The Indy published an op-ed by Rebecca Vilkomerson, of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a radical anti-Israel activist group that advocates for a complete economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel, and Richard Kuper, of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. The July 22nd op-ed’s distortions, in defending the Labour Party’s rejection of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, begins in the very headline.
The headline was inspired by a paragraph in the op-ed which accuses proponents of the IHRA Working Definition of “dangerously conflating opposition to Israel’s discriminatory policies with anti-Jewish racism”.
However, nobody has charged that merely accusing Israel of racism or discrimination is itself antisemitic.
The part of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism the op-ed is referring to defines as antisemitic the claim that Israel is inherently a racist endeavor – that is, that Zionism is racism. The IHRA definition also includes the important proviso that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”.
The deceptions continue in the opening sentence, by further distorting the IHRA Working Definition and smearing those who criticised Labour for rejecting it.
A worldwide coalition of Jewish groups has issued a joint statement condemning attempts to stifle criticism of Israel with false accusations of antisemitism.
The statement, which 40 Jewish groups from 15 different countries have signed, could not have been more timely. In the UK, the Labour Party is currently under pressure to adopt the full guidelines accompanying a definition of antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Labour adopted the 38-word definition long ago. But the guidelines with it include examples of antisemitism, two of which – both connected to criticism of Israel – are highly controversial.
This is a perfect example of what’s been characterised by Professor David Hirsh as the Livingstone Formulation – tropes suggesting that accusations of antisemitism by Jews aren’t made in good faith. Rather, the argument goes, the Jewish accuser is taking part in something akin to a conspiracy to silence political speech critical of Israel.
Further in the op-ed, in an attempt to defend groups like JVP which claim that Israel is inherently racist, Vilkomerson and Kuper evokes the ‘Jews only roads’ canard
But genuine anti-racist principles surely lead us to criticise Israel for its many discriminatory policies, whether its segregated road network, its dual justice system, or the “Jewish nation-state” bill…
As we’ve demonstrated repeatedly on these pages, there is not, nor have there ever been, racially segregated roads in Israel or the West Bank. Media outlets such as Associated Press, The Washington Post, Haaretz and the Financial Times have been forced to correct some variation of this lie following communication with CAMERA staff.
Further in the op-ed, Vilkomerson and Kuper again distort the IHRA Working Definition:
What is happening in the UK is but one example of attempts to redefine antisemitism to include criticism of Israel. In the US, the Antisemitism Awareness Act does the same.
In fact, the Antisemitism Awareness Act merely requires the Department of Education to consider the IHRA Working Definition when reviewing claims of discrimination against Jews – a definition, as we’ve shown, only characterises as antisemitic that criticism which represents a double standard that no other country is held to other than Israel.
The co-authors then claim that they “take the threat of antisemitism seriously” and that “IHRA politicises and harms the fight against antisemitism”.
However, those familiar with JVP’s advocacy would realize Vilkomerson’s claims to care deeply about antisemitism are ludicrous. JVP, for instance, launched a campaign called ‘Deadly Exchange’ which suggests that ‘powerful, moneyed’ American-Jewish organizations are behind violence against people of color by US law enforcement.
Here’s JVP giving an enthusiastic welcome to convicted PFLP supermarket bomber Rasmea Odeh.
JVP has also promoted extremist Alison Weir. Weir, according to a ten-page backgrounder on her by ADL, uses anti-Semitic imagery, including a modern version of the ancient blood libel, and portrays Israel and its Jewish ‘agents’ as ruthless forces that control American policy.
JVP’s own national Facebook page, ADL documented, “is a hotbed of classic anti-Semitic language and conspiracy theories”.
JVP speakers have advanced the odious suggestion that Zionism is intellectually similar to white supremacy, whilst one member of the JVP leadership even suggested that Judaism itself encourages racism and genocide.
Nobody familiar with JVP would be surprised at Vilkomerson’s attempt to frame herself as a fighter against antisemitism whilst grossly distorting its meaning and promoting ideas which themselves are laden with anti-Jewish racism. It’s nonetheless extremely disappointing that Indy editors chose to legitimise such moral duplicity, which has the effect of providing cover to those radical voices on the British and American left who claim to be anti-racists yet are openly hostile to the Jewish community.