Submission by Free Speech on Israel to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights’
Inquiry into Freedom of Expression
Free Speech on Israel is a Jewish-led group formed in April 2016 out of concerns that the surge in accusations of antisemitism in British public life inno way reflected the reality in which we live.
Evidence to 2018 Inquiry
Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) gave oral and written evidence to the Joint Committee’s 2018 inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Universities. In the current submission we will concentrate only on the question: How has the situation changed in universities in the two years since the Committee’s report on the issue?
Peter Ullrich has prepared a detailed analysis of the IHRA working definition on antisemitism. It is a dense read but takes the discussion of the shortcomings of the definition further than previous critiques. Ullrich shows that what is regarded as an unamendable text by its UK protagonists has been adapted significantly elewhere. He carefully explores not just the history and language of the document but also the necessity of seeing it as a text to be interpreted and not a simple set unambiguous categories.
The “Working Definition of Antisemitism” recognized by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016 is an instrument for collecting required data on and fighting antisemitism that has achieved wide dissemination. In a field of action characterized by a high degree of conceptual insecurity, the definition promises conceptual orientation by providing a basis for practical work. Indeed, with its concrete language devoid of technical jargon and its tangible examples that illustrate the concept of antisemitism using typical, recurring phenomena, the “Working Definition” has become the basis for the work of various groups of users. Moreover, the adoption of hitherto rarely examined aspects of antisemitism related to Israel provided an update for the discussion that was necessary at the time the definition was formulated (in the early 2000s). Continue reading “Expert Opinion on the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” of the IHRA”
Mike Cushman analyses the unreasonable and unprecedented restrictions UCL have placed on what may be said at the launch of a new book on Chomsky’s work. They have extended the range of examples that they define as antisemitic even beyond the wide ranging and frequently criticised examples attached to the IHRA definition.
LATEST – ‘GUIDELINES’ HAVE GONE
We wrote to the head of UCL and received this response:
Thank you for taking the time to set our your concerns. The Provost has asked me to respond to you to let you know that, following discussions here and with the independent chair of the event, we have now agreed a way for the event to proceed without asking the speakers to sign up to the guidelines.
We have also heard that the requirement to submit the text of talks in advance has also been dropped.
Mike Cushman looks at how the witch hunt against Chris Williamson is linked to WitchHunt. The film shows how slurs against principled supporters of Palestinian rights become solidified into ‘common sense’
Tower Hamlets Council banned the The Big Ride for Palestine from using its property for the end event to its ride on 27 July. A ride aimed at raising money for sports for girls and young women traumatised by attacks on Gaza as well as raising awareness about Palestine.
When the Government promoted adoption of the IHRA definition of Antisemitism we warned that not only was the definition poorly worded but that public bodies might make it even worse by going beyond its strict terms. Tower Hamlets have demonstrated that our concerns were fully justified and the IHRA definition is a threat to the free speech Britain prides itself on.
We warned that Councils would ignore the mildly limiting caveats in the definition that: ‘the following examples may serve as illustrations’; ‘manifestations might include’; ‘could, taking into account the overall context, include’. We feared that they would adopt a simple matching approach: matching a phrase, often taken out of context, to one of the eleven tendentious examples.
Jonathan Cook shows how silence from Western politicians and media embolden Israel. Recent silence demolitions in Sur Baher, killings on the Gaza border and clampdowns on critics of Israel illustrate the large and growing problem.
This article is reprinted from Mondoweiss by permission of the author
Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.
The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.
Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.
It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.
Jonathan Ofir describes the debate between Morris and Levi in Ha’aretz about 1948 and now and details the many contradictions of Benny Morris’s statements: sometimes Morris says the Israelis engaged in ethnic cleansing, sometimes he protests they didn’t; sometimes he discloses Israeli crimes of rape and murder, sometimes he denies their occurrence. It seems there are two Benny Morrises competing for attention: one the accomplished historian; the other the fervent ideologue.
Reprinted from Mondoweiss, 23 January 2019 by permission of the author
For nearly a week now, a fierce ideological fight has been taking place on the pages of the Israeli daily Haaretz, between Israeli historian Benny Morris and Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy.
It started with Morris giving a long interview to Ofer Aderet in which he issued dire predictions for the future of the state of Israel. This has become a back-and-forth (Morris-Levy-Morris-Levy) that is a fight for the soul of the one-state. Both essentially agree, that the two-state solution is no longer an actual possibility. Thus, the discussion becomes, What kind of a state this is, and what it will become. Continue reading “Gideon Levy vs Benny Morris – and the fight for the soul of the one-state”
Unprecedented initiative by over 30 Jewish groups worldwide opposes equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel
Jewish groups issue joint statement against misleading definition of antisemitism used to stifle criticism of Israel and undermine free speech
Coalition of 36 groups from 15 countries defends right to criticise and boycott Israel
IHRA definition undermines both Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and global struggle against antisemitism
New York, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv (July 17, 2018) – From South Africa to Sweden, New Zealand to Germany to Brazil, for the first time ever over thirty Jewish organisations across the globe have come together in a statement opposing attempts to use a distorted definition of antisemitism to stifle criticism of Israel. The statement, spearheaded by the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace and supported by six UK Jewish groups, condemns a growing trend of legislative campaigns to target organisations that support Palestinian rights, especially the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Continue reading “FSOI supports global Jewish initiative against demonising criticism of Israel”
Mike Cushman condemns the suppression of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu’s meeting with May as only the latest censoring of drawings of the Israeli PM in a bonfire of morality.
The Guardian, which regards itself as Britain’s leading progressive newspaper, has censored a cartoon drawing attention to the sycophantic nature of Theresa May’s relationship to Benjamin Netanyahu.
The cartoon drawn by Steve Bell, widely regarded as Britain’s outstanding political cartoonist, is based on a press agency photo of May’s meeting with Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street.
Bell replaced the fireplace with a drawing of murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar.
There has been no clear statement from the Guardian as to why this sharp but fair condemnation of the insouciance of the two prime ministers is antisemitic. This has resulted in speculation that placing Razan in the fireplace (the focal centre of the press photo) has been interpreted as an insensitive allusion to the Nazi crematoria. Continue reading “The Guardian censors criticism of May and Netanyahu”
FSOI presented evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights enquiry on Freedom of Speech in Universities about the threat posed by far right and Zionist disruption of events supportive of Palestinian rights. This evidence was presented in January 2018 but not published here through an administrative oversight.
Submission by Free Speech on Israel to the Inquiry by the Joint Committee on Human Rights
Antisemitism in the UK is not epidemic, and is low by comparative standards.
Externally generated pressures based on an enlarged definition of antisemitism are encroaching on the freedom to hold campus events supportive of Palestine and therefore critical of Israel.
The UK government has adopted a contentious definition of antisemitism (now found not to have been agreed by its supposed promoting body), and has promoted it to all UK universities, as well as to local authorities.
The dissemination of this definition was followed by an upsurge, still ongoing, in university managements’ obstructions of campus meetings thought likely to adopt a critical stance on Israel.
Such action has frequently been triggered by complaints from external groups supportive of Israel.
There is a growing campaign of aggressive disruption of such meetings by far-right and Zionist activists.