March 27, 2011

Struck dumb at Brum

The Jewish Chronicle is applauding the adoption of the so-called "working definition" of antisemitism by the students' union at Birmingham University.  Here's the JC under the misleading headline, Birmingham embraces EU:

All speakers invited to appear at the University of Birmingham will, in future, be required to adhere to the EU Monitoring Committee's working definition of antisemitism.
Birmingham Guild of Students passed a motion last week requiring all societies and speakers to work with the EUMC guidelines to ensure incidents on campus do not allow antisemitic language or behaviour.
The move follows a controversial lecture in February during which US army veteran Mike Prysner, speaking to the Friends of Palestine Society, compared Gaza to a concentration camp..
I think this is quite important because, in spite of being hosted by what used to be the European Monitoring Centre on Xenophobia and Racism, now the Fundamental Rights Agency's website, it has never been formally adopted by any part of the EU bureaucracy, commission or judiciary.  It's almost like the zionists that pulled it together don't want it subjected to forensic, judicial or parliamentary scrutiny.

Since we've covered this on JSF before, let's just have a quick look at what the dodgy definition consists of.  It starts innocuously enough with an abstract definition headed, "Working Definition" and states, :
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.
Ok, but when the American Jewish Committee first pulled the thing together, it said that

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel include:
·         Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor.  
·         Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
·         Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
·         Drawing comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
·         Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.
That was a bit too obviously designed to stifle criticism of Israel so they threw in a couple of sops to free speech involving "context" and the word "could". So now rather than saying that "Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel include" it now says, 
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could  include
And then it sets out those various things by which "antisemitism" "could" manifest itself, subject to "context". I've had some chats about this on line, and the Israel advocates are very quick to accuse a person of dishonesty if they fail to mention the "context" and the "could".

The problem now is that this has been adopted by a students' union because someone likened Gaza to a concentration camp at a public meeting on campus. So what happens now? Will people who want to give talks about Israel on campus be asked what they are going to say so that can be told they are not allowed to say a certain thing? Will they be vetted for what they have said in the past so that they can be banned forevermore? Will they have to sign a document promising not to say anything that sounds like it might be accusing Israel or bearing comparison to the nazis or of practicing apartheid, or of being generally not nice to the Palestinians but without criticising other states that do nasty things too?  Was it even discussed before being adopted? I couldn't find the new policy or discussion of it on the University of Birmingham Guild of Students website though I'm not the best of web searchers. If someone finds anything please let me know.

The fact that the working definition exists on line at all under the auspices of the EU is a disgrace. It clearly essentialises Jews as zionists and seeks to implicate Jews generally in Israel's crimes at the same time as correctly pointing out that it is antisemitic to hold Jews responsible for the State of Israel. So it is antisemitic in itself though the clearest intention is the stifling, indeed preventing of meaningful criticism of Israel.

It is all the more problematic that it doesn't inform the laws of any EU state as yet because that has enabled it to evade scrutiny and simply get adopted where activism outweighs forensics, like students' bodies.

And this Birmingham Uni Students' Guild decision is disgraceful, particularly as I understand it was proposed by the Guild's anti-racism officer. But now it has been adopted by an organisation with the ability to approve or ban speakers, we might be able to see how the working definition, er, works. But I must say, that more needs to be done against it than the setting up of a facebook page.


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