Mark Elf, over at Jews sans Frontières, drew my attention to Arthur Neslen’s post on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’ site. Entitled ‘When an anti-semite is not an anti-semite’, the article discusses the EU Monitoring Commission’s ‘Working definition’ of anti-Semitism, which has come up on this blog before.
His main point is that under the EU definition, such luminaries as Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein would be tarred with the antisemite brush, while Lee Barnes of the Nazi British National Party might very well not. According to Neslen, it turns out that the framer of the EU definition was one Kenneth S. Stern, the American Jewish Committee’s specialist on antisemitism. What prompted Neslen’s article is that
Anyway, I was impelled to post this as a comment there.
Canadian philosopher Michael Neumann argues, somewhat tongue in cheek, that when the definition of antisemitism is perverted to incorporate principled opposition to Zionism and to Israeli policies in this way, it transforms antisemitism from a racist atrocity into a virtue. And that really is one of the dangers of a widespread acceptance of a definition along the lines of the ‘Working definition’.
The approach I want to take here is to analyse the relevant passage of the ‘Working definition’ and see where it leads.
To begin with, I think it’s important that we know exactly what the EUMC definition actually says in this regard:
Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of
· 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).
· Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
· Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize
· Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
· Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of
However, criticism of
1. The right to self determination
It is all very well to demand the right of self determination for Jews in
2. Double standards
Contrary to the opinion of people who don't accept the conventional rules of argument, in a discussion of Isr
It probably really is antisemitic to accuse
4. Nazi comparisons
This is another red herring. Nobody claims that the state of
5. Collective responsibility
Ultimately, the EU ‘Working Definition’ undermines itself. If it is anti-Semitic to deny that a Jewish state has a right to exist, or to compare Israeli policies to Nazi policies, the inescapable implication is that it is anti-Semitic because to do so impugns all Jews, and not just Israelis or the Jewish state itself. If it reflects upon Jews in general to criticise