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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism is an Exercise in Political Fraud

Theresa May’s antisemitism fraud

Conflating and confusing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is the key to the defence of Israel

Theresa May has demonstrated total support for Zionism and Israel -  this is perfectly compatible with her support for supplying the Saudis with weaponry in order to perpetrate war crimes in the Yemen.  That makes May also a war criminal.

It is, after all, hard to defend the ongoing murder of Palestinian children, the theft of land, the apartheid economy and Zionism's other crimes other than by demonising critics of Israel and Zionism as ‘anti-Semitic’.  False accusations of anti-semitism are a staple of Israeli and Zionist propaganda. 

The reactionary and racist Eric Pickles, former Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel who was happy to exonerate the anti-Semitic Michal Kaminski whilst pontificating about false 'antisemitism'

That is why it is disappointing that Jeremy Corbyn followed in the footsteps of Theresa May when she adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.  Corbyn only adopted the short 39 word introduction to the IHRA, as opposed to the full 450 word versin, but nonetheless it was a mistake. The IHRA in its totality is poisonous. The whole purpose of the IHRA is to demonise criticism of Israel and Zionism. Why? Because Israel is a lynchpin of US and Western foreign policy.  The IHRA has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.  The reason why anti-Semitic world leaders such as the Poland and Hungarian governments support it is precisely because it is aimed at leftist criticism of a Israel – a key ally of western imperialism.

If Theresa May was seriously interested in combating anti-Semitism there is a much shorter 21 word definition which Professor Brian Klug gave in a lecture at the Berlin Jewish Museum in 2014, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, ‘What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Antisemitsm’? Echoes of shattering glass’ . he defined anti-Semitism thus:

‘antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.’

It is a 21 word definition, whereas the IHRA is 450 words.  Why?  Because you need 450 words in order to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
One of the key movers behind this false definition of anti-Semitism is the far-Right former Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel Sir Eric Pickles. Pickles it was who defended the tie up between the Tories and the far-Right European Conservative and Reform group in the European Parliament. The ECR group was chaired by Michal Kaminski, a Polish MEP who was the mainstay of the
Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne.  Jedwabne was a village where on 10th July 1941, Poles supporting the Polish Nationalist Party herded up to 1600 Jews into a barn which they then set alight. Polish historians Jan Thomas Gross and Anna Bikont wrote Neighbours and The Crime and the Silence describing what happened.  On July 10th 2001, on the 60th anniversary of the pogrom, Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski attended a ceremony at Jedwabne where he made a speech stating the murderers were Poles whose crime was both against the Jewish nation and against Poland.  A memorial to the murdered Jews was also erected.
Jan Thomas Grosz, the historian of Jedwabne, faces being stripped of Poland's Order of Merit by Poland's anti-Semitic and Zionist government
The person who led the campaign against this national apology was Kaminski. He went as far as to state that far from Poles apologising to Jews it was the Jews who owed the Poles an apology.  Presumably those Polish Jews who hadn’t been exterminated in the Holocaust since less than 10% of Poland’s 3.3 million survived World War II.  See Once no self-respecting politician would have gone near people such as Kaminski
The Polish government is currently considering whether to strip Gross of the Order of Merit, Poland’s highest award, from Gross for saying that the Poles killed more Jews than they killed Germans.
The Jewish Chronicle, which is so hot on 'antisemitism' in the Labour Party was remarkably supportive of an actual anti-semite

Another member of the ECR who Pickles defended is Roberts Zile, Latvian MEP for the National Alliance/LNNK. In March every year he marches with the veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS. [Jewish Chronicle March 8, 2012 Calls to ban Baltic neo-Nazi marches] Zile told the Latvian parliament that he was against the trial of Konrads Kalejs, a close assistant of Viktors Arajs, chief of the Arajs Commando, which participated in the killing of tens of thousands of Jews in Latvia and Belarus.  

Pickles told the BBC that ‘the Latvian Waffen-SS were only conscripts fighting for their country, and to say otherwise was a Soviet smear.’  Pickles omitted the fact, as Jonathan Freedland noted, that ‘a substantial minority of the Latvian Waffen-SS were eager volunteers, including veterans of pro-Nazi death squads who had already taken part in the first phase of the Holocaust.’
Despite confirming that only the short introduction has been adopted by the Labour Party, crooked Iain McNicol's monkeys in the Compliance Unit are using all of the definition
It is the Tories that should be attacked for their willingness to work with anti-Semites.  Indeed Theresa May has only just visited Poland to give comfort to their government in their battles against the European Union.  This has given the green light to Iain ‘Crooked’ McNicol and the Compliance Unit to apply the IHRA anti-Semitism definition inside the Labour Party, including its 11 examples of ‘anti-Semitism’, 7 of which relate to Israel.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is not only nonsense but is, by its own definition anti-Semitic!  One of the examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ is:
‘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.’ 

Leaving aside the fact that the Jews are not a nation and therefore have no right to self-determination, it begs the question why it is racist to oppose their self-determination anyway?  People oppose the right to self-determination of the Scots or the Catalans, is that racist?  All that self-determination means is the right to form a state.  
A memorial to the dead Jews of Jedwabne that the Zionist supporting Kaminski did his best to stop going up
What the IHRA is saying is that Israel is the national embodiment of all Jews.  That means all Jews, including me, owe their loyalty to Israel.  That in itself is anti-Semitic.  But according to another of the IHRA’s 11 examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’ is anti-Semitic.  If Israel is the national state of all Jews then it is quite right to hold Jews responsible for it.  So according to one section of the IHRA, the IHRA itself is anti-Semitic!!

Sir Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge has written an excellent article Defining anti-Semitism for London Review of Books.  Sedley first homes on the introduction to the IHRA:
‘Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’  Sedley notes that “‘A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred’ invites a string of questions. Is anti-Semitism solely a matter of perception? What about discriminatory practices and policies? What about perceptions of Jews that are expressed otherwise than as hatred?”  Sedley observed that ‘These gaps are unlikely to be accidental. Their effect, whether or not it is their purpose, is to permit perceptions of Jews which fall short of expressions of racial hostility to be stigmatised as anti-Semitic.’
Hugh Tomlinson QC also gave an Opinion on the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism.  He too attacked the introduction saying that
‘The phrase “a certain perception” is vague and unclear in the context of a definition. The use of the word “may” is also confusing. If it is understood in its usual sense of “possibility” then the definition is of little value: antisemitism “may be expressed as hatred towards Jews but may also be expressed in other (unspecified) ways”. This does not work as a definition.’
The reason that the definition is deliberately left vague, open-ended and unclear is because in order to define criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic it is necessary to make the definition as unclear as possible.  The lack of clarity is deliberate.
The Zionist EUMC definition of anti-Semitism was like the hydra Hercules faced.  No sooner had one head been killed than another grew
As Mike Cushman’s article on the Free Speech on Israel site explains, the IHRA definition is not new.  It arose originally as the so-called EUMC [European Union Monitoring Committee] Working Definition on Anti-Semitism in 2003.  It was drawn up by Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee.  Its purpose was to confuse people by labelling criticism of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic’.  It had no other purpose.  In 2013, having been largely rejected by civil society groups like the lecturers union, UCU and the National Union of students, the successor group to the EUMC, Europe’s Fundamental Rights Agency, took it down from its website. Israel lobbyists finally concede that EU has ditched anti-Semitism “definition”  However no sooner had the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism died than the IHRA surfaced.  Like a many headed Hydra, the EUMC resurfaced as the IHRA.  Like Hercules, we need to kill it again and this time to make sure that it is dead and buried.

Theresa May’s antisemitism fraud

Mike Cushman

Theresa May misled the British public by pretending that the IHRA definition of antisemitism included the examples linking antisemitism to criticism of Israel and urging all public bodies to collude in this chilling of free speech.

A year ago, Theresa May urged all UK public bodies to adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) document on antisemitism. The document contained a 39 word 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
It also 11 illustrative examples of antisemitism, seven of them relating to Israel.
It has always seemed strange that the IHRA website contained no details of the document’s adoption and the only record of it is a press release from the Romanian chair. ECCP (European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine) has pressed hard to discover what lay behind this strange lack of documentation and has finally obtained confirmation from the IHRA secretariat that, while the 39 word definition was adopted, the examples were not.

While the Government press release announcing the Government’s adoption of the definition is ambiguous about its scope, the Government’s response to the Home Affairs Select Committee leaves no room for doubt. The Committee wished to add ‘without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent’ to three of the most contentious examples. The Government’s response makes clear that they, like the Committee,  assert the definition includes the examples.

Theresa May announced the adoption, not in Parliament where she might have been challenged, but at a meeting of Conservative Friends of Israel. At the meeting, she described Israel as a state that “guarantees the rights of people of all religions, races and sexualities”. Not only is that manifestly untrue in relation to both Palestinians and Jews of Ethiopian descent; it deliberately confuses criticism of Israel with antisemitism experienced by British Jews.
Robert Zile, MEP for Latvia's LNNK, marches every year with the veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS - he is part of the same political group in the European Parliament as the Tories
May must have known that only the short definition had been adopted but her Government has been rolling it out as including the eleven exemplars. The definition itself is poor: what is ‘a certain perception’; why is ‘hatred towards Jews’ reduced to a disposable extra; what is antisemitism towards non-Jews or their property? The exemplars, however, are beyond doubt an attack on the free expression guaranteed by UK and European law as demonstrated by Hugh Tomlinson QC. Use of them to restrict activity or speech would, in the QC’s opinion, be unlawful. May and her Government have not ceased urging public bodies to adopt the examples despite their dubious legality and fraudulent provenance.

Sajid Javid’s letter to Local Authorities urging IHRA adoption

In January 2017 Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, wrote to all local authorities urging them to adopt the definition and commending the examples, saying: ‘it gives examples of the kind of behaviours which depending on the circumstances could constitute anti-Semitism’.

Regrettably many Councils have responded to Javid’s call. All too often they have done this by forcing through adoption without consultation or debate and refused to respond to criticisms of their actions.

While some Councils such as Newham have amended and mitigated some of the worst aspects of the document, others have made it worse. The strident advocacy group We Believe in Israel —itself an offshoot of BICOM, the Israel promotion organisation from which leading members of Labour Friends of Israel graduated—promoted a doctored version. Their version omitted, silently, the qualifier ‘depending on context’ from the preamble to the examples. This more aggressive text, going beyond Javid’s encouragement, has been adopted by several councils.

Government minister Jo Johnson tells Universities to clamp down on free speech
In February 2017, Jo Johnson, Minister for Higher Education, urged the whole document on Universities, particularly in relation to Israel Apartheid Week activities. As a result, students and staff in several universities have had their rights to free expression curtailed for partisan reasons and risked disciplinary action.

In May the Zionist Federation urged all parliamentary candidates to back the definition.
When the Labour Party NEC discussed adoption they, singularly, restricted adoption to the 39 words.
The examples themselves are bad enough but they are marginally limited by their introduction: “Contemporary examples of antisemitism  … could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to…”. Even this constraint is too much for Israel’s more militant apologists. They have become fond of stating that an activity they disapprove of is, without qualification, antisemitic under the definition; urging churches, Local Authorities, universities, the police and others to take punitive action on this amplified interpretation. We have not noted any occasion on which a Government spokesperson has criticised them for this unmandated extension.

Labour Party bureaucrats, despite the Party’s restricted adoption of the IHRA definition, extended its reach still further in their action against Moshé Machover. They redefined the IHRA to include ‘pejorative language which may cause offence to Jewish people’.

The definition itself has a troubled history. It is a mildly revised version of a draft working definition circulated by, but never adopted by the European Union Monitoring Committee on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in 2005. It was widely criticised and formally retired by the EUMC’s successor body. Despite that Israel’s defenders continued to promote it and use it and behind the scenes sought its revalidation by another body.

The EUMC definition was based on a draft by Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee. In 2016 Stern testified to the US Congress that he opposed his definition being codified into law; it was only intended as an aid to diplomats.

May’s shameless fraud is achieving its desired result, the emboldening of all those who wish to suppress criticism of Israel. It is an attempt to allow only convenient historical analysis and anodyne commentary on the mistreatment of Palestinians. Early British assertion of the inclusion of the examples in the definition is being used in Europe and beyond by forces wishing to bolster Israel. The document is regularly cited by those who attempt to disrupt and close down public meetings on Palestine and Israel.

May has also energised those who wish to remove Zionist blinkers and freely debate Israel and Palestine. We will continue to speak out and defy those who would brand ethical campaigning as antisemitic.

– Posted on 18 décembre 2017

A policy advisory accompanying the fact sheet about the
IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) Working Definition of Antisemitism
ECCP and Free Speech on Israel,1 December 2017

Antisemitism is commonly understood in accordance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) as racism or racial discrimination directed at persons or a group of persons because of their Jewish religion, origin or identity.
Governments, political parties and public and private institutions, however, are being approached to adopt so-called “new and universal working definitions of antisemitism” which have one common theme: all stipulate that not only Jews but also the State of Israel can be the target of antisemitism.
Formulated in almost identical language, these “working definitions of antisemitism” are promoted alternatively as official definitions of the EUMC (the EU’s European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia) or the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance). In the United States, a similar document is presented as the “State Department Working Definition of Antisemitism”.

None of these “working definitions” should be adopted by anyone, because:

  1. The definition of antisemitism promoted in these “working definitions” has already been dismissed as invalid by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). The EU has adopted neither the so-called “EUMC working definition” nor that of the IHRA. No one has any legal obligation to adopt either of these definitions.
The so-called “EUMC working definition” was never adopted by EUMC. In 2007, EUMC was closed down and replaced by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). A document entitled “EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism” was removed from FRA’s website in 2013; FRA explained that it had never been viewed as a valid definition of antisemitism; that the Agency was not aware of any official EU definition of antisemitism; and that the document was removed in a clear-out of non-official documents.

Nevertheless, the “EUMC Working Definition” continues to be presented as if it were an official EU document. Since 2016 moreover, the same text has also been promoted as the “IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism”. No one is obliged to endorse either of these definitions which have indeed already been dismissed as invalid by the EU FRA. They have no legal force.

  1. The so-called “IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism” hasn’t even been adopted by the IHRA itself.
The IHRA is an inter-governmental organization disseminating information about the holocaust. Established in 1998, it currently has 31 member states and a permanent office in Berlin.
The IHRA website features a press release publicising the adoption in Bucharest in May 2016 of a “ non-legally binding IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism” by the plenary of member states.
The content of the IHRA press release is identical with the language of the document falsely called the “EUMC Working Definition”. The entire press release has been cited publicly, including by the UK government and the European Parliament, as the IHRA definition. This is incorrect.

In response to enquiries, the IHRA’s Berlin office has clarified that the Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the IHRA at its meeting in May 2016 is the 40-word definition cited below in Section 3. See this document for further details. To be precise and clear – the Working Definition adopted formally by member states of IHRA is not the entire press release, but only the two sentences (which appear in a box in the press release).

The remainder of the press release repeats the guidance and ‘illustrative examples’ from the EUMC definition, most of which identify a range of criticisms of Israel as prima facie examples of antisemitism. For the avoidance of any uncertainty, the guidance and examples were not adopted by the IHRA. Naming the whole bundle (formal definition plus guidance and examples) as ‘‘the definition of the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance‘‘ has undoubtedly added to its apparent authority and emotional force, but we now know that this attribution is invalid.

  1. The definition adopted by the IHRA is so vague and unspecified as to have no value for the fight against antisemitism.
The wording of the definition adopted by the IHRA is:
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.” [Emphasis added]
These two sentences and forty words are characterized by quite inappropriate and unnecessary vagueness, verging on obscurity, indicated above by the emphasised words and phrases. What is this certain perception? Why is it not explained in clear language? If antisemitism may – but doesn’t necessarily – express itself as hatred toward Jews, what are its other expressions? Under what circumstances and why would antisemitic acts be directed also toward non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, and who are these individuals?

We suggest (see point 4 below) that this vagueness and obscurity of wording can only be seen as deliberate. It is of no value in identifying antisemitic acts or statements. But it does provide an apparent necessity to accompany the definition with an interpretative explanation, that is, an opportunity for introducing concepts that would otherwise be unconnected with the understanding of antisemitism.

The illustrative examples circulated with the IHRA Working Definition suggest that antisemitism can be directed not only toward Jews but also toward the State of Israel and its supporters. This interpretation does appear to make sense of the otherwise obscure IHRA definition. However, the clarification now provided by the IHRA reveals that these examples and the extended interpretation of antisemitism were not adopted by the IHRA plenary.

4. All “working definition” documents suggest, through their ‘examples’, that antisemitism can be directed not only toward Jews but also toward the State of Israel (“a Jewish collectivity”) and its supporters. However, these examples and the extended interpretation of antisemitism were not adopted by the IHRA and have, indeed, no basis in international law.

Both the so-called “EUMC working definition” and the IHRA press release provide very similar examples to claim and illustrate that antisemitism can manifest itself as hatred against the State of Israel. The clarification provided by the IHRA now reveals that these examples were never adopted by the plenary of its members. However, they have been widely perceived and handled as if they were part of the “IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.”

These illustrations begin by stipulating that the “State of Israel, which is perceived as a Jewish collectivity”, may be the target of antisemitism. This is followed by a list of examples of allegedly antisemitic attacks against the State of Israel, including, among others, “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”, or, “applying double standards by requiring of the State of Israel a behavior not demanded of any other democratic nation”.

The assertion that the State of Israel must be viewed as a “Jewish collectivity” underlies all these ‘illustrations’. This assertion in fact reflects Israel’s discriminatory laws and Zionist ideology which define Israel as the state of a “Jewish nation”, a state that includes and represents Jews both in Israel and worldwide, and excludes its Palestinian population of citizens and refugees.

Under public international law, however, Israel, like any other state, represents all its citizens and not a “Jewish collectivity”. In fact, many Jews worldwide are not – and do not wish to be – represented by Israel. Under public international law, Israel is, moreover, bound by the prohibition on racial 
discrimination, and has to respect and protect the human rights of all its population. These include the fundamental rights to return, property and equality of its Palestinian refugees and citizens. There is no basis in international law for a right to self-determination of a “Jewish people” at the expense of these fundamental rights of Palestinians or of the UN- recognized right to self-determination of the Palestinian people; and no right for Israel as occupying power to carry out a policy of population transfer in order to colonize and annex occupied Palestinian territory. Accordingly, necessary criticism of Israel’s system of racial discrimination, segregation and apartheid does not constitute hatred toward Jews; nor do civil society campaigns and resolutions of the UN and EU apply double standards, demonize the State of Israel or pose threats to its existence, when they hold Israel accountable to the universal standards of international law.

5. In practice, adoption of the “EUMC” or IHRA Working Definition tends to undermine:
  • respect for the right to freedom of expression;
  • respect for international law related to Israel and the Palestinian people, and
  • the fight against antisemitism.
European local, regional and central governments and authorities, parliaments and public institutions have a legal duty under their respective domestic laws and constitutions, EU law and international customary and treaty law to:

  • Respect and protect the right to freedom of expression in their country;
  • Uphold international humanitarian and human rights law including with regard to Israel and the Palestinians. This includes, at least, the duty to give no recognition, aid or assistance to Israeli policies or practices which violate the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and/or the universal prohibitions on racial discrimination and on permanent acquisition of occupied Palestinian territory.
On this basis, more than 200 legal scholars have called on European governments to recognize that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a legitimate movement for Palestinian human rights, independent of whether they themselves support it. In fact, the EU, as well as the governments of the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden and the Spanish parliament have publicly confirmed that, while not in support of boycotts or sanctions against Israel, they consider non-violent BDS campaigning to be a guaranteed right of citizens that falls under freedom of expression.

In the same vein, legal experts (Dubuisson, 2005; Tomlinson, 2017) have alerted decision makers to the flaws in the “EUMC” and IHRA Working Definitions of Antisemitism, in particular the conflation of political criticism of the State of Israel with antisemitism. Their analyses and legal opinions have warned of the risk that adoption and application of these definitions could undermine legitimate criticism of, and freedom of expression and democratic debate about, the State of Israel and its policies.

Practical experience meanwhile shows that these “working definitions” are being used almost exclusively to restrict the freedom of expression of European individuals, groups and organizations that criticize Israel and/or work for Palestinian rights.In Germany, for example, political parties are tabling policy motions for adoption by city governments – based on the IHRA Working Definition and under the pretext of the fight against antisemitism – which would prevent German cities from granting public space and subsidies to groups, organizations and events deemed supportive of the “antisemitic BDS movement.” Everyone who speaks out against Israeli policies that violate 
Palestinian rights or criticizes Israel’s self-definition as “state of the Jewish people”, including Jewish citizens of Germany and Holocaust survivors, is liable to be smeared and targeted as antisemitic. In the UK, France, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark also the IHRA Working Definition has been used by governments, authorities, political parties, parliaments and universities in an attempt to discredit as antisemitism, or to restrict or criminalize, legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and support of Palestinian rights.

Adoption and application of the “EUMC” or IHRA Working Definition also undermines the fight against antisemitism itself. By muddying the waters about what antisemitism is, these fabricated definitions encourage false allegations and entail a risk that genuine claims of attacks motivated by anti-Jewish sentiments are not taken seriously. Moreover, the claim that Israel and all Jews are one and the same obstructs recognition of the diversity among Jewish communities and of the many Jews who support efforts for Palestinian rights; it also encourages the perception that all Jews are responsible and accountable for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Finally, the conflation in these “working definitions” of political criticism of Israel with antisemitism supports the converse (and erroneous) notion that uncritical support of the State of Israel is an indicator of commitment to the fight against antisemitism. In this way it gives legitimacy to and encourages alliances with political forces that express support of Israel’s policies against the Palestinian people while pursuing a racist or even anti-Semitic agenda. One example is the increasing public tolerance and legitimacy in the United States of the racism of white supremacists who are also staunch supporters of the State of Israel.

These and other related issues are discussed by the renowned political philosopher and activist with Jewish Voice for Peace Judith Butler in this video about BDS and the fight against antisemitism.

6. The “EUMC” or IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is a tool for an Israeli political agenda that should be rejected by everyone

The “working definition” was developed in the context of Israeli debate in the early 2000s about a “grand strategy toward the European Union” that would strengthen EU-Israel relations, while also allowing Israel to maintain its illegal settlement enterprise and thwart EU pressure for a two-state solution and respect of the rights of its Palestinian citizens. Israeli and US-based Zionist Jewish charities, think tanks and lobbyists adopted a propagandistic initiative aimed at silencing criticism of Israel’s policies by branding it as “new antisemitism”. They claimed that “new antisemitism” among European civil society, the EU and the United Nations takes the form of “double standards” and the “demonization and de-legitimization” of the State of Israel. The “EUMC” or IHRA “Working Definition of Antisemitism” is a tool of this initiative.

Drafting of the “working definition” was completed in 2004. Since then, it has been promoted by the 
Israeli government and, among others, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Simon Wiesenthal Center, European Jewish Committee (ECJ), NGO Monitor and UN Watch in particular, but not only, in their fight against the growing, Palestinian civil society-led BDS movement.

Meanwhile, the willing governments of Romania, the UK and Austria have adopted what is now called the “IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism”, while the European Parliament has undermined the EU’s principled position by passing a resolution calling on member states to adopt and apply the definition, despite its dismissal as invalid by the EU’s own Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) .

Efforts to achieve official endorsement of the “working definition” have been spearheaded by individuals affiliated with these Israel-lobby groups who also serve as “experts on antisemitism” in the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the IHRA and/or the European Union, including its Commission, Parliament and, formerly, EUMC. Since neither the OSCE nor the EU has so far been willing to adopt the fabricated definition, the inter-governmental IHRA was selected as the body that would give it some official standing.

1* ECCP (European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine) is a network of 42 European committees, organizations, NGOs, unions and international solidarity movements from 19 European countries, dedicated to the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and equality.

* Free Speech on Israelis a Jewish-led UK organisation which was founded to counter the use of claims of antisemitism to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Sam Semoff – a Fighter, a Socialist and a Jewish Anti-Zionist - an Adopted Son of Liverpool Departs This World

Sam was a true Jewish Comrade and a Scourge of Racism and Zionism

Sam in 2003 when I went up to Liverpool before heading off to Scotland with my daughter
Sam in 2003 when I went up to Liverpool before heading off to Scotland with my daughter

It is still difficult to believe that Sam, who was 75, will no longer be with us.  That unique blend of Liverpudlian humour and an American accent. Sam was raised on a poultry farm in New Jersey, having been born in Philadelphia, but only because his mother went into labour there.  Sam's doctorate was in Molecular Cell Biology, and that was why he came to Britain in 1979.  I met him shortly after he came here.

Sam only had one child. Shelah he had only one grandchild - Karlaya Mae. Whilst he had two brothers, only one is still alive.  Sam has I'm told left numerous nieces and nephews scattered across the States, from New York to California.

Sam was a community activist in Liverpool whose speciality was health campaigns.  In particular he was the scourge of the PFI takeover of Liverpool’s new hospital, the cutbacks and all the other attacks.  Sam was also a class fighter.  He rejected Zionism for the same reasons that he rejected all forms of racism. 
Sam speaking at one of many demonstrations he participated in
He was a medical researcher and worked for years at Liverpool University.  He lost a battle in the Employment Tribunal and then the Employment Appeal Tribunal under the right-wing judge Simon Brown, who was hostile to all equalities legislation.  He was fighting against the endemic racism of one of the old style colonial outposts, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.  The School had been founded, like its London counterpart, as part of the attempt to colonise Africa which was then known as the Dark Continent on account of the impenetrability for White people of its interior.  Because of malaria and other diseases, White men were unable to conquer the savage interior of Africa and that was the reason the tropical medicine schools were founded.  They were the medical spear of British colonialism.
Sam threw himself into a variety of grassroots community campaigns in Liverpool and was highly respected amongst the Black and Somali communities.
It was Sam’s hatred of racism that meant that he could be no other than an anti-Zionist.  I first met Sam in around 1980 and we worked together at first in the British Anti-Zionist Organisation.  We also resigned from BAZO together when we had accumulated enough proof that it was controlled by Iraqi Baathists.  Sam went on to be a committed activist in Liverpool Friends of Palestine.

I left Liverpool in 1974 but I used to come back quite often to see my parents.  Whenever I returned I would make a point of going for a drink with Sam and a meal, often with his former wife Lil.  When my children came up to Liverpool they stayed with his daughter Shelah and Karlaya Mae.  Sam took very easily to being a grandfather and baby sitting.

Sam was a dedicated Jewish anti-Zionist and proud of that fact.  He could always be counted on to sign a Jewish anti-Zionist petition or letter.  Sam really was the unsung hero of our movement.  Whereas people like me have risen to prominence (and infamy!) Sam was someone who preferred to stay in the background.

The last time I saw Sam was in June 2016 when I came to speak at a Liverpool Friends of Palestine meeting in the wake of my suspension from the Labour Party over the fake anti-Semitism campaign.  It was a packed meeting that the Zionists had, as usual, tried to have cancelled.  Afterwards the speakers and Liverpool activists went for a Chinese meal in the centre of Liverpool where we discussed the latest attacks inside the Labour Party.  Sam had, like so many of us, left the Labour Party in the Blair years and had come back with the election of Jeremy Corbyn.

I stayed with Sam in his flat in Ullet Road and I was shocked then at the deterioration in Sam’s health.  He had to walk around with oxygen canisters.  I wondered how long Sam could continue to survive.  However he hadn’t lost his sense of humour and he thoroughly enjoyed the meeting.  Sam had previously enjoyed smoking cannabis but he was now no longer able to smoke anything. Many was the time when we smoked dope  together!
I can remember over 30 years ago Sam was busy helping to produce an issue of the short-lived Liverpool Labour Briefing, which included an article by me.  When I got married in 1989 Sam came down and stayed with us in Brighton as he did three years ago when I was extremely ill and thought I was going to die. 

Sam was one of those who was to the forefront in trying to remove the racist Zionist MP for Liverpool Riverside and the supporter of Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children, Louise Ellman.
The short video clip I am including here for the first time was when I was visiting Liverpool on the way to Scotland with my daughter Ellie.  It was in 2003 and I still had my Renault 5!  In the clip I had taken my late mother and Ellie to meet Sam, I think in Lodge Lane, Liverpool 8, which was near where he lived.

Sam was the best of comrades and never had an ill-word to say about anyone.  It is really hard to imagine that Sam is no longer with us.  My heart goes out to Sam’s daughter and his grandchild, Karlaya Mae.  He will be sorely missed.

There are a lot of tributes at the Save Liverpool Womens Hospitals Facebook Page, please have a look at them and post your own tribute if you knew Sam or at his Facebook page.  Here are also some of the tributes that have been paid on his own Facebook page.

Tony Greenstein