Redefining the term anti-Semitism to suit an expansionist Zionist narrative

Genuine anti-Semitism exists and is as despicable as any other form of ethnic or religious discrimination, and also very unpleasant for those who are targeted. Notwithstanding, the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes reported by police for England and Wales was only about 1% of the total number of hate crimes during 2015 (source: Rosenhead, 2016). Despite this low figure, allegations of anti-Semitism figure prominently in the lobby’s narrative.

Pro-Israeli advocates in Parliament were instrumental in getting the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) to investigate anti-Semitism in the UK. Its report of October 16 2016 recommended the adoption of a new definition of anti-Semitism drawn up by an organisation called the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA), with two caveats, as well as the criminalisation of the terms Zionist and Zio in an accusatory or abusive context. In its response Government has accepted these recommendations. However, the IHRA definition is accompanied by a Guidance section that, in a politically-charged atmosphere, is likely to result in much legitimate criticism of Israel being unfairly labelled anti-Semitic. Moreover, the terms accusatory or abusive can easily be interpreted to condemn reasonable criticisms of Zionism.

A series of reports, some of them very erudite, have thoroughly trashed the HASC report on the grounds of weak methodology and gross bias. A selection of these reports can be found here, but perhaps the most concise is that by Jonathan Rosenhead, a professor of operational research at the LSE with an MSc in statistics. He describes the report as a partisan attack on the left of the Labour Party rather than a sober account of the state and significance of anti-Semitism in the country, and an object lesson for the future in how not to hold an Inquiry. It had no terms of reference, lacked expert witnesses, excluded many witnesses and much evidence, cited statistics of dubious provenance without caveats, refused to hear witnesses whom it subsequently criticized, and failed to give those it criticized the opportunity to rebut. Significantly, the HASC interviewed members of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) along with representatives of equivalent Labour and SNP organisation, but did not include their testimony in the report and criticised LDFP for a Facebook post critical of Israel without mentioning that this was just a link to an Israeli newspaper.