Last month the California State Assembly passed a resolution equating campus criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, and The Forward has a fine piece of reporting on a little-noticed sleight-of-hand used in California and elsewhere: the invocation of an anti-Semitism definition originated in the EU in 2005 but since discarded, that includes statements that Israel is racist. After all, who could be against the EU? Aren’t the Europeans the ones who are most critical of Israel? Seth Berkman in the Forward:
Like many others addressing the issue, the state assembly referenced a definition of anti-Semitism first put out by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, known under the acronym EUMC, in 2005 [an obscure agency of the European Union]. Yet oddly, it is a definition the center’s successor agency does not use in its own publications today. One of the center’s top officials for monitoring anti-Semitism refers to the definition as “an historical document” that was meant only as a “guide for data collection” for its affiliates.
“There is no issue of the FRA, as an EU agency, endorsing any definition,” the official, Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos told the Forward, referring to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the EUMC’s successor agency, by its acronym.
Nevertheless, what the EUMC referred to originally as a “working definition” has become a standard for important institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. Besides the California State Assembly, it is cited by the U.S. State Department, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and a recent report by a University of California commission on campus prejudice. The definition, which was composed with input from B’nai Brith International and the American Jewish Committee, is also endorsed by American Jewish groups and used in reports by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs….
[Portions of that definition]
• “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination — e.g., by claiming the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”;
• “Applying double standards” to Israel by demanding it follow behavior not demanded “of any other democratic nation”;
• Comparing Israeli policies to Nazi policies;
• Using “symbols and images associated with classical anti-Semitism” to characterize Israel or Israelis.