British gov’t: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is antisemitic.

This morning, multiple news outlets reported that the British government will adopt the Working Definition of Antisemitism. Downing Street said that the WD would assist "in efforts to fight hate crimes and incitement targeting Jews" and by ensuring that "culprits will not be able to get away with being antisemitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organisations or bodies have different interpretations of it”.

Since this blog’s founding in 2009, we’ve always had a dual mission:

1. To promote fair and accurate coverage of Israel in the British media.

2. To expose and combat tropes and narratives about Israel in the British media which cross the line from legitimate criticism to antisemitism – what’s known as the ‘New Antisemitism’.

To this latter end, we were always quite clear that when we use the word “antisemitism”, our guide would be the EUMC (European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia) Working Definition (WD). Whilst you can read the entire WD here, here’s how the WD defines antisemitism with respect to Israel:

  1. 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.
  2. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  3. Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  4. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  5. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

We’ve been extremely careful about using the word antisemitism with regard to coverage of Israel, and generally only evoked the term if articles or op-eds employed rhetoric or endorsed ideas consistent with the above bullet points.  (Just yesterday, in fact, we called out The Independent  – per the first bullet point – for legitimising the charge that Zionism is a racist movement.)

The WD has been the most widely respected definition for those tasked with fighting the resurgence of anti-Jewish racism, and one which was adopted or recommended (in some form) by organisations, government bodies and agencies including the UK All-Party Inquiry into antisemitism, the US State Department, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

This morning, however, recognition was taken to the next level, as multiple news outlets reported that the British government will officially adopt a version of the WD.  Downing Street said that the WD would assist “in efforts to fight hate crimes and incitement targeting Jews” and ensure that “culprits will not be able to get away with being antisemitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organisations or bodies have different interpretations of it”.

CST issued the following statement:

“CST welcomes and applauds the government’s adoption of this clear and powerful definition of antisemitism. This is an important step that can help the necessary work of reducing antisemitism and tackling those who promote it. We also appreciate the government’s efforts to encourage the use of this definition in international arenas and we hope that other governments and international bodies will follow suit.”

Beyond the benefits afforded to media monitors like UKMW by the adoption of the WD, the real winners (as the CST statement alluded to) of course will be British Jews.  As we argued in our post yesterday, given the overwhelming support for Zionism within the Jewish community in the UK, and how important Zionism is to British Jewish identity, those who denounce Zionism as an inherently racist (or even Nazi-like) ideology are in effect saying that most Jewish Britons embrace – as part of their very ethnic/religious identity – a racist or Nazi ideology.

Simply put, such ugly, vicious and politically toxic smears should have no place within mainstream British discourse, and it is our hope that such racist manifestations of anti-Zionism are relegated to the dustbin of history. 

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