Today’s Guardian (7 January) has a letter from eight ‘lawyers and retired Judges’ attacking the IHRA definition of antisemitism, on the basis that it suppresses criticism of Israel. This is nonsense: the definition specifically says that criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Regarding the 11 examples within the definition, the lawyers claim that “the majority of these examples do not refer to Jews as such, but to Israel”. This is a ridiculous lie. Nine of them do refer to Jews. The remaining two catch antisemites who think that it’s not offensive to make Nazi comparisons about the Jewish State or to hold it to different standards than any other democratic country.
The lawyers cite Professor David Feldman in their support. Big mistake! The invalidity of all three of Feldman’s arguments against the definition was explained here.
So let’s take a closer look at the depth of understanding of antisemitism of these eight legal luminaries …
Lord Hendy is a Labour Peer – thanks to Jeremy Corbyn. There is no evidence that he has ever criticised Corbyn’s antisemitism.
Sir Anthony Hooper is a retired Court of Appeal Judge. ‘As an eight-year-old boy he recalls seeing the horrific pictures of the liberated concentrated camps of Belsen and Auschwitz. ‘Those images are seared into my memory’.’ Not sufficiently seared – it seems – to accept that (like any minority) Jews have the right to be respected when they say what offends them. And not sufficiently seared to persuade him to criticise Corbyn’s antisemitism.
Michael Mansfield has been accused of antisemitism so it may not be too surprising that he challenges the definition. He has a long anti-Israel history. In 2010 he appeared to condone the actions of protesters who forced the closure of Ahava, a Dead Sea Products shop, in London. Mansfield defended Ken Livingstone and supported Jeremy Corbyn.
Sir Stephen Sedley has suggested the completely unworkable definition that “Antisemitism is hostility towards Jews as Jews”. His criticism of IHRA effectively amounts to the Livingstone Formulation. (This is the lie – beloved of antisemites – that ‘anyone who criticises the Israel government’s policies towards the Palestinians is denounced as antisemitic.’). There is no evidence that he has ever criticised Corbyn’s antisemitism. In fact he denied it.
Hugh Tomlinson wrote an Opinion criticising IHRA – for which he was paid by a number of anti-Israel organisations: Free Speech on Israel; Independent Jewish Voices; Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Sorry Mate – I know times are hard for you QC chaps but I have a real problem with you feathering your nest at the expense of the safety of Jews.
Frances Webber thinks that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) ‘never considered the EUMC antisemitism definition valid’. She’s wrong. (The IHRA definition is drawn from the European Union Monitoring Definition. When the FRA succeeded the EUMC it dropped the definition from its website but NEVER said it was invalid). Webber supported Ken Loach as a judge of an anti-racism competition despite Loach’s history of antisemitism. She clearly doesn’t understand antisemitism. She supported Corbyn’s leadership campaign in 2015. There is no evidence that she has ever criticised Corbyn’s antisemitism.
Bindman’s criticism of IHRA is here. He states ‘the IHRA definition should only be adopted if qualified by caveats making clear that it is not antisemitic to criticise the Israeli government without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent’. Of course – and it is in the Definition! (‘ …criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’.)
Bindman doesn’t like it up him. He wrote to the Guardian (with Sedley) to defend Richard Burgon MP who said “The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists, and Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people.”
Eight authorities on antisemitism? Pass the sick bucket …..
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