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					                                                            European Jews for a just Peace
                                                            P.O. Box 59506 1040 LA Amsterdam The Netherlands
                                                            +31 20 67955850 contact@ejjp.org http://www.ejjp.org




To: Beate Winkler, Director
European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)
Rahlgasse 3
A – 1060 Vienna
Austria

Concerning the ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’

The 13th of October 2005


Dear Beate Winkler,

At its conference in London in September 2005, European Jews for a Just Peace,
a federation of Jewish peace organisations in ten European countries, noted that
the EUMC had produced a highly problematic ‘Working Definition of
Antisemitism’.

We have two comments, on process and on content:

On process

We are concerned about the process that gave rise to the Working Definition and
we respectfully ask the EUMC to clarify and explain it. It is vital that the
European public -- especially those individuals and groups whose cooperation
you seek -- perceive the process to be transparent and above-board.
Regrettably, this is not the case with your ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’.

The document states that ‘Jewish organisations like the European Jewish
Congress, the American Jewish Committee, other major Jewish NGO’s and
prominent academics’ were consulted. We, however, though a federation of
European Jewish organisations, were not consulted (though the American Jewish
Congress was) and we know of other NGOs and prominent academics --
including experts cited favourably in your March 2004 report ‘Manifestations of
Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003’ -- who should have been consulted but were
not. Nor is it clear how the ‘consultations’ (which presumably gave contrasting
emphases to how they would see a working definition) were aggregated to
produce the current Working Definition. This is especially problematic given that
the Working Definition differs significantly in tone from the definition given in
your 2004 report; in our view, the new version is unhelpful if not downright
misleading (see below under ‘On content’).

In the interests of transparency, we would like to ask for some very specific
information: which Jewish organisations were consulted; which other NGOs;
which academics? Moreover, who exactly drafted the working definition in the
light of these consultations?

Working definitions of antisemitism -- and of Islamophobia and racism in general
-- are of universal concern (indeed, were they not, the EUMC would have no


           European Jews for a Just Peace is a network consisting of groups from the following countries:
       Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
                                                             European Jews for a just Peace
                                                             P.O. Box 59506 1040 LA Amsterdam The Netherlands
                                                             +31 20 67955850 contact@ejjp.org http://www.ejjp.org




rationale for its work). We would stress therefore how important it is that they
are not perceived as partisan and/or partial.

On content

Problems begin with the very ‘working definition’ provided. Of course
antisemitism is ‘a certain perception of Jews’ – but what perception? Nowhere is
this discussed, yet what perceptions are allowable, what unacceptable is surely
key to any working definition of antisemitism? The earlier EUMC definition
recognized that the ideological content of that perception is central to the usual
meaning of the word ‘antisemitism’ and outlined that content. Leaving this out
opens the door to confusion by failing to distinguish between different kinds –
and sources – of hostility to Jews today. The definition contributes to the very
problem it should be solving.

The problem is compounded by the list of ‘[c]ontemporary examples of
antisemitism’, since they are all preceded by the rubric that they ‘could, taking
into account the overall context’ be such examples. Equally, one supposes, they
might not be. Yet the very inclusion of all of these as examples appears as prima
facie evidence of antisemitism – otherwise why are they there?

This list is then followed by a separate list giving no fewer than five examples of
how ‘antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into
account the overall context’.
Some of the points in this second list are highly questionable and we must
protest vigorously about them. For example:

    ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ assumes that
       all Jews equate self determination with Zionism. Not only is this not true
       today, it has never been true. There is a long and respected tradition in
       Jewish history and culture among all those who have wished or wish today
       for cultural, religious or other forms of autonomy falling short of a Jewish
       state; for a binational state in Palestine as did Martin Buber and others; or
       for a one-state solution today, whatever form it might take – a minority
       view in Israel today to be sure, but held by numbers of respected Jews. To
       make the assumption that all Jews hold the same views is in itself a form
       of antisemitism.
    ‘Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or
       demanded of any other democratic nation’. This is a formulation that
       allows any criticism of Israel to be dismissed on the grounds that it is not
       simultaneously applied to every other defaulting state at the same time.
       As campaigners for a just peace in the Middle East we can affirm that it is
       thrown willy-nilly to stifle any and all but the narrowest criticism of acts of
       the Israeli government that are in prima facie breach of clause after clause
       of the 4th Geneva Convention. Or again, the democratic norm that all
       citizens in a state should be treated equally sometimes sits uneasily with
       some notions of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ and it is not antisemitic to point
       this out or to suggest that Israel should, indeed, be a ‘state of all its


            European Jews for a Just Peace is a network consisting of groups from the following countries:
        Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
                                                              European Jews for a just Peace
                                                              P.O. Box 59506 1040 LA Amsterdam The Netherlands
                                                              +31 20 67955850 contact@ejjp.org http://www.ejjp.org




        citizens’.

    ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’. This
       is the flipside of a position, frequently expressed by Prime Minister Sharon
       and many Zionists, that refuses to make any distinction between the
       interests of Israel and those of Jews worldwide. Why it is permissible for
       them to make this elision but evidence of antisemitism when others do so
       is not clear. It might even be taken as evidence of double standards… In
       reality it is all too often Zionist rhetoric which fuses the notion of Israel’s
       interests with those of Jews worldwide and thus fuels what the EUMC
       identifies (other things being equal) as a potential indicator of
       antisemitism

This is not to deny that there are circumstances in which criticisms of the state of
Israel might indeed be antisemitic. But the presumption should not be that they
are. This requires demonstration on a case by case basis. As formulated this
listing fosters a presumption that those who criticise the state of Israel in all
kinds of legitimate ways are in fact covert antisemites. We number ourselves
amongst such people and we vigorously reject the implication. that we are either
antisemitic or ‘self-hating’ Jews in the strongest possible terms. In our
experience, such accusations are used to stifle legitimate criticism and the EUMC
formulation, by lending any credence to such views, does a disservice to the
genuine struggle against antisemitism.

This document is a highly politicised one, reflecting a spilling over of Middle-East
conflicts into Europe. All this might be merely academic were it not the very
‘purpose of this document’ is specified as being ‘to provide a practical guide for
identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and
enforcement of legislation dealing with antisemitism’. The working definition
cannot bear this weight. Its effect, if unchallenged, will be to institutionalise
theoretical confusions at the practical level.

Thus we, European Jews for a Just Peace, are not willing to accept the EUMC
‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’ as an adequate basis on which to proceed
and call on the EUMC to reopen this question if its work is not to lose credibility
among many of those who are committed to the fight against all forms of racism
and xenophobia, including antisemitism.


Dror Feiler


Chair
EJJP




             European Jews for a Just Peace is a network consisting of groups from the following countries:
         Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

				
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