The EU drops its working definition of Antisemitism. Antisemites rejoice

1991 Dry Bones cartoon, completely relevant even today

If you look down the right-hand sidebar of this blog, you will see a link under the “Resources” heading titled “EUMC working definition of antisemitism“.  However if you click on this link you will now receive a “page no longer exists” message.

It turns out, as if we didn’t have enough trouble from the Europeans, that the EU has dropped its “working definition of antisemitism” from its website.

The European Union’s agency for combating racism dropped its definition for anti-Semitism and now is unable to define the term, an agency spokeswoman said.

Tapia was answering a query on the recent removal from the agency’s website of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism that was adopted in 2005 by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia — the EU entity that her organization has replaced. The removal was first reported by the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada.

Campaigners against anti-Semitism said the document is significant because alongside classical anti-Semitic behavior, it lists the vilification of Israel or Israelis, which some scholars call “new anti-Semitism.” The definition lists “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and drawing comparisons between Israel and Nazis as examples of anti-Semitism.

But Tapia said her organization had never viewed the document as a valid definition. Agency officials said the document had been pulled offline “together with other non-official documents.”

Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told JTA that the agency’s “disowning of its own definition is astounding” and that “those who fight anti-Semitism have lost an important weapon.” He also said the “Union’s about-face on its own definition damages its credibility.”

Shimon Samuels writes in his own article at the ToI:

On 6 November, I protested to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, the current disappearance of the “Working Definition” from the FRA website, requesting it be immediately re-uploaded.

The 29 November response from the European Commission Directorate-General Justice, with responsibility for Fundamental Rights, was astounding in insisting “at the outset, that neither the Commission in particular, nor the Union have an established definition of antisemitism and that there is no policy to create one. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the FRA is an independent agency.”

The points made by the European Commission are arguably inconsistent:

Read Samuels’ litany of European perfidy and inconsistency regarding the disappearance of this important document. He concludes:

As one of the NGOs that strove to achieve the “Working Definition,” despite its initial delays and antagonists, we consider its publication an achievement for the EU and an even more valid instrument today as anti-Jewish attacks increase across Europe.

Its removal can only comfort and encourage anti-Semites. Its return to the FRA website would be appreciated as the first step for European endorsement of what has become a vital arm in the arsenal against hate.

Samuels’ prediction of the encouragement given to antisemites by the removal of this document has already been fulfilled.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the disappearance of the EUMC was first noted by the revolting Ben White of the equally revolting and antisemitic website Electronic Intifada. (Sorry, I won’t post a link to that execrable site). The blogger Marc Goldberg commendably conducted his own research with the FRA (the agency of the EU dealing with this issue), leading to a rather benign explanation for the document’s disappearance. He writes thus about White at Harry’s Place:

What is really stupid about this whole affair is that somehow White paints the fact that the working definition isn’t adopted by the FRA as evidence of it being a “discredited definition” of anti-Semitism. What the FRA said to him and to me is that the FRA is not a body that would seek to define for a religious or ethnic group what exactly is or is not a hate crime against them. …

[…]

White wants to wade in and tell Jews what is and what is not an acceptable definition of anti-Semitism. The FRA most explicitly does not. White is happy because he thinks that the EUMC working definition defined anti-Semitism too widely, preventing him and his mates from being able to say the kinds of anti-Semitic things they, for some reason, find to be a necessary part of their anti-Israel campaigning. He is wrong, the FRA had no interest in the working definition because the parameters are too narrow.

Another antisemitic reporter, Mira Bar-Hillel, is harshly taken to task by two scathing articles. The first, at CiFWatch, provides us with extensive background information on Bar-Hillel explaining why she deserves the epithet “Antisemite”. It then decries the fact that an antisemite such as her should write an article on … Antisemitism!

In her latest Indy op-ed (an essay addressing the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism), Bar-Hillel again regales British readers with her ‘penetrating insights’ into the danger posed by ‘false accusations of antisemitism’ by organized Jewry – a piece riddled with distortions.

[…]

Conclusive proof that British papers don’t fear accusations of antisemitism can of course also be found in the simple fact that Indy editors felt no hesitation in publishing an essay – on the topic of antisemitism – by a journalist who has admitted to possessing an antipathy towards Jews.

If the organized Jewish community is indeed trying to stifle the free speech of anti-Semites, they’re clearly failing miserably at this task.

The second article dealing with Bar-Hillel is by Sarah AB at Harry’s Place, mockingly titled “Mira Bar-Hillel, silenced no more“, pointedly and sarcastically rips her claims of being silenced to shreds:

This post picks up on the issue addressed in Marc’s recent piece: the status of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism. It is a response to a bizarre article by Mira Bar-Hillel, expressing delighted relief that the working definition has now been ‘dropped’ so that she can finally speak her mind about Israel.  She explains her particular beef with the definition here:

There was not, in that lengthy and detailed definition, anything new or that I would disagree with – apart from a dangerous sting in the end. This stretched the definition of anti-Semitism from the simple 2,000-year-old Jew-hating and baiting to “attacking Israel … by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, or holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.”

It was this dubious extension which has been used recently to gag, or at least mute, free speech and most criticism of Israel in the UK media and beyond.

Really?  I haven’t noticed criticism of Israel being particularly muted myself.

[…]

Although her discussion of the Bedouin issue is actually comparatively calm, that in itself contrives to imply that even reasoned, mild criticisms of Israel, criticism which might indeed be levelled at ‘any other democratic nation’ will cause one to be shunned and denounced.  Given the inaccuracies of Bar-Hillel’s report on media coverage, it is particularly damaging that she uses it to insinuate that Israel’s critics are being silenced by dishonest manipulation of the working definition.

[…]

I’m not sure what Mira Bar-Hillel thinks she has been set free from exactly – she has hardly been inhibited in the past.

Ouch! It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

The blogger Liberty’s Spirit has an excellent, very informative post on the implications of the removal of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism, and the following excerpt summarizes the problem perfectly:

Apparently the sticking point is the criticism of Israel. One of the main points of the original working definition is that calling for the destruction of Israel (aka genocide against another 6 million Jews), accusing Israel of being Nazis and using old-fashioned antisemitic dog-whistles to describe Israel was antisemitism. Seems that is not the case anymore. Actually the breadth of the old definition, based upon Natan Sharansky’s 3-D test, has been a complaint of the elites since the definition was agreed upon. HERE 

Sharansky’s 3-Ds of antisemitism seem to hit too close to home for these overly indulged and over-educated societal aprobates. Interestingly enough, Sharanksy never said that Israel cannot be criticized. He merely outlined what is and is not acceptable discourse and purpose. Interestingly at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism held last spring there was a discussion about the effects of that definition and its real-world applications. HERE.

The EU have not adequately explained the reasoning behind the disappearance of the working definition of antisemitism. Considering how long it took for the document to be published in the first place, after delays and attempts at suppression by interested parties, how long do you think it is going to take to get this important document re-uploaded to the EUMC website?  Or should we take bets that it will disappear into a black hole, never to be republished again?

[UPDATE: Brian Goldfarb in the comments gave us this link to the Working Definition on Antisemitism on the website of the European Forum on Antisemitism with which I will update my sidebar link too.]

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19 Responses to The EU drops its working definition of Antisemitism. Antisemites rejoice

  1. Brian Goldfarb says:

    The definition still exists, just not on the EU website. Less than a minute on the net led me to this: http://www.european-forum-on-antisemitism.org/working-definition-of-antisemitism/english/.

    Orwell’s world in “1984” might be able to, literally, rewrite history, but the net has made such wholesale revisionism almost impossible. Even Chinese dissidents can find ways round the government’s attempts to control their thinking, albeit at great cost to themselves. Further, the fact that the UK Parliament has adopted the Working Definition means that people such as Ken Livingstone and Jenny Tonge and even whole political parties such as the Green Party can rejoice as much as they like: the definition as a guide to action still exists.

    The loss of the definition from the EU website is hardly going to make the German Government, for example, rewrite its anti-discrimination law, nor the UK Government, for that matter. Should the UCU take this as a green light to ignore their lawyers advice and actually pass a boycott resolution and seek to put it into practice, they would soon discover that UK anti-discrimination law has teeth: blunt possibly, but still teeth. It will take longer, maybe, because these members of the Rancid Left (which stretches to include members of the supposed centre – see Jenny Tonge above) will take (false) heart from this development.

    We have been fighting these people for a long time, and we will have to continue fighting them. This will hardly stop CiF, for example, from exposing the Guardian for what it is, an apologist for (to be polite, which is not what I’m feeling) anti-Zionists. Nor will it stop us.

    Aux barricades, citoyens. No Pasaran`!

    The definition still exists, just not on the EU website. Less than a minute on the net led me to this: http://www.european-forum-on-antisemitism.org/working-definition-of-antisemitism/english/.

    I will not be beaten by these people.

    • anneinpt says:

      Nicely said Brian.

      However, despite the accuracy of your remark that the definition still exists elsewhere (thank you for that link, I’m going to update my sidebar) the fact that it has been dropped from the FRA website – no matter that their explanation is ostensibly quite reasonable – has given the antisemites cause to cheer and jeer and generally make trouble, as seen by the 2 examples in this post. (Yes, I know they don’t need much encouragement).

      For example I see a possibility of problems arising, for example if the “antis” challenge the UK Parliament on its adoption of the definition by claiming that the definition doesn’t exist any more. Similarly at the anyway anti-Israel UCU.

      It’s the fact that the definition was dropped from the website that is giving the antisemites cheer. The fact that it still exists elsewhere and that the definition hasn’t been cancelled is irrelevant to the antisemites.

      This false perception is what we have to combat, as much as actual antisemitism itself. It’s like fighting ghosts. Or jelly – all slippery and sticky without any substance.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        I dislike telling other activists how to be active (we all do it in our own ways), we just have to tell them that anti-discrimination still exits.

        For example, the vanishing trick won’t stop the UCUs lawyers telling them that actually boycotting Israeli academics is against UK law.

        Nor will it stop the UK Parliament (and I don’t notice the UK government rushing to change that law, nor its policies) from doing whatever it wants.

        And has Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP said anything yet?

        This is the position we were in before the Working Definition was established. We’ll just have to bash the ….s harder.

        They aren’t the only ones who can tear up paving stones (even metaphorically) to build barricades.

        Courage, mes amis!

        • anneinpt says:

          Thanks for your comments which give more insight into the UK’s anti-discrimination laws.

          I think what is bothering em more than anything is the removal itself of the document, and the fact that the antisemites are in ecstasy about this, no matter that in practice nothing has changed. I just hate to see the b…st..ds so happy.

  2. ealha3 says:

    Trying to fight anti-Semitism with “definitions” and laws is like trying to fight those who dislike the color blue. There are as many reasons to hate that color as there are to hate Jews. On the other hand if you ask a person why they hate the color blue, they may be as embarrassed in trying to explain it as one would be trying to explain why they hate Jews. One may have few reasons to love the color blue, but, if one were to ask, there are many, very reasonable people who can give you many cogent reasons to love the Jew. We will have great difficulty trying to convince the UN why they should love Jews – they have many irrational bigots who govern their lives much as any dumb animal innocently unable to think rationally and deeply afraid of confronting the possibility of tolerating a conflicting thought. One should never try to teach a pig to sing. You won’t succeed and you’ll only make the pig angry.

    • anneinpt says:

      Very interesting analogies Elliott – especially the “teaching a pig to sing” one. 🙂

      You have a very good point that one shouldn’t try to define antisemitism. Most of us Jews recognize it when we see it. The trouble arises when people make remarks, comments or acts that they are not even aware are antisemitic, or “dog-whistling”. For those people it is necessary to have some sort of official document.

      Furthermore, the “new antisemitism”, i.e. anti-Zionism or anti-Israelism as I call it, also needs to be shown to be antisemitic, again particularly for those who are not yet persuaded. The real antisemites will always find another reason to hate the Jews and Israel and will not be confused by facts. It’s for the undecided (and they are the majority I think) that we need this definition.

      We also need to stress, as Brian has commented above, that the definition being dropped from the website does not cancel it out. It still exists elsewhere and is a basis for institutions to work with.

    • Actually definitions and laws are extremely important to protect the rights of minorities in any civil society. Example: the United States and the Civil Rights laws that is used to protect students on college campuses has been interpreted to include Jewish students even though it only mentions race, ethnicity and not religion. Up until the Obama administration the law was used to protect Jewish students from racism and civil rights violations. However, the OCR has decided that that interpretation is in and of itself racist since Judaism/Jews are not a race. Hence they refuse to prosecute any antisemitic incidents under the Civil Rights Statutes. Meanwhile, the number of antisemitic incidents on college campuses across the US has skyrocketed. There was a discussion of revamping the law in Congress or the OCR reviewing its interpretation of the law in question. So far nothing has really been done. The government is not prosecuting blatant attacks against Jewish students and because of the OCR interpretations colleges that let these attacks go undisciplined are not subject to the Civil Rights laws and the Jewish victims are not entitled to a federal legal remedy. (Of course the Jewish students may look to their respective states for redress if any exists.)

      You can contact the Brandies Center in LA for a more up to date take on the problem. Meanwhile there is a good book by Kenneth Marcus on the subject: Jewish identity and Civil Rights in America

      • ealha3 says:

        Is there a “civil right” to hate Jews as distinguished from a “civil right” to discriminate against Jews? Are we trying to define anti-Semitism to enforce a law against its belief? Or, should we be trying to define laws that discriminate against acts affecting religion? Should anyone be able to hate anything they wish so long as they do not interfere with the civil rights of one on the basis of a protected interest, such as race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation? Anti-Semitism, I suggest is an interest, a thought, a value, a belief. When it becomes an act, it is the act that must be defined as an item of legislation. Interests, thoughts, values and beliefs are the sole property of the individual, not the state. Allow these items to be “litigated” in their own intangible market places of public opinion. 1984 has invaded our lives enough. It is time we confront the legitimacy of the idea on its merits instead of at the point of a sword.

        • I don’t know where you live, but here in the United States we have had federal Civil Rights legislation since the Civil War to protect the rights of minorities. Since the 1960s these laws have been applicable to the States. Antisemitism as the impetus for hate crimes is not an undefinable act, look at any hate crimes legislation and you would understand that. This has nothing to with 1984, as that had to do with making rights wrongs. The law does not tell people what to think bu how to act. While it is not against the law to be stupid and ignorant, denying someone their rights, either civil or constitutional based upon their race, creed, ethnicity and gender is a crime in the United States, there is no reason that that protection should not be applied to religion so that Jewish students are protected from harassment, and attack which deprives them of their rights as well.

      • anneinpt says:

        Wow. I had no idea that this was going on in campuses in the States. I was aware of the rising antisemitic incidents but I didn’t realise the background, or the difficulty in prosecuting these attacks. Thanks for all this information though it makes difficult reading.

  3. Why does the European Union need an agency for combating racism?

    • anneinpt says:

      I presume you’re being sarcastic? 😉

      • I’m serious. Sure, there is racism and anti-semitism, but combating them with a bereaucracy? When a criminal law is broken there should be punishment. Immigration policy is another matter to look into…

        • anneinpt says:

          The working definition (WD) was not intended to be a basis for legislation or bureaucracy or defining criminality. It was meant really as a guide to the perplexed, to show people who claim they aren’t antisemitic, who genuinely don’t understand how their words can be construed as such by Jews or others, what the definition of antisemitism is.

          I’m sure you are aware that many people tend to think that antisemitism only consists of physically Jew-bashing, painting swastikas or antisemitic graffiti (e.g. “Jews Out!”) on walls or overturning gravestones in Jewish cemeteries, vandalising synagogues, Jewish schools and community centers etc. But, again, as I’m sure you know, antisemitism can be so much more. It’s the snide mentions of money or power or sinister influence in the media, Hollywood, banking, the halls of power and politics. It’s the double standards to which Israel is held, it’s the focus on Israel in the media and international institutions … well, it’s all in the WD.

          As I said, it’s a guide for those who don’t know, or who want to deny their own antisemitism. It’s also a tool for Jews trying to combat antisemitism, to show where an act or words are antisemitic.

          As Liberty’s Spirit shows above, even the US looks to be in urgent need of a new definition of antisemitism simply in order to be able to combat it on campus.

  4. anneinpt says:

    Thank you everyone for this really interesting and thought-provoking discussion. I have found it most educational and enlightening, even if slightly depressing.

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