British politicians mull censorship of anti-Israel comments

The Community Security Trust has tried to smear activists urging a boycott of Israel. (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Following the Charlie Hebdo attack and related killings, we saw continental European law enforcement agencies confirming that “freedom of speech” is a white liberal privilege, not a universal right.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brazenly claiming all Jewish victims as his own and cashing in on the attacks for blatant propaganda purposes, the French political elite signalled that the tragic events may be used as an excuse to crack down on criticism of Israel.

Now, it seems, British parliamentarians could go down the same road by considering bans on critical discourse while basing their criteria on extremely shaky definitions.

A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism — while representing only the views and research of an “informal” group in Westminster — builds on the British government’s earlier shoddy research and uncritical peddling of right-wing Zionist accounts of what constitutes anti-Semitism.

Laden with flaws

While there is no doubt that anti-Semitism is a real and revolting form of racism, and is sadly present in Britain as well as other European countries, the report is laden with flaws — both in its handling of the concept of anti-Semitism, and in its approach to researching the problem in the UK.

Firstly, the report relies far too heavily on the Community Security Trust and related organizations for its information, definitions and interpretation. This is conceptually problematic.

Although the CST is supposed to be focused on ensuring the safety of Jews, it is also involved in campaigning against the boycott of Israel. The CST has sought to portray the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel as anti-Semitic, even though the Palestinian-led committee that coordinates BDS activities has explicitly condemned anti-Semitism.

The Electronic Intifada has discussed and exposed the CST’s underhand collaboration with the British authorities before, and this isn’t the place to recount that collaboration again. Suffice to say, the CST’s links to pro-Israel and anti-boycott campaigning do not make it a dependable or impartial source on these subjects and, indeed, other voices from within the British Jewish community have criticized the CST for the dangers inherent in its uncritically pro-Israel stances.

Secondly, the report states that it works on the principle that “a racist act is defined by its victim.”

“We conclude that it is the Jewish community itself that is best qualified to determine what does and does not constitute anti-Semitism,” the report adds.

On its own, this is entirely laudable, and those who feel themselves to be victims of racism — in any form — should be heard and their experiences given full respect.

Manipulation of fear

What the report fails to do, though, is acknowledge or unpack the politics around the manipulation of the Jewish community’s legitimate fears of anti-Semitism by the likes of the CST. This has seen pro-Israel campaigners clearly and deliberately misrepresenting isolated, individual acts of anti-Semitism as instead being part of a wider pattern of behavior, which they claim is characteristic of Palestine solidarity and human rights activists.

The report’s failure to address issues in its data is also illustrated by other examples, such as the statement that research on student experiences of anti-Semitism “found that the respondents who identified as ‘very positive’ about Israel were more likely to have experienced anti-Semitism than those who are ‘fairly positive.’”

It may well be that students who were “very positive” about Israel engaged in more encounters with people who had opposing views and thus experienced criticism of Israel.

Does this mean, however, that this criticism was inherently anti-Semitic, or that the “very positive” attitudes the respondents hold make them more likely to see disagreements about Israel as attacks on them as Jews, not as supporters of Israel?

This could be seen as a semantic argument — except that it is exactly these definitions which the “all-party inquiry” is suggesting as the basis of new legislation. The report’s authors advocate “exploration of the potential for using prevention orders to curb determined offenders” as part of its recommendations about how to tackle allegedly anti-Semitic comments on the Internet.

Who decides?

While this raise issues of freedom of speech in general, in this particular case it also needs to be asked: who decides on the definitions?

Thirdly, the report claims to present an analysis of the relationship between Israel’s attack on Gaza during the summer of 2014 and an apparent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK. The report’s credibility, however, has to be questioned when its version of these events is taken into account.

The outline account is as follows: “In early June, three Israeli boys were kidnapped and found dead nearly three weeks later. Following retaliatory Israeli attacks on Hamas and an escalation of rocket fire from Gaza, on 8 July Israel launched Operation Protective Edge. Notably in mid-July four Palestinian children were killed on a beach in Gaza and the fighting intensified exponentially throughout the following weeks.”

The problems with the account include but are not limited to:

  • the absence of any mention of the brutal murder in Jerusalem of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian boy burned to death amid the anti-Arab hysteria which was whipped up by the Israeli government and media during the supposed “search” for the kidnapped youths;
  • the fact that the Israeli government knew that the kidnapped youths were dead but failed to release the news, knowing that the tensions of the “search” offered them a better environment in which to arouse racist sentiment;
  • the absence of any mention of the killing of more than 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, during Operation Protective Edge. Even if one accepts the Israeli state’s own accounts of the situation, the disparity in numbers is extraordinary;
  • the placing of all responsibility in the hands of Hamas, despite how Israeli police have acknowledged that Hamas was not responsible for the kidnapping of the Israeli youth;
  • the omission of the larger issue of the Israeli siege on Gaza and the rights of Palestinians to resist this large-scale and illegal infringement of collective human rights.

Some members of the “all-party inquiry” are known to be sympathetic towards Israel. Hazel Blears, a former cabinet minister, is a declared supporter of the lobby group Labour Friends of Israel; Alastair Burt and David Davies have both been active with Conservative Friends of Israel, a similar group in the main government party; and Ian Paisley Junior has been involved with Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.

If the “all-party” report is prepared to be so selective, one-sided and biased in its account of Israel’s attack on Gaza, can it really be trusted to make policy recommendations which involve criminalizing public criticism of the State of Israel?




This is typical of the Western' politicians in other countries also; those vocal in public about the rise of antisemitism often don't care about opposing the actual racism, but only use increase of racism in their attempt to silence opposition to Israel's crimes.

Otherwise these politicians would not be so keen to bring up criticism of Israel and at the same time so reluctant to mention Israel's crimes as possible causes also, because if criticism of Israel's actions increases racism towards Jews, then surely Israel killing 2300 people in Gaza has at least the same effect?

Yet the very same people who claim that criticism of Israel increases antisemitism claim that Israel killing Palestinians has no effect on how Jews are viewed.

To these people Israel killing 2311 people in Gaza didn't increase racism towards Jews but criticizing the killings did. It sounds strange, but we have to understand that to these 'friends of Israel' - both in the United Kingdom's parliament, in the US Congress and in less lofty places, this is one of the pillars of their worldview.

Theirs is a mindset where Israel's own actions have no connection to rest of the world, they exist in a bubble and only by breaking that bubble by mentioning and criticizing those actions of Israel do they suddenly have connection and effect to and in the outside world.


Add this to the list of - the sun never sets on the crimes of the British Empire.


Good luck with keeping George Galloway from making "anti-Israel" comments.
Detesting Israeli policies is not "anti-semitic" except in the mind of Bibi.


"Secondly, the report states that it works on the principle that 'a racist act is defined by its victim.'

'We conclude that it is the Jewish community itself that is best qualified to determine what does and does not constitute anti-Semitism,' the report adds.

On its own, this is entirely laudable, and those who feel themselves to be victims of racism — in any form — should be heard and their experiences given full respect."

No, this concept always was a trap and open to abuse. It means that there are no objective criteria in deciding what is, or is not, racist. It is always determined from the point of view of the victim. And those who have the most social power in claiming victim-hood will always trump those who have less social power - that is the reality.

Racism is racism - racialised hatred , i.e. of all members of a particular group. Anything that confuses criticism of oppressive behaviour by some members of a group against other group(s), with racism, can only be racist against the group who are so victimised.

It was inevitable once this 'victim-centered' definition of racism was accepted, as a means to supposedly deal with the police practice of turning a blind eye to obvious racist attacks, that phoney definitions of racism would result.

Zionists base their entire ideology on claims of eternal victim-hood. So this very idea was tailor made for them. It should be abandoned by the left.


The desperate attempts of a psychotic state - like a deranged king of old who would put to death those who criticised him - cannot be allowed to sustain such profound influence in Europe and further afield.


Congratulations to Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu for his PR on the world
stage portraying all Jews as "victims". (To be continued in the US?) Does
this showmanship undo the work of organizations like BDS? As has always
been the case in Zionism's history, it is a fabricated "victimhood". (Many in
the Jewish community in its earliest days were opposed to Zionism.)

Its results have been the massacres, starvation, murder, rape of Palestinians
who (according to Zionists) can never qualify for any victimhood ever.
No Palestinians may ever apply.

To put Netanyahu's show in perspective, read the law and the facts. These are
available in a report to the ICC ("UN World Court") by pressing under
"report" in Charlotte Silver's excellent article "ICC receives report debunking
Israel's 'self-defense' claims for Gaza attack", dated February 12, 2015.

Of course, there are many more issues involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This report focuses on issues which will obtain a positive decision
for Palestinians. (For example, although "aggression" can be claimed, it cannot
be considered by the World Court until 2017.)

Read all 28 pages, please. Share them with those you know who are interested.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA


If they pass legislation on antisemitism then they Must include
anti Islam or homophobia too. otherwise none.


I recently watched a you tube video where Galloway was set up to be pilloried by fellow panelists and the audience over allegations of anti-semitism. It struck me that the audience had been colonized by the US establishment version of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Galloway is anti-Semitic by definition because he supports Hezbollah. I thought he made it abundantly clear that opposition to Israel and the Zionist project should not be equated to anti-semitism regardless of one's view toward Israel-supporters and critics of Israel are both playing a dangerous game when it comes to equating Israel's action as the equivalent of Jewish tradition generally. It seems that the colonized British public is being fed the line that Galloway is a monster. He is a former MP of the Labour Party who simply objects to the dismantling of the social safety net and the ongoing wars led by the United States in Arab and Muslim lands.


So sad that the BBC is now just a mouthpiece for the establishment covering up paedophilia and white washing Israeli war crimes. Then again it's blatantly obvious that the Zionist lobby and the Tory Party [increasingly one and the same] have it by the throat. Meanwhile you have columnists like Nick Cohen endlessly bleating about the Islamic inspired threat to freedom of speech without mentioning the Zionist thought police and their Nazi accusations and enforced self censorship.


Good, if depressing, article Sarah. I had been unaware of the all-party inquiry but all too aware of the CST's dubious roll. I have begun to think that we could do with getting rid of the term, 'anti-semitism' altogether and use the term 'racism' which is used for every other race on earth. In, Britain and Europe, even prior to the current hysteria, there is absolutely no doubt that there is far, far more racism against Muslims than against Jews yet CST is pushing the idea that many Jews are thinking of leaving the UK without a shred of evidence that there has been any increase. All of this helps divert from the continued, appalling abuses of the Palestinians. I have no confidence that anything the UK Government do will assist the plight of the Palestinians as they appear to have far more interest in advertising the 'plight' of Jews than in tackling the real issues. As with South Africa BDS seems like our best hope. And perhaps a change in the UK government at the next election.


" I have begun to think that we could do with getting rid of the term, 'anti-semitism' altogether and use the term 'racism' which is used for every other race on earth."

Totally agree. That would actually mean equality.


Bloggers of the future might need to start adopting the tone of Nostradamus, who, under the religious persecution of Rome, was forced to couch his "prophecies" in riddles. The zionists are very much like roman empire and the way it invented all manner of reasons to silence or murder its detractors. Their oppression of those who would excercise freedom of speech is no different. Any fool can see where this is potentially going. The behaviour of the zionist lobby looks like, smells like and tastes like religious oppression yet its very existence as an organised network is denied. This is the most dangerous form of oppression the world has yet seen since it denies its own existence yet is all pervasive. Isn't that something akin to the biblical definition of evil?

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.