New Report on Anti-Semitism

The U.K.’s All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism just released a report on anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom. (Via Haaretz.) A few highlights:

– Anti-Semitic incidents (violence, vandalism, etc.) increased roughly five-fold between 1984 and 2004 (7).

– According to the report, “…criticism of Zionism is not in itself antisemitic. However, in some quarters an antisemitic discourse has developed that is in effect antisemitic because it views Zionism itself as a global force of unlimited power and malevolence throughout history. This definition of Zionism bears no relation to the understanding that most Jews have of the concept; that is, a movement of Jewish national liberation, born in the late nineteenth century, with a geographical focus limited to Israel…. The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism, quoted in full on page 6, identifies some of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, for example by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour… Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation… Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (for example claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis… Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis… Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel. The EUMC Definition goes on to state that criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic” (17-18).

– Extremist groups commonly use “Zionist” as a codeword for “Jew,” and many others repeat this rhetoric, often unaware of what they’re actually saying (18). (Note that when the discussion doesn’t center on Israel, other common code words include “New York liberal,” “Hollywood liberal,” and “New Yorker.”)

– Comparisons of Israel to the Nazis are used to suggest that “the world and the Jews are now ‘even'” and “cancel out the world’s empathy for Jewish suffering” (19). In other words, the comparisons attempt to paint Jews as villains who deserve what we got. (I still maintain that many Nazi comparisons are just lazy – after all, people get called Nazis all the time – but there’s a steady stream of Israeli=Nazi propaganda coming from extremist groups.)

– The idea that Jews are secretly controlling the world still has numerous incarnations, from theories that AIPAC caused the Iraq war to the idea that Jews planned 9/11 (20) to the rumors that Tony Blair has been influenced by a “Jewish cabal” (see the Haaretz article).

– Jews are frequently suspected of dual loyalty, and are tolerated only as long as we conform completely to the culture around us (whether that culture is white, progressive, conservative, middle-class, etc.) (20). Jews are often told (usually implicitly, I’ve found) that we can’t have any positive or complicated feelings toward Israel if we want to be allies (35); if we don’t hate Israel 100%, then we’re obviously racist right-wingers parading as progressives.

– Although far-right extremist groups still engage in anti-Semitic behavior and rhetoric, there’s evidence that anti-Semitism is now more common in the left wing. Legitimate criticism of Israel often crosses the line into anti-Semitism (32); however, because Leftists see themselves as immune from prejudice, it’s hard to convince people that they’ve said or done something anti-Semitic (33). (I myself hear nonstop complaints about the vast armies of Jews who use frivolous charges of anti-Semitism to shut down discussion. But, seeing as they never seem to make an appearance, I suspect that they’re a much tinier minority than people think. Yes, there are often arguments and even fights over whether something is anti-Semitic or not. But the same is true of any forum for discussing racism and discrimination.)

– Anti-Semitic incidents have been increasing on college campuses: “…a brick was thrown through the window of a Jewish student residence and a poster bearing the words “Slaughter the Jews” was pasted on its front door. A knife was stuck in the door of another Jewish student’s residence. A series of similar motions were proposed across the country, six of which were passed, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and calling for a boycott of Israeli goods” (40). (Note: I don’t consider comparisons to apartheid inherently anti-Semitic. But a boycott of Israeli goods and professors, along with a severing of ties with Israeli institutions, is a prime example of the double standard described above, and holds everyone with ties to Israel collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.)

There’s a lot more information in the report, along with a ton of examples of various anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric. It’s long, but worth the read.

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog)

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