‘If America Knew’ On Attempts to Define Criticism of Israel as Anti-Semitism

Part of the anti-Semitism smear campaign against the Labour party is the attempt to foist upon it and wider society the definition of anti-Semitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which specifically includes criticism of Israel. Although, as Mike points out, the definition only states that such criticism may be anti-Semitic, but not necessarily so in all cases. Nevertheless, this is how the IHRA’s definition is interpreted by the Israel lobby, and why it is being used to attack and smear decent, anti-racists when they object to it or question it. Jackie Walker, one of the vice-chairs of Momentum, was accused and vilified as an anti-Semite, despite her own Jewishness, precisely because she questioned this definition and the exclusive focus of Holocaust Remembrance Day on the Nazis’ attempts to exterminate the Jews, rather than include other races, who had also suffered their own genocides.

The IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism is completely ahistorical and just wrong. Anti-Semitism, as defined by Wilhelm Marr, the man, who coined the term and founded the Bund Antisemiten – ‘League of Anti-Semites’ – in 19th century Germany stated that it was hatred of Jews as Jews, regardless of religion. And this was well before the foundation of Israel. Mike has also several times posted the views of a very senior lawyer on this issue, that this is indeed the proper definition of anti-Semitism.

But this is not what the Israel lobby wants people to believe. And so when Corbyn met the Board of Deputies of British Jews a few weeks ago, after they organised a demonstration smearing Labour and its leader once again as anti-Semitic, they pressured him yet again to adopt the HRA’s spurious definition. If adopted, it would make criticism of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, discusses this in a recent edition to his article, ‘The View from the Bridge’ in Lobster 75, Summer 2018. His article also points to an excellent piece by Alison Weir of the If America Knew Blog on this history of this attempt to foist the HRA’s definition on America and other nations. It’s at
http://ifamericaknew.org/history/antisemitism.html

The article also includes this handy timeline giving the important dates in the development of this project.

Timeline for creating new Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism

Following is a timeline of some of the key events in the creation, promotion and adoption of the Israel-focused definition of antisemitism. It provides an outline, but does not include every step of the process, all the key players, or every action.

1991 – Jean Kahn is elected president of the European Jewish Congress at its plenary session in Israel. He announces an ambitious agenda, including demonstrating solidarity with Israel and European countries coordinating legislation to outlaw antisemitism.
1997 – Kahn “convinces 15 heads of state” to create the The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia to focus on “racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.”
2000 – The Monitoring Centre issues a position paper calling for the definition of antisemitic offenses to be “improved.”
2003 – Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs Natan Sharansky founds the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, stating: “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against anti-Semitism.”
2004 – Sharansky, who is also chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, issues a position paper that lays out the “3-D Test of Anti-Semitism:” statements that “demonize” Israel, apply a “double standard” or “delegitimize” Israel are “antisemitic.” These will form the blueprint for new definitions adopted by lobbying organizations and finally governments.
2004 – US Congress passes law establishing special office and envoy in the State Department to monitor antisemitism that includes statements about Israel under this rubric. (Sharansky is witness at Congressional hearing.)
2004 – American Jewish Committee directors Kenneth Stern and Rabbi Andrew “ Andy” Baker work with Israeli professor Dina Porat to draft a new antisemitism definition and push the Monitoring Centre to adopt it, according to Stern. Their draft drew on Sharansky’s 3 D’s.
2005 – Monitoring Centre issues a “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that includes Sharansky’s 3 D’s, based on Stern et al’s draft. While standard dictionary definitions of antisemitism didn’t even mention Israel, fully half of the newly devised Monitoring Centre definition referred to Israel.
2007 – UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) adopts the new antisemitism definition focused on Israel, after pro-Israel students introduce a motion misleadingly entitled “AntiRacism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in Our Communities.” Some student unions at various UK universities then follow suit.
2008 – The first U.S. State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism, Greg Rickman, endorses the Monitoring Centre working definition in State Department report to Congress. (Rickman later went to work for AIPAC.)
2009 – The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (CCA), which brings together parliamentarians from around the world, issues the London Declaration signed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others. The Declaration calls on governments to use the Monitoring Centre definition and to outlaw and prosecute such “antisemitism.” US Congressmen Ted Deutch and Chris Smith are members of the CCA’s steering committee.
2010 – Second US State Department Special Envoy on antisemitism Hanna Rosenthal officially adopts European Monitoring Centre definition; this is subsequently referred to as the State Department definition of antisemitism. Rosenthal creates course on antisemitism using this definition to train Foreign Service Officers.
2012 – Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law is founded and immediately begins promoting the new definition. Within a year it launches an initiative to establish student chapters at law schools throughout the U.S.
2013 – Successor organization to the European Monitoring Centre (called the European Fundamental Rights Agency) quietly drops the working definition from its website. When questioned about this, the agency’s director says the organization had “no mandate to develop its own definitions.” (Groups using the definition continue to use it.)
2014 – Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with help from Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean of the U.S. Department of State, initiates efforts for another agency to adopt and promote the working definition of antisemitism.
2015 – European Commission creates a special position to coordinate work on combating antisemitism, appointing German Katharina von Schnurbein to the post. Schnurbein proceeds to promote use of the Israel-centric definition.
2015 – Indiana University passes resolution denouncing “anti-Semitism as defined by the United States State Department and will not fund or participate in activities that promote anti-Semitism or that ‘undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.’” University of California Santa Barbara and UCLA also pass such resolutions.
2016 – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), consisting of 31 Member Countries, adopts the definition; the goal is to inspire others to also adopt “a legally binding working definition.” An analyst writes that the IHRA action is “a potentially crucial tool for forcing governments and international agencies to confront and take action.”
December 2016 – U.S. Senate passes law to apply the State Department’s definition of antisemitism to the Education Department, for use in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes. Now the law defines actions connected to criticism of Israel as “religiously motivated.”
December 2016 – UK announces it will formally adopt the Israel-centric definition–the first country to do so besides Israel. UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement during a talk before 800 guests at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch.
December 2016 – Adoption of the definition by the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had been heavily lobbied by the American Jewish Committee, is blocked by Russia. The AJC then says it will push for individual member states to adopt it.
March 2017 – South Carolina House of Representatives passes legislation under which the State Department’s definition “would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.” The Senate version will be discussed in 2018. Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and Tennessee.
March – May 2017 – Resolutions adopting the Israel-centric definitions are passed by student governments at Ohio’s Capital University and Kent State, California’s San Diego State University and at other campuses around the U.S.
April 2017 –
Austria adopts the definition. (The Austrian justice minister previously announced that the new definition would be used in the training of new judges and prosecutors.)
The ADL, which uses Israel-centric definition of antisemitism, announces that antisemitism has risen by 86 percent in 2017, but includes questionable statistics. News organizations throughout the U.S. report the ADL claim.
Reports that Trump administration budget cuts might cause special antisemitism envoy position to remain vacant provokes outrage among Israel lobby groups and others. Samantha Power calls for entire Trump administration to focus on antisemitism. Soon, Trump administration says it will fill post.
All 100 US Senators send a letter to UN demanding it stop its actions on Israel and connects these to antisemitism.
May 2017 –
Israel-Britain Alliance begins asking candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will support the new definition.

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