What is antisemitism? An explanation of the problems with the definition

There are problems with the current definition of ‘antisemitism’ as defined in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance that are being discussed in the Labour Party right now. 

Most of the legal definitions in the text are acceptable insofar that no one should hate anyone for their religion, creed or race. In my moral code, it is someone’s actions that should be judged not who they are.

Where I myself run into trouble with the definition, that is enacted in UK law, and has led to many accusations of antisemitism in my party, is that criticism of actions of the Israeli state are considered antisemitic.  

I’m known for my bombastic, straight talking language. If this is to be published I cannot do that here. 

Acceptable parts of the definition

As a human being you should start believing that everyone is of good standing until they prove to you that they are otherwise. The following elements of the code in question enshrine that in the following examples:

“Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

▪ Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

  ▪ Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

  ▪ Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

  ▪ Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

  ▪ Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.” The existence of a state cannot be ‘racist’. As we discuss later, the actions of a state can be.

”  ▪ 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 antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

▪ Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” Not everyone agrees with their homeland politicians!

The loony left

There are conspiracy theories based on some small truths that make me switch off as soon as I hear them. The Rothschild banking family ruling the world and conspiring to create a ‘new world order’. No financier has perfectly clean hands in this world but the Rothschild conspiracies make me feel very uncomfortable. They did finance Napoleon and the UK in the Napoleonic Wars and were originally licensed to loan money in the UK specifically because in those days here, Christians couldn’t engage in usury. Those facts served to enrich Jewish families but I switch off when I hear of Martian moon bases and other weird rubbish promoted to attack these financier families. I personally don’t like bankers and couldn’t care less what religion they hold as banks are responsible for so many evils in this world – Christian, Buddhist or atheist I dislike them anyway! 

The conspiracy rubbish falls foul of the following example:

“Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.” 

Sadly many on what I usually call the ‘loony left’ believe these conspiracies and this does cause difficulty for a movement that tries to accept everyone who sits left of centre. While I have attacked many of my fellow activists here, I raise the point because it is contentious – if only we could remove the Jewish bit from the conspiracy and it would be safe yet acceptable (even if I personally believe it is complete tosh). 

The line crossed

Within my personal moral code it is unacceptable to uproot anyone from their homeland or to hate them for the skin they were born in. It is unacceptable to have second class citizens of any kind. You should treat everyone with respect regardless of whom they are. 

This is where things get difficult. The next example given in the document causes me real problems:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” 

Israel does not put Palestinians in gas chambers. Israel doesn’t follow National Socialism. It cannot be called a Nazi state. It is far from perfect though. 

Israel does however routinely commit atrocities against a people who have lived in what is now demarcated as Israel for many centuries – most of those centuries at relative peace with one another. Children are put in prison for defending their homes when those homes are attacked without provocation. A culture of hatred has been fomented among Israeli Jews (admittedly not all of them) toward Palestinians. Palestinian land is routinely snatched and peoples’ livelihoods are destroyed. Time and again, solutions have been offered by international organisations, yet time and again the noose is tightened on the Palestinian and Arab population as the agreement is reneged upon.

Right wing politics

This is not a Jewish thing. As people, Jews don’t hate any more than we do in Europe. It is an issue of right wing politics. Right wing politics starts out with a bogeyman and teaches those it leads to blame the bogeyman. In the UK it is the ‘benefits scrounger’, the ‘migrant’ and even the ‘Muslim’ or ‘Jew’. In my experience those on the right of the political spectrum are more likely to hate Jews than those on the left. In the UK we have a very right wing, xenophobic government who use hatred as a tool to remain in power. 

In Israel their right wing politics seem to start with the ‘Palestinian / Arab stone thrower / terrorist’. Those who hate are in charge today. This isn’t to say the government in question will always be in power – politicians come and go, and one day we may see a left wing, tolerant party come into power.  

Left wing politics tends to be more about a collectivist solution finding operation – how do we resolve our issues together?

Who do we on the left hate? Those perpetrating acts of hatred and avarice. Avarice in this case happens to be invading the ancestral homelands of those out of favour of the right wing state and to repress them with violence. 

A left wing Israeli government could reverse all the edicts and actions of the current government. Would the left wing of the world continue to use strong language such as ‘apartheid’ to describe it then? Of course not!

Going back to the example, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,”  this is where politics has been conflated with race. It is thereby ‘racist’ to have problems with a political act. Since when has that been acceptable?

Rich Shrubb