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July 20, 2016 3:55 pm

British-Jewish Leaders Call on Government to Adopt Definition of Antisemitism That Includes Israel-Hatred

avatar by Lea Speyer

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UK Parliament. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

UK Parliament. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish leaders in Britain last week called on the government to adopt a new working definition of antisemitism — which makes provisions for anti-Zionism — in a united move aimed at combating rising Jew-hatred in the UK.

In testimony before the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee on its investigation into antisemitism, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the umbrella group Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) — which represents 32 major British organizations — urged Parliament to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

“I would love it if this group referred to the European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) definition, linked to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition, as the guideline. This is what we would like everybody to follow. This is how we want authorities to apply the rules for anyone who steps out of line,” Mirvis stated.

“It is my position, as well as that of the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust, the British Jewish community’s authoritative voice on antisemitsim and community security, that this committee uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism as its guide as well,” Davis stated in his written testimony.

As reported by The Algemeiner, the IHRA definition was adopted by 31 countries in May, in a historic move seen as a major step towards combating the reemerging phenomenon of global antisemitism.

According to the IHRA definition:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestation of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Of particular significance is the accompanying text, which presents “contemporary examples” of modern antisemitism, and includes reference specifically to Israel. An earlier draft of this definition was formulated some 10 years ago and circulated by the EUMC, the human rights arm of the EU. While the definition was never officially adopted, it appeared on the EUMC website. Following criticism for this, the EUMC eventually removed the posting.

Echoing the IHRA’s inclusion of antisemitic references to Israel, Mirvis told the committee, “Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith…Open any prayer book and you will find Israel jumping out at you. It is the center of what we are…If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything.”

By not adopting one agreed-upon definition of antisemitism, Mirvis said, “Anybody can say anything about what is or is not, which is why it is so important for there to be that clear definition.”

The testimonies of Mirvis and Davis came after the release of a long-awaited report by the Labour Party into allegations of antisemitism within party ranks. The inquiry — which some have called a “whitewash” — concluded that while there is an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” within Labour, it is “not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism.” The investigation made 20 recommendations, but did not approve lifetime bans for party members who engage in antisemitic or racist behavior.

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