Jewish Groups Urge EU Parliament To Adopt New Anti-Semitism Definition30 May 2017

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European and American organisations lobby for politicians to support an international definition of hate against Jews, ahead of a vote on the issue this Thursday

Jewish groups in Europe and the United States have urged the European Parliament to adopt a new working definition of anti-Semitism that has been criticised for silencing criticism of Israel and for having a “chilling effect” on free speech.

The US-based AJC Transatlantic Institute and the European Jewish Congress sent letters lobbying politicians ahead of a vote on Thursday, when parliamentarians debate whether to adopt a new definition by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The working definition, which is not legally binding, has been challenged as conflating anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel, but AJC director Daniel Schwammenthal said this was just an excuse used by anti-Semites.

“Those who falsely claim the working definition limits freedom of expression are basically demanding the freedom to demonise Israel and to hold Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions,” he said.

Likewise, EJC president Moshe Kantor said critics of the IHRA definition were working to “politicise and marginalise the fight against anti-Semitism,” and that Jews should be free to define anti-Semitism as they see it.

“Those who seek to divide support for effective methods to combat anti-Semitism in order to further narrow political agendas must be called out for what they are; facilitators of the maintenance of a legislative vacuum that ties the hands of governments and security agencies in fighting antisemitism.”

The EJC’s letter to all Members of the European Parliament was signed by member signatories including Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies.

Jean Kahn, a former president of the European Jewish Congress, helped found the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia 20 years ago. The EMCR’s working definition of anti-Semitism, drafted in 2005, was among the first to include references to Israel.