Cops and lobbyists dominate EU working group on anti-Semitism

Europol, a law enforcement agency, is taking part in the EU’s working group on anti-Semitism. Photo: Aftonbladet/ZUMA Press

JVL Introduction

The EU has a relatively new working group on antisemitism.

But Brussels-based journalist for Lobby Watch, David Cronin, has found it hard to get information about it – even to discover its membership required a Freedom of Information request.

His concern is two-fold: the working group’s use of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and the fact that all Jewish groups belonging to it are all pro-Zionist.

There is a real fear that the activities of this group will both chill discussion and lead to further attempts to criminalise criticism of about Israeli apartheid, for membership of the working group includes representatives from Europol, as well as police forces from Ireland and Austria, and justice or interior ministries from many countries…

This article was originally published by Electronic Intifada on Wed 26 Feb 2020. Read the original here.

Cops and lobbyists dominate EU working group on anti-Semitism

Only someone with a very twisted sense of humor could enjoy an event where Jews are depicted as insects. Yet that was the “entertainment” offered at the carnival in Aalst, a Belgian city, last weekend.

The revolting spectacle serves as a reminder that anti-Semitism remains a real problem. In this case, the problem can be found less than 20 miles from Brussels, home to the major European Union institutions.

The latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary defines anti-Semitism as “prejudice, hostility or discrimination towards Jewish people on religious, cultural or ethnic grounds.”

Without doubt the Aalst carnival promotes the worst kind of prejudice.

The threadbare excuses from its organizers cannot conceal how the event suggests Jews are less than human. The Nazis spread a similar message.

Correctly, the Aalst carnival has been condemned by senior EU representatives. But are these representatives really serious about tackling bigotry against Jews?

Next month the EU will hold a meeting of its relatively new working group on anti-Semitism.

That meeting will not be guided by the clear description of anti-Semitism offered by the Oxford English Dictionary. Rather, it will focus on a more complicated definition approved by a club of 33 countries known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Shielding Israel from scrutiny

The real purpose of the IHRA definition is not to protect Europe’s Jews from persecution. It is to shield Israel from scrutiny.

Most examples of supposed anti-Semitism cited in the memo accompanying the definition relate explicitly to Israel. According to that memo, it is anti-Semitic to question Israel’s right to exist or allege that Israel’s foundation was a “racist endeavor.”

In other words, it is now deemed anti-Semitic to tell the truth about Israel’s activities.

Israel has been established through the mass expulsion of indigenous Palestinians and through the erection of an apartheid system.

No state is entitled to base its very existence on the dispossession of an entire people. Israel, therefore, does not have the right to exist as an apartheid state.

It is completely logical to be outraged both by how Israel oppresses the Palestinians and by such displays of intolerance as the Aalst carnival. Don’t expect such comprehensive outrage, though, from the EU’s working group on anti-Semitism.

The EU’s bureaucracy has been secretive about this group’s activities. I had to invoke freedom of information rules in order to receive a list of organizations participating in it.

Many of these organizations are part of the pro-Israel lobby and are seeking to muzzle Palestine solidarity campaigners.

The Paris-based CRIF, for example, persuaded the French parliament last year to formally declare that it regards opposing Israel’s state ideology, Zionism, as anti-Semitism. That is despite how Zionism has always been contested by large numbers of Jews around the world, who see it – accurately – as a political movement dedicated to uprooting Palestinians from their homeland.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany is involved, too, in the EU’s working group. That organization has supported efforts to smear the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – which demands equality between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

Chilling effect

The working group’s membership list – published below [download here] – also includes B’nai B’rith, the European Jewish Congress and the European Union of Jewish Students. All three of those organizations have tried to defend Israel’s violence against Palestinians.

The EU’s working group does not reflect the diversity of opinions among Europe’s Jews. No Jewish organization or individuals who are outspoken against Israel and Zionism have been invited to take part in its activities.

In theory, the IHRA definition is not legally binding.

Nonetheless, the EU’s working group boasts representatives from Europol, a law enforcement agency headquartered in The Hague, as well as police forces from Ireland and Austria, and justice or interior ministries from many countries.

With the involvement of police in the working group, it is not unreasonable to fear that denouncing Israeli apartheid could become a criminal offense – at least de facto. The police in Britain, until recently an EU member, have already begun treating Palestine solidarity campaigners as subversives.

While the EU’s efforts could have chilling effects for free expression, nobody should be deterred from insisting on justice for Palestinians. Smears will ultimately prove futile if enough people speak out.

Comments (3)

  • Clarissa Smid says:

    This is like Animal Farm, Kafke, The Crucible… And worst of all, these machinations all resemble the vector of influence that started in the 1930s…

    Have we learned NOTHING from our collective histories?!

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    I’d like to thank David Cronin for an excellent piece of journalism. Nonetheless, I’d like to take issue with a rather important claim he makes. He says: “No state is entitled to base its very existence on the dispossession of an entire people. Israel, therefore, does not have the right to exist as an apartheid state.”
    The fact is that many states, the US and Australia for example, “base (their) very existence on the dispossession of an entire people.” Regrettably, the very success of the genocidal enterprise that led to the establishment of these states has created a situation where they are universally considered legitimate. Indeed, with the success of that enterprise and successive racist policies (Jim Crow, White Australia), these states find themselves today in a position of boasting that they are multicultural.
    In other words moral and political legitimacy do not go hand in hand.
    But Israel’s attempted ethnocide is not yet a done deal. It is therefore our duty to stand in solidarity with its victims, to champion their fight for nationhood. And because Israel is the creation of a movement claiming in large part to be socialist and not racist, to be democratic and not colonialist, shalom-schmoozing and not agressive, it is our duty to expose this loathsome hypocrisy.
    The logic of Example 7 of the IHRA “Working definition on Antisemitism” is rather like David Cronin’s: it implies – read backwards, from example to substantive statement – that the claim that Israel is a racist “endeavour” would undermine the right of Jews to self-determination. It wouldn’t. Jews, that is, World Jewry, had no right to self-determination because Jews did not constitute the majority of inhabitants on the territory in which they wished to establish their state. That’s the fundamental issue – independently of the question of oppression. Since, in the real world, the establishment of that state could only be achieved by oppression, what might otherwise be seen simply as a nonsensical idea – the right to self-determination of a people with only a tiny representation in the territory claimed – has become a shameful human tragedy.

  • Tony says:

    “prejudice, hostility or discrimination towards Jewish people on religious, cultural or ethnic grounds.”

    Seems like a perfectly good definition to me.

    This remains a superb website.

Comments are now closed.