Posts Tagged ‘European Jewish Congress’

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

May 20, 2018

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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Vox Political and Jonathan Rosenhead on the Politicised Nature of the Anti-Semitism Smears

October 17, 2016

Today the Home Affairs Select Committee has endorsed the anti-Semitism smears, repeating the accusation, based on a very selective reading of the evidence, that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour party has been for years. This accusation has been refuted time and again, but the establishment is determined to repeat due to their fears of Jeremy Corbyn and a properly socialist Labour party getting into power and actually doing something for the working class and reversing the wholesale looting of this country by the elite under Thatcherite neoliberal economics. Mike’s already put up an article this morning attacking the Committee and refuting their allegations.

But before this latest repetition of these baseless accusations, Mike had already put up an excellent piece on Saturday, commenting on and reblogging an extract of a piece on the Open Democracy site by Jonathan Rosenhead demolishing the anti-Semitism allegations and pointing the finger at exactly who is really responsible for them, and why. As has been pointed out countless times before, this is the Israel lobby, comprising Jeremy Newmark, now the chief prosecutor in this inquisition, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, and Ella Rose, who gave up her job as the Israeli embassy’s public affairs officer to become the Director of the JLM. Mr Rosenhead notes that organisation the JLM is at least in an informal partnership with the Labour Friends of Israel and the Blairites in a coalition to remove Tony Blair.

Mr Rosenhead is a member of a group, Free Speech on Israel, which coalesced out of a gathering of Jewish Labour party supporters. At their inaugural meeting, the group found that, although they had over 1000 years of experience as Labour members, they could not think of a single instance where they had experienced anti-Semitism within the Labour party, and only a handful of times they had experienced it in their lives.

He also attacks the whole notion that there has been a spike in anti-Semitism in Britain. He notes that while the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain increased by 15% in the first months of this year over those in 2015, they are still below the number recorded in 2014 during the Gaza Crisis. So, he concludes, no upsurge.

He also observes that the explanations for this non-existent massive culture of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is either explained by it being endemic on the Left, or that it is somehow due to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, are mutually contradictory. He states that in a previous discussion of this topic in another Open Democracy article, it had been shown that the comments and tweets that were treated as anti-Semitic and the basis for suspension were not about Jews, but about Israel and Zionism. He makes it clear that this is an invented crisis, and is about criminalising innocent behaviour. This is deliberately redefining criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, in order to justify the territorial expansion of Israel and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians on one side and to leave the party securely in the hands of the Blairites on the other.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/15/how-allegations-of-left-anti-semitism-have-been-weaponised-against-jeremy-corbyn/

Jonathan Rosenhead himself is Emeritus Professor of Operational Research at the LSE, and Chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. As with Tony Greenstein and the signatories of the letter to the Guardian protesting against Jackie Walker’s suspension, Prof Rosenhead is clearly extremely well-informed about these issues, and his original article contains much more highly relevant information.

He notes that while Holocaust Memorial Day is supposed to mark all the genocides that have occurred from the Shoah onwards, in practice it concentrates very much on the Jewish experience. It does not commemorate the 500,000 Roma (Gypsies) and the 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, who were also murdered by the Nazis. And in his words, it only pays lip-service to the genocide in Rwanda.
He also notes how convenient the cut-off date for the commemoration of genocides is for Britain and America. The Americans might be sensitive about their role in the slave trade and the ethnic cleansing of the Amerindians in the 18th and 19th centuries, just as Britain was also responsible for its role in the slave trade and the genocide of Aboriginal Australians. He states:

The absence from Holocaust Memorial Day of the millions of slaves who died on the Atlantic crossing and then through the brutal conditions of slave labour is no accident, no act of God. And it is no sacrilege for Jackie Walker to point up this glaring omission.

He also points out that Jackie Walker was, contra the impression you’re given by the mainstream media, quite correct in questioning the definition of anti-Semitism used by Mike Katz and the JLM, who were organising the training day at which Mrs Walker made the comments that have been used to suspend her as vice-chair of Momentum. Katz declared that the definition used was that of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, which had been taken over by the European Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, which were both Zionist organisations. The main author of the EUMC definition was Kenneth Stern, an attorney, who was the American Jewish Committee’s expert on anti-Semitism and extremism. And his definition of anti-Semitism included anti-Zionism, because of Israel’s nature as a Jewish state. The result was a lengthy document of 500 words intended to criminalise criticism of Israel, produced not by the EU, but by an American Zionist organisation. Brian Klug, an Oxford academic specialising in the study of anti-Semitism, just sums it up in 21. This simply defines it as a hatred of Jews as Jews, in which they are seen as something they are not.

In fact, the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism has never been officially endorsed by the EU. The EU itself closed the EUMC down in 2007 and transferred its power to the Fundamental Rights Agency, which refused to endorse the definition and took it off its website.

The definition was taken up in 2006 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism under its chair, Denis MacShane. But nine years later in 2015, the Group brought out another report under its new chair, John Mann, which did not use the definition. It commission another, sub-report, from Prof David Feldman, which used that of Brian Klug. Prof. Rosenhead also states that his own union, the UCU, resolved not to use the EUMC definition in 2011, and that in 2013 the BBC Trust declared that the EUMC definition had no standing.

Prof Rosenhead then goes on to discuss the history of the Jewish Labour Movement. This was formerly Poale Zion, which originated in the early 20th century amongst Jewish/Zionist and Marxist workers, and has been affiliated to the Labour party since 1920. After the colonisation of Israel, it suffered a series of splits and mergers in that country to produce two of that nation’s main parties, MAPAI and MAPAM. In the 1930s and 1940s Poale Zion in the UK had members and supporters such as Harold Laski, Ian Mikardo and Sidney Silverman. In 1946 it had 2000 members. However, over the last 50 years the organisation has shrunk immensely as Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians alienated many on the Left and, indeed, the Centre of British politics. In 2004 the organisation rebranded itself as the Jewish Labour Movement, and is also affiliated to the Israeli Labour party and the World Zionist Organisation. Its website remained inactive up to 2015, though it may have had an active email list. That year its chair, Louise Ellman, stepped down, as was replaced by Jeremy Newmark, who began a new, more aggressive phase of the organisation. There is no evidence from whence the JLM gets its funding, which is obviously very generous. As well as a member of his local Labour party, Newmark is executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, and has been Communications Director for the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs.

Prof Rosenhead also describes how Newmark presented evidence against the University and College Union before an Employment Tribunal in 2013, in which he accused it of anti-Semitic behaviour. The Tribunal utterly dismissed the claim, declaring

“We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.”

The panel also described one of his claims as ‘preposterous’ and found that one of his other statements, that ‘the union was no longer a fit arena for free speech’ was one “which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.”

Prof. Rosenhead final section, Making Unbelieve, concludes

The whole operation has been breath-takingly successful for the last 8 months. And it is not over. JLM, for example, is pressing for a change in the Labour Party’s constitution that would make it (even) easier to exclude people on suspicion of harbouring antisemitic tendencies. It has influence at the highest levels in the Labour Party. The very training session run by JLM that led to Jackie Walker’s second suspension was set up by the Labour Party bureaucracy in direct contradiction of the Chakrabarti inquiry. Their report recommended against such targeted training, and in favour of broader anti-racist education. But, hey, who’s counting? Not the Labour Party apparatus.

Free Speech on Israel aims to expose this soufflé of a Ponzi scheme. It rests on the shifting sands of unreliable evidence, and on assertions that contradict our (Jewish and non-Jewish) everyday experience. Not least, the claims about a Jewish community united in its alignment behind Israel is yet more make believe. The best survey evidence we have is that 31% of UK Jews describe themselves as ‘No, not Zionist’; and many of the remainder are deeply concerned over Israel’s policies.

We should suspend our belief.

This not just confirms and shows in greater detail the highly political nature of the allegations, but also the extremely tenuous existence of one of the organisation behind them. The Jewish Labour Movement was virtually moribund until it was taken over by Newmark. Like the Blairite group, ‘Labour Future’, it is well-funded, but the origins of its money is shrouded in mystery. It also appears to have very few members. It’s clearly an example of a numerically insignificant organisation trying to throw its weight around as if it were a mass-movement with undisputed authority, rather than the opposite.

This follows the pattern that Prof Finkelstein and others in the anti-Zionist movement in the US have observed about the Zionist movement in their country: that support for Israel amongst American Jews is waning. As the years pass, Israel may soon become completely irrelevant to young American Jews’ construction of their identities. Prof Rosenhead in this article points out that 31% of Jewish Brits say that they’re not Zionists, and many others are ambivalent or opposed to aspects of the regime and its policy towards the Palestinians. The British press, by contrast, has maintained that 75 per cent of British Jews state that Israel is ‘very important’ to their sense of identity. That was the claim repeated in the I, but as this paper is consistently anti-Corbyn, I take its claim here with more than a pinch of salt.

The Blairites and the Israel Lobby are both in a severe crisis, and are trying to hang on to power through the libelling of decent people, like Jackie Walker, who make perfectly reasonable comments. It is people like Newmark, who are trying to stifle democratic debate. We should not let them. The smearing should stop immediately. Those who have been vilified should be directly reinstated, including Jackie Walker as Momentum’s Vice-Chair.

And where it can be shown that those making the accusations have libelled their victims, they should be prosecuted and forced to pay for their malicious crimes.