Statement: Criticising Israel is not antisemitic

Since Israel’s declaration as a state in 1948, it has committed extensive and indefensible crimes against the Palestinian people, in clear violation of international law and of the most basic demands of justice and human rights. Far from seeking genuine peace with Palestine, Israel has at every opportunity extended the scope and impact of those crimes, in the light of which international public awareness against such Israeli policies has been growing.

In response, Israel and its supporters have escalated a world-wide campaign to slander and defame critics of Israel, particularly by adopting (and promoting internationally) the Working Definition of Antisemitism (WDA) developed (and refined at Israel’s urging) by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The WDA directly equates criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

BDS Australia, which develops and implements BDS campaigns to support Palestinian justice and human rights, asserts that criticising the political and military practices of Israel is not antisemitic, and that these claims of antisemitism, under intense Israeli and pro-Israeli political pressure, have been unjustly deployed against advocates for Palestine in various countries, including the UK, the USA, Europe and Australia. In 2017, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) reiterated the BDS movement’s position against all forms of racism and racial discrimination.

In Australia, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has repeatedly used claims of antisemitism to smear prominent advocates of Palestinian human rights. In some cases accusations have also been made against advocates of Palestinian justice by senior members of the Australian government and other political figures, especially in relation to BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) campaigns. BDS in the context of Palestine is an effective, widely-supported, peaceful, civil-society strategy in defence of human rights and the application of international law for Palestine and Palestinians.

A significant number of prominent Jewish individuals and organisations around the world stand for Palestinian human rights and self-determination and oppose the practices of Israel. They do not accept the false claims that supporting Palestinians is antisemitic. Such groups include the US Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and in Australia, the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS), Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) and Jews Against the Occupation (JAO). All these organisations oppose the current actions of Israel in relation to Palestinian rights. Many Jewish groups and individuals also advocate strongly for BDS. The often-made claim that BDS targeting multinational companies collaborating with Israel is antisemitic, is clearly ridiculous.

In 2018, Israel enacted legislation declaring it to be the Nation State of the Jewish people. Apart from its obvious racist ramifications, this law may be seen as seeking to draw all Jews – wherever they live and whatever their nationalities – into its ambit, yet many of them have no wish to be “tainted” with Israel’s crimes. One possible consequence of this nationalistic identification of Jewishness with Israel may be a global growth in real antisemitism due to the risk of Israel’s crimes becoming more generally regarded as the responsibility not of Israel alone, but as that of all Jewish people.

Smearing critics of Israel as antisemitic simply because they oppose Israeli practices against Palestinians is unjustified. Such smears give a “free pass” to the far right resurgence of antisemitism, allowing the antisemitism of Israel-supporters like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to be minimized. Responding to the false charges of antisemitism diverts attention from real antisemitism and undermines political action against the ongoing crimes of the State of Israel and the urgent need for justice for Palestinians.

i In this statement, unless an alternative meaning is clear, references to “Israel”, “Israeli” or “the state of Israel” means the Government of Israel, its ministers or, where the context requires, its departments, instrumentalities, companies and government-linked entities.

Further information:

Anti zionism is not antisemitism – Jacobin – 12 Dec 2019
Distorting the definition of antisemitism to shield Israel from all criticism +972 5 Aug 2019
Criticism of Israeli Government’s policies are free speech, not anti semitism – Amnesty US 15 Aug 2019