Fisking the PSC’s anti-IHRA Toolkit ahead of the Bristol vote tomorrow

psc ihra toolkit
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (with the support of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Free Speech on Israel) has published a Lobbying Guide for those who wish to try to dissuade public bodies from adopting the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism. Thus far all major political parties have adopted the Definition (the Greens though have not) and approaching 200 local authorities have adopted it. At least six universities have adopted it (King’s College London, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Liverpool, Essex, Bristol).

The PSC document is misleading and mendacious. There follow excerpts with comments.

In line with our commitment against racism, our three organisations are opposed to
all manifestations of antisemitism, which we understand in line with Dr Brian Klug’s
formulation to be “a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived
as something other than what they are”.

In fact Klug dismissed that formulation as ‘too simple’. It is also meaningless.  Over the ages, Jews have been accused of being thieves, manipulators, child killers, controllers of the world – but none of these are hostility to Jews ‘as Jews’.

These attempts to conflate antisemitism and criticism of Israel have long been employed by supporters of Israel who seek to defend the state from scrutiny of its nature, and practice of oppression of the Palestinian people.

The suggestion that supporters of Israel use the accusation of antisemitism to suppress criticism of Israel is simply a lie. (The accusation is used so often by anti-Israel campaigners that it even has its own name, the Livingstone Formulation). No anti-Israel campaigner can ever provide evidence for their accusation.

The IHRA definition first emerged in 2015 as a reworked version of a previously discredited working definition of antisemitism published (but not formally adopted) by the European Union Monitoring Committee on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in 2005. This definition was abandoned by the EUMC successor body the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) after the document came under heavy criticism for its conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

The EUMC definition was never ‘discredited’ neither was it ‘abandoned’ by the FRA. The FRA did not include it in its website but no reason was given for this and no Jewish organisation  was consulted regarding the exclusion.

Importantly in this regard, it has recently been confirmed that the IHRA as a body only endorsed the 39-word definition and NOT the accompanying guidance.

This is a straight lie.

It is also worth nothing that the author of the EUMC definition on which the IHRA is wholly based has, in a report to the US Congress, outlined his significant concerns at how the definition is being used to suppress freedom of expression.

Another lie. (Dr Dave Rich heads Policy at the Community Security Trust).

In his legal opinion on the IHRA definition and its impact upon freedom of expression, Hugh Tomlinson QC points out the unusual and potentially confusing language of the definition.

Tomlinson was paid by the PSC, Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices and Jews for Justice for Palestinians. ‘He who pays the Piper’ … No surprise that his ‘Opinion’ was hostile to IHRA.

…. the IHRA definition prohibits certain forms of criticisms of Israel

It doesn’t ‘prohibit’ anything, since it is not legislation. It identifies as antisemitic the statement that Israel is a racist state as well as the use of medieval-style tropes in both their original and modern guise. Eg that Israeli Jews (and all Jews) use the blood of Christian children to bake Matzoth (the unleavened bread that Jews eat at Passover) and that the IDF sells body parts of dead Palestinians. In addition  Jew/Nazi comparisons are antisemitic – eg the statement that ‘Israel ensures that Gaza is like a Nazi concentration camp‘. All other criticism is NOT antisemitic – for example the statement (though untrue ….) that Israeli Arabs are denied human rights.

The IHRA definition has been used to delegitimise the Palestine solidarity movement.

We know this is a lie because no evidence is ever offered.

Subsequently, the Labour Party endorsed the 39-word definition without its accompanying guidance.

A lie. Labour has endorsed the entire Definition including the examples.

It is particularly timely to expose the lies in the PSC’s Lobbying Guide as it is reportedly being heavily used ahead of Bristol’s vote to adopt IHRA tomorrow (17 March).