Is it wrong to continue to debate the definition of Antisemitism?

Jul 19, 2018 · 2 min read

If this definition of antisemitism started life as a ‘working definition’ then surely it’s acceptable to debate it, or ask questions on it. On that basis Richard Burden’s post here seems to raise two more than fair, extended and reasonable amendments to the definition that might help clarify as to what passes as acceptable criticism of Israel. If these were accepted into the definition, I think it would help zero in on what was unambiguously antisemitic. They are:-

“It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent”

“It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.”

Now, I am fairly new to this debate. Until last night I’d never read a definition of antisemitism because I didn’t realise such a formalised outline existed that had been widely accepted as one (whether binding or not).

As such, as with reading any text for the first time, I have some questions. One is around self-determination.

Would replacing the word ‘Jewish’ in this example with ‘Israeli’:-

“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).”

make this example sound less contradictory:-

“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.”

As I understand it, the Law of Return allows Jewish people outside of Israel the right to settlement there. The vested interest this would undoubtedly accentuate in some Jewish people for the State of Israel logically might create a situation whereby its priorities were put above those of the countries where those people lived. Clearly this wouldn’t be universal, and to suggest it was would be a stereotype which was racist. But to cite any single suggestion of it as being antisemitic seems wrong.

At points in the past I have been accused of being antisemitic because I have proffered an opinion that Israel’s occupation of certain territories is wrong and that when resulting Palestinian aggression and frustration is responded to disproportionately by Israel that this is wrong too. My accusers may or may not have been Jewish or Israeli, but what seems clear in my experience is that claims of antisemitism are more often levelled when the situation between Israel and Palestine is being discussed. This is why Richard Burden’s suggestions are worthy of consideration. To resolve the conflict both parties should be held to account when needed. To do so is not racist, discriminatory, nor does it rely on stereotypes. It can also be done while still fully recognising the evil horrors inflicted on Jews that led to the creation of Israel in the first place. That, in my opinion, is not antisemitic.


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