Board overboard?

Richard Kuper points out curious discrepancies in the position of the Board of Deputies of British Jews as it offers various definitions of antisemitism

What is the Board of Deputies up to?

The Board of Deputies was absolutely explicit in its list of 10 demands made on all Labour Party leadership and deputy leadership contenders:

The sixth one reads:

Adopt the international definition of antisemitism without qualification
The IHRA definition of antisemitism, with all its examples and clauses, and without any caveats, will be fully adopted by the party and used as the basis for considering antisemitism disciplinary cases.

It is obviously a heinous offence to use anything but the holy writ of the IHRA. It could not be clearer: the definition “with all its examples and clauses, and without any caveats”. Clearly anyone who fails to do so should be severely sanctioned. This no doubt will be the case with the most recent culprit.

Guess who that turns out to be? No less august a body than the Board of Deputies of British Jews!

On its webpage Antisemitism & Extremism we find this definition

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of Antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong’.”
(EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism)

No ifs, no buts! But it isn’t even the IHRA definition that is cited here, but selected parts of a prior draft document.

The reference here is to the European Monitor Centre which originally circulated  a Working Definition of Antisemitism as a consultative document back in 2004, to be modified in the light of feedback etc. And the quote excludes all the examples, obeisance to which is the pre-condition for not being excommunicated by the BoD.

Curious you might think.

Even curiouser is the Board of Deputies statement about Protecting the Jewish community from antisemitism on Facebook. Here, if ever, you would have thought that the 11 examples of the IHRA would have been trotted out, their epigrammatic form matching the kind of thing that appears in social media so well.

Not a  bit of it. Instead the BoD together with the Community Security Trust created an entirely new definition viz:

What is antisemitism?

Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice or hostility against Jews. It has existed for millennia and is still present today in the 21st Century. Antisemitism can be communicated verbally, physically, in written form or, increasingly, online.

Antisemitism has taken many forms, including religious, ethnic, racial-biological and nationalist. Occasionally, antisemitism will be blunt, obvious and easy to recognise. For example, using dehumanising language about Jews alongside grossly offensive pictures. At other times it is more subtle and coded.

CST defines an antisemitic incident is any malicious act aimed at Jewish people, organisations or property, where there is evidence that the incident has antisemitic motivation or content, or that the victim was targeted because they are (or are believed to be) Jewish.

Actually JVL welcomed that definition at the time (last October), saying:

We commend this definition to the Labour Party and public bodies to replace the deeply flawed IHRA document and will be pleased to work with the Board of Deputies and the Community Security Trust to secure its wide acceptance.

We can’t say our approach was welcomed with open arms, but the offer is still there.

Except: before that the Board of Deputies may find itself taken to task by the Campaign Against Antisemitism or indeed by its own internal enforcement unit for violating its own stringent principles. It seems to be a case of the Board’s right hand not knowing what its ultra-right hand is doing… or is it simply an honest realisation that the IHRA document is pretty damned useless when it comes to helping anyone understand much about antisemitism?

On that important question we believe we have something to offer in our document What is – and what is not – antisemitic misconduct