A British parliamentary report hit against at what it called “the growing prevalence” of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, notably calling for the term “Zionist” to be considered “inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic.”
The report, issued by the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, came in the wake of accusations of anti-Semitism against the Labour Party and the National Union of Students (NUS).
It highlighted that the UK remained “one of the least anti-Semitic countries in Europe” and that police and judicial responses to anti-Semitism were “for the most part excellent,” although it expressed alarm at an increase in “potentially anti-Semitic views” following the devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2014.
While much of the report focused on anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, it notably addressed anti-Semitism in the context of discussions regarding the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The report notably called for the British government to “adopt an amended definition of anti-Semitism, aimed at promoting a zero-tolerance approach while allowing free speech on Israel and Palestine to continue.”
The committee report went on to call Israel “an ally of the UK Government” and “generally regarded as a liberal democracy, in which the actions of the Government are openly debated and critiqued by its citizens.”
The report did not mention the ongoing Israeli crackdown on critical voices within Israeli society, as well as on foreign activists.
However, it stated that “It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent,” adding that “it is not anti-Semitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.”
It nonetheless took issue with the use of the term ‘Zionist’ as used by anti-Semites to refer to all Jews, saying that while the “concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel…The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society.”
“For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic,” the report read.
The committee went on to recommend that critics of Israel avoid using the term “Zionist” when denouncing discriminatory Israeli policies against Palestinians.
“Those claiming to be ‘anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic,’ should do so in the knowledge that 59 percent of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticize the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise ‘the Israeli Government,’ and not ‘Zionists.’”
Zionists are generally understood to mean people supporting the existence of a Jewish nation, regardless of their own religious affiliation.
Focusing on the discussions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on university campuses, the report went on to imply that pro-Palestinian students in particular drew on a “simplistic formulation of the conflict…result(ing) in unwitting anti-Semitism emerging in some student populations, and within left-leaning student political organizations in particular.”
The committee advocated that resources “be provided to ensure that students are well-informed about both sides of the argument, both Israeli and Palestinian, and to support them in developing a sensitive, nuanced understanding of Middle Eastern politics in general” and “to ensure that pro-Palestinian campaigns avoid drawing on anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
Many advocates of the Palestinian cause contend that their criticisms of Israel have been conflated with anti-Semitism by Israel supporters in order to silence their denunciation of the country’s discriminatory policies.[Source: Ma’an News]