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Some forms of criticism of Israel can indeed be antisemitic

By Ahron Shapiro - posted Friday, 31 May 2013

Antisemitism is a persistent scourge that should weigh on the world’s conscience on a daily basis. The toll from this baseless hatred can be counted in innocent lives in recent years, such as the evil attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, a Jewish community centre in Mumbai in 2008, or in quality of life in places like Malmo, Sweden. It is also rising steadily, up 30% over the past year according to recent Tel Aviv University study.

We have seen expressed antisemitism find a safe haven in politics, in places like Caracas and Budapest. Meanwhile, it has become almost pervasive throughout societies in the Middle East.

It is incumbent upon world governments to take a leadership role in rejecting antisemitism in their own countries. That is why parliamentarians from around Australia - from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, members of her government, members of the Opposition and now a growing number of lawmakers down to the state level - deserve praise for recently adding their names to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism.


The document, which was drafted by the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism in 2009, has been signed by over 300 other lawmakers from some 60 different countries, including UK Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and David Cameron and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It has been lauded for the message it sends, not only about the resolve of governments to combat rising antisemitism worldwide, but also in the battle against hate crimes targeting other ethnic groups.

It is therefore disappointing to hear some people criticise this document on the grounds that two of the Declaration’s clauses mention Israel (see for example George Browning’s piece on this page last week “Criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic per se”).

While they claim to be defending the right to “criticise” Israel from efforts to “stifle” it by labelling all such criticism antisemitic, their argument has nothing to do with the actual text of the Declaration, which is very specific in the way it addresses the relationship between antisemitism and Israel-hatred.

The critics of the Declaration cite two clauses, numbers 1 and 6. But what do those clauses actually say?

1. Parliamentarians shall expose, challenge, and isolate political actors who engage in hate against Jews and target the State of Israel as a Jewish collectivity…



6. Governments and the UN should resolve that never again will the institutions of the international community and the dialogue of nation states be abused to try to establish any legitimacy for antisemitism, including the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the international arena, and we will never witness – or be party to -another gathering like the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and other related Intolerances in Durban in 2001;

The first clause merely establishes that Jew-hatred, which in the 2000-year absence of a Jewish state was naturally confined to the level of the individual or the community, can now be escalated to the state level. This seems hardly a controversial statement, and can be supported by simple logic. Would an antisemite who has expressed his loathing for, or discriminated against, Jews on an individual or communal level somehow cease to harbour prejudices and act upon them when confronted by the reality of the State of Israel, a democratic country with a sizable Jewish majority and the cradle of Jewish national self-determination? Of course not. That would be absurd.

Should he get a free pass if he inserts the word Israel in a rant where he previously would have talked about the Elders of Zion? That would be equally absurd.

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About the Author

Ahron Shapiro is a policy analyst for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. He has previously served as the International News Editor for the Australian Jewish News and the Jerusalem Post.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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