The report into antisemitism published last week was produced by an All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism, which was set up last November by the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism.
These titles may sound grand, but the report itself admits that the investigation it was based on “held no official powers and the proceedings were not covered by parliamentary privilege”.
The Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism has no particular official status either. It is registered as an “all-party parliamentary group”, which parliamentary regulations describe as “relatively informal compared with other cross-party bodies such as select committees”.
The inquiry was chaired by Denis MacShane, a right wing Labour MP and one of the strongest advocates of the “war on terror”. Of the 14 MPs that made up the inquiry, not a single one voted against the invasion of Iraq on 18 March 2003.
Given this it should not be a surprise that the report goes out of its way to link the anti-war movement to antisemitism. “The anti-war demonstrations in 2003, led by the Stop the War Coalition, were tainted by anti-Jewish rhetoric and imagery,” it claims.
Another paragraph attacks Respect, stating that “the campaign for Bethnal Green & Bow during the 2005 general election was marred by antisemitic campaigning on the part of some of its supporters”. It provides no evidence whatsoever for this extremely serious allegation.
Despite paying lip service to distinguishing between criticism of Israel and antisemitism, this report follows in a long tradition of attempts by the right to redefine antisemitism to encompass opposition to Zionism.
These arguments usually work by claiming that there is a “new antisemitism” that takes the form of criticism of the state of Israel. Once antisemitism and anti-Zionism are lumped together in this fashion, it becomes easy to claim, as this report does, that antisemitism “now occurs across the political spectrum” – with the implication that “left antisemitism” is the more serious problem.
These manoeuvres should be opposed not merely because they are offensive and crude smear tactics against the left. They should also be opposed because they muddy the waters as to what actually constitutes anti-Jewish racism.
This in turn makes it much harder to tackle those instances of racist violence and abuse against Jews that undoubtedly do still take place.
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