In 2005, a draft, working definition of antisemitism was circulated by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). To the dismay of its critics, the document confused genuine antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and was repeatedly, and erroneously, promoted by Israel advocacy groups as the EU definition of antisemitism.
By 2013, the EUMC’s successor body, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), had abandoned the politicised definition as unfit for purpose. Just this week, in response to a motion passed at NUS conference, the FRA explicitly denied having ever adopted the definition. Yet on March 30, Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, revived the discredited definition by publishing it on the government’s website. Why? Read more
On Saturday February 14, a letter was published in The Guardian announcing a boycott of Israel by more than 700 British artists and cultural workers (disclaimer: I am a signatory). The signatories came from the worlds of literature, art, film, stage, and music. They all pledged “to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”
The initiative immediately attracted international attention – and a predictable response from Israel’s allies. A Conservative minister described the boycott pledge as “reprehensible” and “unspeakably vile”. The vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews called the letter “totally racist”. Read more
Two recent episodes serve as useful illustrations of the hypocrisy of Israel’s apologists in the West and their approach to racism.
Firstly, there was the outrage that greeted Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon in The Sunday Times and which forced an eventual climb down by the newspaper. Some did not hesitate to call the cartoon anti-Semitic – others were more ambiguous but explained why others could think it was anti-Semitic. Read more
A favourite tactic of die-hard defenders of Israel is to smear critics of the country’s policies through guilt by association, lies, and decontextualised quotations.
I have come to know this latter strategy quite well. Based on short extracts, or even a single sentence, from two out of the 100 plus articles I’ve published, I have been accused of ‘understanding anti-semitism’ and ‘defending’ Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. Read more
The Bishop of Manchester recently warned of an increase in anti-Semitism as a result of a “backlash from Gaza”, in remarks reported in this paper. The week before, Paul Richardson had also written (Jan 23) of how Israel’s attack on Gaza led to attacks on synagogues in Britain and Europe”.
Unfortunately, these and other articles that have appeared in CEN since Israel launched its operation at the end of December have not helped to either clarify the link between Gaza and anti-Semitism at home, nor to foster a serious understanding about events in Israel/Palestine and the Western church’s role. Read more
For those in Britain and around the world following the various attempts to pressurize Israel through boycotts and sanctions, recent months have offered signs that an academic boycott, though currently on the backburner, remains a “live” issue—and may well score more successes in the near future.
A quick recap takes us back to April 2005, when the UK’s Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted in favor of a boycott of two specific Israeli universities, in a decision that provoked a storm of debate, and eventually led to the motion being overturned the following month. Despite this apparent defeat, the pro-boycott union members had succeeded in thrusting the issue into the public arena, and for many it felt like the genie now was well and truly out of the bottle. Read more