller stem from his expert witness evidence in the attempted deportation of Raed Saleh, who won his case. PSC in 2011 organised Saleh's speaking tour. They have shown their gratitude to Miller in the way that only Socialist Action knows

The Zionists are not stupid whatever else may be. They know very well that accusations of anti-Semitism have had a chilling effect on free speech on Palestine. You don’t have to take my word for it.  The author of the IHRA misdefinition Kenneth Stern, in testimony to the House of Representatives admitted that ‘Congress has enshrined a definition that can only help to chill, if not suppress, their political speech.’ referring to Palestinian students. What Kenneth Stern can see Ben Jamal, Kamel Hawwash and the rest of the PSC leadership cannot see. If the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign had no effect on support for the Palestinians the Zionists wouldn’t undertake such campaigns.

I know of at least 4 universities where academics are under attack from the Union of Jewish Students who claim that Jewish students (not anti-Zionist Jews of course) fear for their safety if academics are allowed to speak freely on Zionism and Palestine. PSC is determined to repeat its mistakes of the past four years. It has neither learnt nor forgotten anything.

After the defeat of attempts to debate the 2 emergency motions I moved remitting back of the whole Annual Report.  My arguments rested on PSC’s refusal to support Miller and Pal Action. I began by noting that it is useless having a plan if you have no strategy. 

When the Zionists barked, Ben Jamal and PSC jumped to attention

All PSC does is organise routine activities. It initiates no political initiatives of its own. It never takes the offensive against the Zionists. Uf you do a word search of the Annual Report and Plan you will not find a single instance of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zionism’. PSC presumably believe that Israeli Apartheid fell out of the trees, an accident of nature (or god).

PSC seeks a spurious legitimacy from the political establishment despite the fact that they are regularly spurned. Apart from Jeremy Corbyn there is not one parliamentary patron of PSC.  PSC got rid of Baroness Tonge after the Zionists kicked up a fuss.

The only reason that Thornberry and Nandy speak on PSC platforms is because PSC never questions the right of the Israeli state to exist as a Jewish state

In their desperation to seek recognition PSC has put open Zionists such as Emily Thornberry and Lisa Nandy on its platforms. At one meeting Nandy left the meeting before Omar Barghouti could speak in order that she would not be seen to be associated with BDS! PSC’s leaders think that this kind of appeasement actually brings results!

Lisa Nandy, who was the JLM's candidate for Labour leader and  believes calling Israel 'racist' is antisemitic speaks on PSC Platform, chaired by Hawwash

It was reported that after Stephen Kinnock had called Israel’s behaviour on the West Bank "tantamount to profiting from the proceeds of crime".

Nandy told the Jewish leaders that Kinnock, a consistent and long-standing critic of Israel's policy towards the Palestinians, had been given a "dressing down" for his remarks made during the Commons debate.

"Lisa made no secret of the fact she and the leader were angry with Kinnock," the source is quoted as saying. "Especially after all the work that has been done to try and restore Labour's relationship with the Jewish community."

It is a fact that PSC has made no impact on politicians. It has no sponsors or supporters. Its timidity and caution (some would say cowardice) invites contempt not respect. 

But today as activists from Palestine Action face prison for closing down Elbit factories and causing them £2m losses, PSC runs a mile from confrontation with the British state.  In so doing PSC ignores the mass movement that has sprung up against the Police Bill. It seeks to influence opinion makers in the British Establishment oblivious to the fact that support for Israel is a cardinal tenet of Britain’s Foreign Policy Establishment. 

Tony Greenstein speaking at a previous PSC AGM

Anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians is subversive in Britain today. Under the Prevent programme it is proof of extremism. Retreating in the face of Zionist fire simply emboldens our enemies.

A few words on Socialist Action. It came from the International Marxist Group which split into a number of disparate tendencies in 1982, most of which have set off in a quasi Stalinist direction, abandoning class politics in the process. It used to provide Ken Livingstone’s closest advisors and had at least one member in Corbyn’s coterie.  It also has one member of Labour’s NEC, Gemma Bolton. It is like a submarine except that it never surfaces. It produces no paper simply an email bulletin. It takes over groups like a parasite but never has the courage to declare itself publicly.

The question which arises is whether or not activists should conclude that PSC is beyond saving and that it is incapable of reform. As one of the original founders of PSC in 1982 I would say that the jury is out on this question.

Tony Greenstein

23 April 2021

Why Zionism was responsible for the Racism at the heart of Israel’s Identity - Talk No. 5 – Friday 23 April 2021 6 p.m.

Israel has always faced a choice between being a Jewish State or a Democratic State – what it can't be is both

Please Register here

Uri Avnery was one of the few Zionists who were genuine peace activists. Indeed it is arguable whether he was a Zionist.  Although he believed in a Jewish state he also believed in a state of equality. Avnery argued in Talking Zionism that

Zionism was the scaffolding that made the building of the state possible, but once the house is built, the scaffolding becomes a hindrance and must be removed.

Uri Avnery and Yasser Arafat

Avnery went on to describe those who ‘dreamt of normality’ as the Canaanites. They were those who believed that Israel should cut itself off from the idea that it doesn’t form a separate nation and instead embrace their Arab citizens.

A demand for a state where each citizen, regardless of religion or colour, is equal is taken as the minimum requirements for a country to be considered democratic. Yet if you raised such a demand in relation to Israel, for a State of Equal Rights, then you will be accused of ‘anti-Semitism’. After all opposition to ‘the only Jewish state in the world’ is now defined as ‘anti-Semitic’ by the IHRA.

As Netanyahu declared, when reprimanding Israeli actress Rotem Sala:

“Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” he wrote in response to criticism from an Israeli actor, Rotem Sela. “According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.

We have just learnt tonight of a violent demonstration by the Jewish fascist group Lehava, in Israel, which took to the streets chanting ‘Death to the Arab’s – a carbon copy of the slogan of the anti-Semites in Germany and Poland – ‘Death to the Jews’ (yet such a comparison is termed anti-Semitic by the IHRA).

The present Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Tzipi Hotoveli, was personally responsible as a member of the Knesset Committee for the State of Women and Gender Equality for channeling funds to Lehava’s ‘charitable’ wing.

I will argue in my talk that Zionism  far from being the scaffolding for the Israeli state was the building itself.  Zionism represented a particular form of architecture, otherwise known as ethno-nationalism. Having been born in original sin it was hardly capable of changing itself when it approached adulthood.

Israel was given legitimacy by United Nations Resolution 181 which partitioned Mandate Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state.  This was achieved by a combination of US pressure on recalcitrant states like Liberia and the treacherous decision of the Soviet Union to back a Jewish state as a means of being rid of British imperialism from the Middle East.

Simha Flapan

This gave birth to a whole series of myths surrounding Israel’s founding.  They are best summed up in a book by Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities.

For example when I grew up in a Zionist family I was told that the only reason there were Arab refugees (the word ‘Palestinian’ was never used) was that the Arabs of Israel had been instructed to leave by the Arab regimes so that they could invade and destroy the fledgling Jewish state.

We were told that Israel had been the victim of a simultaneous assault by the surrounding Arab countries and it was only a miracle that had saved it (actually it was Czechoslovakian weaponry!).

We were told that the Zionists accepted the UN partition but the Arabs rejected it.

That it was a case of David v Goliath in 1948 and subsequently.

And of course Israel had always sought peace but the Arabs refused to sit down and talk with it.

All of these and more were myths.  Israel had a guerilla force, led by Haganah that had been created by the British.

In fact Walid Khalidi and Erskin Childers in 1961 had demonstrated beyond doubt, by examining CIA and BBC transcripts, that there had been no Arab orders to evacuate.  On the contrary there were orders to stay!

Rabbi Meir Kahane

When Meir Kahane of Kach, a party that demanded the expulsion of Israel’s Palestinians was elected in 1984 to the Knesset, every other party boycotted him.  Members of the Knesset walked out when he was speaking. Today Itamar Gvir of Otzma Yehudit has been invited in by the Prime Minister Netanyahu as part of the governing coalition. Gvir’s view that Israel’s Palestinians do not belong are part of a growing and open right-wing consensus.

I want to look at a number of questions:about the formation of the Israeli state.

First and foremost is the role of Zionism in the creation of an apartheid state.

In particular laws such as the 1953 JNF law and 1950 Absentee Property Law

The role of imperialism. E.g. the Suez War, the alliance with France, relations with Apartheid in South Africa.

Was there a Zionist left in reference to Mapam?

These and more questions will be discussed tomorrow

And then to look at that thorny question, can a Jewish State and a Democratic State be reconciled?

When Kahane first burst on the scene he was quite clear.  You can have a Jewish state or a Democratic state but you can’t have both.  Was he right?

Tony Greenstein

21 April 2021

The IHRA Working Definition of anti-Semitism - an Exercise in Deception

Moshe Machover and Tony Greenstein will speak on what the differences are between the Jerusalem Declaration and the IHRA definitions of anti-Semitism

Register here for the meeting

The Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism was issued on March 25 2021. It had been a year in gestation and was sponsored by Israel’s Van Leer Institute. The original idea had been that the 8 people drawing it up should meet up in Jerusalem, hence the name, but COVID-19 put paid to that.

I know of only 2 of the 7 academics and 1 journalist, David Feldman and Brian Klug.  David Feldman, head of the (Pears) Institute of Anti-Semitism at Birkbeck College is a Zionist who has moved to the right, effectively accepting the anti-Semitism smear campaign in the Labour Party. I have written a couple of articles, here and here. Needless to say they are extremely critical of what I see as Feldman’s intellectual dishonesty.

I know Brian Klug better. He is a non-Zionist but as I wrote two years ago “the false anti-Semitism juggernaut seems to have impaired Brian’s critical faculties”. I was referring to an article by Brian in the Jewish Quarterly ‘The Left and the Jews.’ In it Brian discovered, without anything in the way of evidence, that whilst the Zionists’ anti-Semitism campaign in the Labour Party was about Zionism, the ‘grounds for disquiet go deep and they go back a long way”. In fact they went back to June 1975 and UN resolution 3379, which declared that “Zionism is a form of racism”. Brian saw this as rendering Zionism “evil” and that was why the Board of Deputies and all the gaggle of Zionist organisations had it in for Corbyn!

Like so many intellectuals when under political pressure Brian gave way.  Zionism is a form of racism and Israel is its true expression. The reasons for the campaign against Corbyn had nothing to do with UN Resolution 3379. I recalled in my article on David Feldman’s political cowardice the case of Victor Klemperer, a Professor at the Technical University of Dresden. He had converted to Christianity but he was considered by the Nazis as a Jew racially. He was fortunate in that being married to an Aryan he was a Privileged Jew and thus exempt from deportation. In fact the Nazis tried to reverse this but the protest at Rosenstrasse by their non-Jewish wives caused Goebbels to reverse their arrest by the Gestapo.

Under the April 1933 Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service academics were considered civil servants. This led to the dismissal of Jewish academics. Klemperer was ‘lucky’. He was not immediately dismissed because he was a decorated veteran of the 1914-1918 War and President Hindenburg had insisted that Jewish veterans be excluded from the provisions of the Act.

However Hindenburg died in August 1934. At the end of April 1935 Klemperer was dismissed. Richard Evans describes how, when Klemperer was dismissed ‘none of his colleagues did anything to help him; the only sympathy came from a secretary.’ [The Third Reich in Power p.568] This behaviour was true of most of German intellectuals, most of whom swore fealty to the Nazis.

In other words most academics like a quiet life and are more than willing to trim their views to the current political climate. Unfortunately Brian was not immune from this.

Nonetheless both Brian Klug and David Feldman have performed an important service by being part of the team that produced the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism.  It is not, as I have already written, perfect by any means but it is, unlike the IHRA, about anti-Semitism not anti-Zionism.

What has been its reception by our enemies, since that is the test of whether or not it is useful?  The bourgeois media has been totally silent on it after having been so voluble about Labour ‘anti-Semitism’.  Strange that. Jonathan Freedland seems to have gone quiet. The Zionist reaction has also been muted. There has been nothing said by the Board of Deputies.

However a number of bodies have made their views felt and it has all been negative. Ben Cohen in the Jewish News Syndicate dismissed it as Yet another attempt to sanitize anti-Zionism. Dave Rich of Mossad’s Community Security Trust has been particularly busy. His article ‘We don’t need another definition of Jew hate’ appeared in the Jewish Chronicle and in Algemeiner, an American Zionist rag, as ‘Why the Flawed ‘Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism’ Risks Setting Back Efforts to Fight Antisemitism’. Interestingly when I posted a comment in the latter publication they refused to put it up. The Jewish Chronicle also refused to print a letter by Tony Klug in response to Rich.  I guess Zionists don’t do debate.

Fathom, the Zionists’ main theoretical journal published an article by Cary Nelson entitled ‘Accommodating the New Antisemitism: a Critique of ‘The Jerusalem Declaration’. After prompting by me they did at least publish a reply. It is the only response so I guess Fathom doesn’t have a wide circulation!

I thought as preparation for my talk tomorrow that it would be useful to publish an article on the IHRA and its origin.

The IHRA – Its Structure and Origins

The first thing to be said about the IHRA is that it rests on one simple assumption.  It is that criticism of Israel is motivated by anti-Semitism unless the person accused can demonstrate otherwise. So for example you might be a trenchant critic of Israel’s theft and confiscation of Palestinian land, its demolition of Palestinian homes and its treatment of Palestinian children.

However unless you can demonstrate that you are prepared to criticise the Chinese and Burmese governments, to name but two, then you are guilty of ‘double standards’ and thus you are an anti-Semite.

Of course you may criticise Israel exclusively because you are a Palestinian who has just lost her home or her children to Israeli snipers or both.  You may be a child of Palestinian refugees with a burning sense of injustice but unless you have been a member of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign you are an anti-Semite!

It is clear or should be to all but the narrowest of minds that whether or not you criticise Israel to the exclusion of all other issues has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. I concentrate on Israel, not because I love Burma or Egypt or any other ally of Israel but because, being Jewish, I take exception to the Israeli state claiming that its actions are undertaken on my behalf.

The IHRA Definition first saw light of day when the European Union Monitoring Committee [EUMC] issued the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism [WDA] in January 2005. In 2009 the EUMC was replaced by the Fundamental Rights Agency which, in 2013 decided it would no longer host the WDA on its website.

The idea for a definition that conflated anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism originated with Dinah Porat, Chief Historian at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Propaganda Museum and then at Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Centre for the Study of Contemporary Jewry.

Poland's Anti-Semitic President - Mateusz Morawiecki

Porat was someone who would later put the seal of approval on Netanyahu’s sordid deal with the far-Right Polish Government over a 2018 law which made any reference to Polish complicity in the holocaust a criminal offence.

Even Yehuda Bauer, the most prominent Zionist Holocaust historian condemned the deal as ‘collaboration’ in ‘Holocaust distortion’.

“It’s a betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust and the interest of the Jewish people. And the reason for it is entirely pragmatic: the diplomatic, political, and economic ties between the Israeli government and the government of Poland.”

At a conference ‘The Working Definition of Antisemitism - Six Years After’ organised by the Stephen Roth Institute, Mike Whine explained that the reasons for creating the WDA were

‘the demonization and disproportionate criticism of Israel which masqueraded as anti-Zionism, and which came increasingly from Muslims’.

Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee, the WDA’s principal drafter, confessed that he was at first sceptical, quoting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart that although obscenity was difficult to define, “I know it when I see it.”.

My father who took part in the Battle of Cable Street against the Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists didn’t need a definition of anti-Semitism to know what he was fighting! This should be our first question.  Why is there a need for a definition?

Stern claimed in a paper ‘The WDA – A Reappraisal’ at a Conference The WDA – 6 Years in August-September 2010 that the problem was that the EUMC had defined anti-Semitism in terms of Jewish stereotypes. a ‘clunker of a definition’. He gave as an example of the problem what if someone attacked a Jew because they held to traditional stereotypes of Jews (corrupt, conspiratorial etc.) That was clearly anti-Semitic. However if they were attacked because of what Israel had done then that was not anti-Semitic.

Stern believed it was ‘crazy’ to focus on the motive of the attacker. What mattered was the fact of the attack. The problem with this is that if a Jew is attacked, not because s/he is Jewish but as part of a random street attack then clearly that isn’t anti-Semitic. Motive is vital.

The solution to Stern’s non-problem lies in what most people understand as anti-Semitism, the Oxford English Dictionary definition ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people’ has been extended by the JDA to ‘discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).’

If someone attacks someone because they are Jewish, then that is anti-Semitism. This includes if they are attacked because of what Israel has done.

What Stern doesn’t say, because it formed a consensus at the conference, was the Zionist need to label anti-Zionist and Palestine solidarity activity, in particular BDS, as anti-Semitic. Stern never explained how creating a definition that included a Jew being attacked on the streets of Paris ‘as a stand-in for an Israeli’ was solved by creating a definition whose illustrations of anti-Semitism included

denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination or

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

This argument over ‘double standards’ has a long pedigree. Apologists for Apartheid in South Africa were forever complaining of the hypocrisy of those who attacked it but not surrounding Black states with worse human rights records. India says the same today over Kashmir.  Every repressive regime and state believes it’s being singled out unfairly. If Stern’s logic holds true then all international solidarity work is racist.

The list of speakers at this Conference included Graciela Ben Dror from the Jewish only religious settlement of Moreshet in the Northern Galilee. If you go to the website of this settlement you read that their Community Rabbi Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen,(is) a graduate of the Mercaz HaRav and Ateret Cohanim Yishivot.’ It is difficult to find two more racist Orthodox Jewish religious institutions in Israel.

Mercaz HaRav has produced a generation of racist rabbis such as Moshe Levinger and Shmuel Eliyahu. The Ateret Cohanim are messianic madmen who want to construct the Third Temple and demolish the Mosque of the Golden Dome and Al Aqsa. They are engaged in ethnically cleansing East Jerusalem of Palestinians through the use of subterfuge, forged documents and using the Absentee Property Law which enabled the confiscation of land and property from Israeli Arabs who were not expelled in 1948. In the Orwellian language of this Act they were ‘present-absentees’. Like all colonial peoples they were present but absent and invisible.

The list of sponsors of this conference included Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel’s Ministry of Public Affairs and the Diaspora, the Kantor Centre and the World Zionist Organisation. The only sponsor from outside Israel, the Jews they were allegedly concerned about, was the US Joint Distribution Committee.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of the McCarthyist Amcha Initiative

I don’t doubt Stern’s personal sincerity when he says he opposes the use of the IHRA for anything other than the collection of data on anti-Semitic attacks, but he is a good man who has fallen among thieves. He is also remarkably naive. Stern said that some Jewish groups were using the WDA in an ‘inappropriate way’. But is that surprising given the bona fides of those who organised the conference?

Stern has come under criticism from right-wing Zionists like Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, whose Amcha Initiative sought to prevent Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe speaking at California State University.

When Stern co-signed a statement with Cary Nelson, President of the American Association of University Professors, suggesting that supporters of Israel were using the WDA to impose censorship on campus he was criticised by the AJC as ‘ill-advised’. Stern has recoiled from the Frankenstein he had helped create.

Stern has spent much of the past decade criticising the ‘abuse’ of the WDA/IHRA. In testimony to Congress in November 2017 he argued that ‘The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus.’ Perhaps not in his eyes but that was certainly not how his fellow Zionists saw it.

Stern stated that ‘if one has the task of collecting data on antisemitism, it is unworkable to require a clear view of what is in the mind of any actor’ yet that is precisely what the IHRA/WDA does do. It sets a number of political tests of peoples’ views, such as do you think there is any comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany or do you think Israel is a racist state and concludes from that that they are anti-Semitic. Why else include amongst the 11 ‘illustrations of anti-Semitism’ 7 which single out criticism of Israel?

Stern is offended at the way that the IHRA has been used, singling out as ‘most egregious, an off-campus group’ the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism which called on Professor Rachel Gould’s employer, Bristol University, to dismiss her for writing an article Beyond Anti-Semitism on how the holocaust intimidates critics of Israel. 

Stern followed this up with an article which talked about ‘the chilling of expressions that pro-Israel Jews find disturbing’ and how right-wing Jews were weaponising his definition.

The IHRA Rises from the Ashes of the WDA

Following the disavowal of the WDA by the FRA it appeared that the WDA had died a death. It had met with opposition in universities and the lecturers union, the Association of University Teachers, passed policy opposing it. Yet in 2016, like Dracula’s undead, the WDA was reborn as the IHRA’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.

The IHRA is an inter-governmental body of 31 states. Its adoption of the WDA was first announced on May 11 2016 in a scrappy press release from the Chair of its Plenary in Bucharest. The WDA was a definition that anti-Semitic governments in Hungary and Poland were more than happy with. Donald Trump used an Executive Order to try and incorporate it into Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. This is the same man who described neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as ‘fine people’ whilst telling four Black Congress members to ‘go back home’ whilst simultaneously condemning them for ‘anti-Semitism’! Trump’s support for the IHRA didn’t prevent him telling American Jews that they were disloyal to Israel which was their ‘real home’.

The IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

The IHRA definition is almost exactly identical to the WDA. The actual definition consists of 38 words. It comes with a statement that it is a ‘non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism’.

The adoption by the IHRA of the WDA was a breakthrough in the Zionist movement’s battle against BDS.  Since 2016 the IHRA has been used throughout Europe and the United States as a means of attacking BDS. That is its main purpose.

The reasons for the IHRA’s success are political. The WDA is incoherent, contradictory, vague and even anti-Semitic. It adds nothing to the debate on anti-Semitism. It is or should be obvious that a 500+ word ‘definition’ is, by definition, not a definition!

The IHRA’s adoption is testimony to the strategic importance of Israel in Western foreign policy and the desire of imperialism to put debate about the legitimacy of the West’s settler watchdog beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse. It is there to close down debate.

Opposition to ‘anti-Semitism’ provides a moral legitimacy to Western imperialism. European leaders can proudly boast of their opposition to anti-Semitism whilst criminalising those who rescue refugees from drowning. The lessons of the holocaust don’t extend to refugees or to the fact that if the gates of the USA and Britain had been open during the war far fewer Jews would have died.

The IHRA has proved politically useful to the Labour Right. Why? Because it plays to the deep fissures on the left caused by identity politics. Because the majority of Western Jews define themselves as Zionists many have come to see criticism of Zionism and Israel as an attack on their identity and therefore anti-Semitic. There is nothing new in this. Critics of South Africa’s Apartheid used to be accused of being ‘anti-White’.

Racism has been redefined. Instead of being an attack on someone because of fixed and unchangeable characteristics, it is now an attack on peoples’ identity. This is the poisonous legacy of identity politics.

So if the majority of Jews adopt an identity based on support for a racist state then anti-Zionism is redefined as anti-Semitism. Israel becomes the Jew among the nations.

Using this ‘logic’ opposition to the Hindu supremacist regime of Narendra Modi’s BJP in India makes one Hinduphobic.  This is precisely what is being argued by Hindu racists who declare that opposition to the occupation of Kashmir makes one Hinduphobic. Keir Starmer has accepted this by reversing Labour’s policy supporting Kashmiri self-determination.

If there had been a large number of White South African émigrés in Britain then they could have claimed that being anti-Apartheid was racist because it denied them the right to define their own identity. Apartheid, like Zionism, believed in ‘separate development’.

So popular is the fight against ‘anti-Semitism’ these days that fascists and racists from Trump and Steve Bannon to Germany’s neo-Nazi AfD and Tommy Robinson all oppose it. Even Richard Spencer, neo-Nazi founder of the alt-Right declares himself a White Zionist.

When people hear the word ‘anti-Semitism’ they think ‘holocaust’. What better way to rebut criticism than to associate your opponent with the holocaust? When the Labour Right attacked Corbyn they weaponised anti-Semitism. Corbyn became, in the words of Margaret Hodge, a ‘fucking anti-Semite’ even though according to John Bercow, former Jewish Speaker of the House of Commons, there wasn’t ‘a whiff of anti-Semitism’ about him. It was easier to attack the left for ‘anti-Semitism’ than for opposing austerity. Anti-Semitism provided the Right with a moral narrative that being pro-austerity didn’t give them. As Marx explained the ruling ideas in every epoch are the ideas of its ruling class, however illogical they may be!

Only this explains the wall to wall support from the British media - from the Sun to the BBC and Guardian - for what Stern called the ‘bastardised’ version the IHRA. The successful deployment of the IHRA involved the use of the 11 illustrations in isolation. I wrote to Stern and asked him whether or not the IHRA had ever been intended to become a tool with which to brand individuals as anti-Semitic.  In his response Stern referred me to his book where he stated that

The purpose of the definition, of course, was not to label anyone an antisemite but rather to guide data collectors.

The problem is that by having 11 illustrations that define anti-Semitism in terms of anti-Zionism the WDA inevitably became a means of branding people as anti-Semitic.

The IHRA and Identity Politics

The IHRA has been universally panned. Those who defend it do it  subjectively and relying on emotion. Hannah Weizfeld of the liberal Zionist Yachad wrote that

‘when Jewish communities call for Labour to adopt the IHRA definition of antsemitism they are not allowed to define their own oppression.’ 

Or as MI5’s man on the Guardian Jonathan Freedland put it

On the left, black people are usually allowed to define what’s racism; women can define sexism; Muslims are trusted to define Islamophobia. But when Jews call out something as antisemitic, leftist non-Jews feel curiously entitled to tell Jews they’re wrong.

Freedland makes a profession of dishonest journalism. Noone says Black people can define racism in isolation because Black people are not homogenous.  Nor are women or Muslims. To argue that Jews are all of one mind is in itself anti-Semitic.

But of course people can define themselves how they want. What is really meant is that we have to accept that definition! The defence of the IHRA has been waged, not over its substance but in terms of identity politics and guilt-tripping. It can’t be defended rationally.

The problem is that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism rests upon denying Palestinians the right to define their identity in terms of Israel/Zionism. So Weizfeld/Freedland’s argument is also racist.

There is no proof that the ‘Jewish community’ supports the IHRA or that they have even discussed it. I doubt 1% have read it! But even if Freedland were right then most Jews are simply wrong. And of course the IHRA is opposed by left-wing anti-racist Jews.

When many Muslims said that Satanic Verses offended them and defined it as racist, western liberals, including Freedland, talked about free speech. When Charlie Hebdo published images poking fun at the prophet Mohammad, the Washington Post declared that:

‘public opinion from Paris to Palo Alto insisted that the paper had a right to publish whatever it pleased’ regardless of whether it was offensive.

When Muslim identity is attacked then it is a question of free speech but when Jewish identity is criticised its ‘anti-Semitic’. Why?

Identity politics assumes one a single identity for a defined group of people. These identities are socially constructed and usually imposed. Indians for Labour and South Asia Solidarity Group [LSASG] said:

The mention of ‘Hinduphobia’.. and the parallels drawn between this and anti-Semitism, are deeply worrying given that this idea has been propagated by the BJP and their supporters in India to shut down dissent and criticism of their fascistic measures.

Just as Jews opposed to the IHRA were the ‘wrong sort of Jews’ so it is with Indians opposed to the BJP. Starmer orientates to the most reactionary Indians just as he does with Jews. Opposition to Hindu racism towards Dalits and Muslims is defined as ‘Hinduphobia.’ The LSASG go on to say that ‘The terms ‘Hinduphobia’ and ‘anti-Hindu’ have, in fact, been used to justify Islamophobia and repression in India.’ Just like ‘anti-Semitism’ justifies anti-Palestinian racism.

Identity politics are a substitute for reasoned argument, resting on tribal identity. Despite the Establishment consensus in favour of the IHRA, academics and lawyers are almost unanimously opposed to it.

The IHRA has been contested by Brian Klug, David Feldman, and Antony Lerman; and jurists such as Hugh Tomlinson QC, Stephen Sedley, Geoffrey Bindman QC, and Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Tomlinson described the IHRA as ‘vague’ and ‘confusing’, that it

lacks clarity and comprehensiveness’ and has a ‘potential chilling effect on public bodies.’

Lerman, stated that

‘Not only is there now overwhelming evidence that it’s not fit for purpose, but it also has the effect of making Jews more vulnerable to antisemitism, not less.’

Sir Geoffrey Bindman described the 38 word IHRA definition as

‘poorly drafted, misleading, and in practice has led to the suppression of legitimate debate and freedom of expression.

Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge  said the IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite. He also described it as

placing the historical, political, military and humanitarian uniqueness of Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine beyond permissible criticism.’

David Feldman described it as ‘bewilderingly imprecise”. Geoffrey Robertson QC  stated that it would ‘chill free speech’ and that it was ‘not fit for purpose’ 

The IHRA, Its Structure and Contradictions

The IHRA is divided into 3 parts

1.           The first part is the 38 word definition

“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.”

2.           The second part, consisting of 3 paragraphs, introduces the 11 examples of ‘contemporary anti-Semitism’ which ‘could’ be anti-Semitic. It begins by saying that manifestations of anti-Semitism

 might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.’

3.           The third part consists of the 11 examples. There are also 3 concluding paragraphs which are statements of the obvious

The 38 word definition is a model of ambiguity. Anti-Semitism is defined as a certain perception of Jews’ but it avoids telling us what that perception is. It says that it ‘may be expressed as hatred toward Jews’. What else might it be expressed as. Anti-Zionism? Ironically the IHRA raises the bar very high to genuine anti-Semitism - hatred. According to the IHRA if someone simply dislikes the company of Jews that is not anti-Semitic. What kind of definition of anti-Semitism gives equal place to non-Jews and associative discrimination?

Even worse the definition defines anti-Semitism in terms of anti-Semitism! What are these ‘rhetorical and physical manifestations’?  Would a picket of the Board of Deputies by anti-Zionist Jews count?

So useless is the actual definition that Cary Nelson, when defending the IHRA, admits that

the brief opening preamble definition, much criticised as being vague and unusable, is not in fact being used. It is not really meant to be used.

The second part of the IHRA, which puts conditions on the illustrations is also ignored in practice. It says that the behaviour in question ‘may’ or ‘could’ be anti-Semitic. This is hardly a definition. It asserts that Israel is ‘conceived as a Jewish collectivity’. That is a political statement contested by the very existence of a Jewish diaspora. If Israel does represent Jews collectively then Jews are not true citizens of the states they live in. This is normally understood as being anti-Semitic!

This section also limits criticism of Israel to criticism ‘similar to that leveled against any other country.’ The problem is that Israel is not like any other country. There is no Israeli nationality. Which other countries occupy other peoples’ lands or declare that the State represents only part of its population? The IHRA therefore prevents anything but the most anodyne criticism of Israel.

The Illustrations

The most poisonous part of the IHRA lies in the 11 illustrations of anti-Semitism. Not only the 7 examples which mention Israel but the other 4 examples are also problematic:

The first illustration of anti-Semitism is harming or killing Jews ‘in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion’. What about if Jews are killed in the name of a conservative ideology or moderate view of religion? It is clear that the authors had Political Islam not White Supremacy in mind.

The second example talks of ‘Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews’ and their power as a collective. But Zionist lobby groups like AIPAC openly boast about how they buy influence. In Al Jazeera’s documentary

leaders of the pro-Israel lobby speak openly about how they use money to influence the political process, in ways so blunt that if the comments were made by critics, they’d be charged with anti-Semitism.

Jewish groups defend AIPAC in the name of Jews. If people get the idea that Jews are powerful then it’s not hard to work out where they get that idea from. Israel calls itself a Jewish state and projects an image of military might. Is it any wonder that some people talk about Jewish power? Most anti-Semitic stereotypes today are a product of Zionist claims.

The 4th example defines Holocaust denial as anti-Semitic. Unfortunately Holocaust denial has spread beyond the neo-Nazi fringe. In Arab and third world countries holocaust denial is functional, a reaction to Israel’s use of the holocaust as a propaganda weapon. In India the kindle version of Mein Kampf became the 11th best selling book for Amazon. Are all these readers anti-Semites?

The 5th example merely repeats the 4th example in a different form.

The 6th example claims that accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel than their own nations is anti-Semitic. One wonders where this idea arose if not from the Zionist claim that Israel is the state of all Jews, not just those who live there. Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy gaoled for 30 years in America, recently claimed that Jews ‘will always have dual loyalty whether they know it or not.’

In 2013 Israel’s immigrant absorption and foreign ministries distributed a questionnaire to Israelis in the USA and American Jews asking them where their allegiance would lie in the case of a crisis between the two countries. Dual loyalty is inherent in Zionism.

The 7th example is a non-sequitur:

‘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’

It is replete with assumptions such as whether there is one single Jewish people, an anti-Semitic concept. Even if Jews were one nation, since when is opposition to self-determination racist? Is it racist to oppose Scottish independence? These are political questions. But even if you support Jewish self-determination you can still believe that Israel is a racist state. The IHRA is intellectually threadbare.

Israel encourages Jews all over the world to live in there yet at the same time refuses to allow the Palestinians to return because Jews would be outnumbered. What is that if not racist?

The 8th example says it is anti-Semitic to apply double standards by requiring Israel to behave in a way not required ‘of any other democratic nation.’ But Israel is not like any other democratic nation. Everything in Israel, from education to land, is segregated. Israel is a modern version of America’s Deep South.

The 9th example appears, at first sight, innocuous.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism... to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Jews in the Middle Ages were accused of poisoning wells and killing non-Jewish children. That was anti-Semitic. However Israel does poison Palestinian water sources. In 1948 it infected the water of Acre with typhoid. Israel does kill Palestinian children in large numbers. The IHRA treats Israel as an individual Jew but states are not human beings. You can’t be racist towards a state.

The 10th example says that ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ is anti-Semitic.’ So if mobs of Israelis chant ‘death to the Arabs’ one may not compare that to mobs in Europe who shouted ‘death to the Jews’. When Professor Ze’ev Sternhell wrote an article comparing Israel to Nazi Germany was he, a child survivor of a Nazi ghetto in Poland, an anti-Semite? Comparisons between Israel and the Nazis are inevitable. Israel uses the holocaust as a justification continually. How else would Israel justify denying access to 93% of its land to non-Jews?

There are many comparisons between pre-1939 Nazi Germany and Israel. Israel, like Nazi Germany, is an ethno nationalist state. The French Revolution overthrew the idea of religious states in favour of a separation between church and state. The Israeli state is a throwback to the feudal era in the age of imperialism.

Geoffrey Alderman, the historian of British Jewry poured scorn on the IHRA. Alderman noted that many countries have been accused of behaving like Nazis. President Nasser was accused of being the ‘Hitler on the Nile.’ Tom Segev, an Israeli historian observed:

All Israeli governments have used the Holocaust as a political argument. Every Arab leader since 1948 has been compared at least once to Hitler. All Arab countries have compared Israel to the Nazis.

Netanyahu even claimed that Hitler would never have perpetrated the holocaust but for the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem.

The 11th and final example holds that it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews ‘collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.’ I agree, but who is responsible for this if not Israel which claims to act on behalf of all Jews? The Board of Deputies organised demonstrations on behalf of British Jews in support of Israel’s attacks on Gaza. If it is anti-Semitic to blame Jews for the actions of Israel then it is equally anti-Semitic to claim that British Jews collectively support Israel.

With the IHRA Zionism is trying to have its cake and eat it. Their purpose is as transparent as it is dishonest. One of the mysteries about the IHRA is how Kenneth Stern, who is clearly an anti-racist, came to construct such an incoherent, contradictory and even anti-Semitic definition of anti-Semitism. And having done so, he turned around and complained that it was being used to chill free speech!

The answer lies in the fact that Kenneth Stern is a liberal Zionist. He sincerely condemns White supremacy in the United States. He values academic freedom and sees the monster that he has created as threatening it. On the other hand he turns a blind eye to the reality of what Israel has become, which is an openly apartheid society where it is taken for granted that if Israel annexes part of the West Bank then Palestinians living there will not become Israeli citizens.

Tony Greenstein