EUMC did not produce or adopt a ‘Working definition of antisemitism’

Professor Feldman, who is the Chakrabarti inquiry’s vice-chairman, has written that,

Definitions of antisemitism based on double standards, the EUMC working definition, perceptions and outcomes have not been adopted in this sub-report [submitted to last year’s All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism].

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), now the European
 Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), did not produce or adopt the much cited ‘Working definition of antisemitism.’ It was put on the EUMC website for discussion and amendment, but it was never adopted by the EUMC. European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP), among many other individuals and groups, immediately protested about this draft definition and it was confirmed that the so-called  ‘working definition’ was not adopted by the EUMC.

As Beate Winkler, EUMC Director, told EJJP at the time, it ‘should be viewed as “work in progress” … with a view to redrafting.’ But it was never redrafted, despite serious criticisms levelled against it. And for as long as the document remained on the EUMC, then the FRA, website it always included the word ‘draft’ in the title.

When the FRA was contacted about its status in 2010, they explained that feedback on initial testing of the document ‘drew attention to a number of issues which impacted on its effectiveness as a data collection support tool.’ In other words, it wasn’t useful. ‘Since its development we are not aware of any public authority in the EU that applies it, the FRA official added. Moreover, ‘The FRA has no plans for any further development of the “working definition”.’ (24 August 2010)

Subsequent to this the document was withdrawn from the FRA website altogether.

The ‘working definition’ has an inbuilt bias towards suggesting the criticism of Israel is likely to be antisemitic, unless shown to be otherwise, i.e. there is an assumption of guilt unless innocence can be proven.

In 2011, at the height of a polemic inside the University and College Union about this draft document, Richard Kuper wrote an account on openDemocracy:

Excerpt: ‘… Let’s look at the document itself. It is unclear whether ‘working definition’ means the whole document (which fills a single A4 sheet) or just this paragraph which is in bold italics and preceded by the phrase, “Working definition”:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

‘If this is indeed the definition, it is so vague as to be useless as a practical tool. If the entire document is intended – headed ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’ – then it is not only unwieldy but also untrue to the original report which clearly differentiates political criticism of Israel from antisemitism. The document leans towards conflating them. Following the quoted paragraph, it continues: “In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” This single sentence has dominated the way the “working definition” is read.

‘The use of “could”, here and later in the document, is loaded. Following six relatively unproblematic examples of antisemitism, the document again focuses on Israel and lists five ways in which antisemitism “could’ be manifested, which are both confused and tendentious. The text says that “the overall context” should be taken into account. Yet, regardless of context, one of the examples – “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism” – could hardly be anything but antisemitic. The other four examples, grouped around this one, are clearly tainted by association, the suggestion being that they could be anti-semitic, “just like the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism”.

‘In reality they can and often have been contested on grounds that have nothing to do with antisemitism.

‘Take, for instance, the example of “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”. This could be antisemitic. Equally, denying that same right to Basques, Catalans, Scots or indeed the Zulu or Afrikaner nations/peoples, could be racist. But there are all kinds of non-racist reasons why someone might not support these national causes. The right to national self-determination is after all not the primordial right.

‘And even if it were, it should surely be possible to question whether “the Jewish people” are a people in the secular-nationalist as opposed to the religious sense of the word (as the Israeli author Shlomo Sand has done most forcefully in his recent book The Invention of the Jewish People). And even if they have a right to national self-determination would there be a right to exercise it in the whole of Palestine, as Zionism historically demanded? What about a Palestinian right to national self-determination? Would denying that the Palestinians had this right as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir did most forcefully after the 1967 war by denying that the Palestinians were a people, be the equivalent of antisemitism towards the Palestinians? Is the right of self-determination one that can be exercised by transferring others out of the territory in question (as would have been the case if the Bosnian Serbs had been accorded this right)? These are all legitimate questions which should not be censored by threats of antisemitic accusations.

‘Or consider another of the examples of what ‘might be’ antisemitic: ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’. Of course this is wrong. It could be antisemitic. But no-one makes this accusation when Zionists routinely conflate Jews collectively with Israel. Indeed it is hard to have a discussion about Zionism without this notion coming up positively, expressed clearly in the idea of Israel as the Jewish state, acting on behalf of all Jews. Prime Minister Netanyahu was explicit about this only last week when he addressed Congress on 24 May: “I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, thank you.”…’

Further reading:

The collective Jew: Israel and the new antisemitism
Brian Klug, Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 37, No. 2, Jun 2003

Sub-Report for the Parliamentary Committee against Antisemitism
David Feldman, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London, 1 Jan 2015

A Tsunami of Confusion: Antisemitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict
Tony Klug, JfJfPJul 2006

Jewish Self-hatred: Myth or Reality?
Antony Lerman, Jewish Quarterly, Summer 2008

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons