IAM reported last week that the British Government adopted the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism as drafted by the European Monitoring Center in 2005. Not surprisingly, this move has prompted a reaction by opponents, including Professor Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University's department of Politics and Government, who is currently in a two years scholarship at London's SOAS. In a column in the influential London Review of Books, Gordon accuses the British Government of double standards.
Although Gordon admits that anti-Semitism is on the rise and needs to be challenged, he claims that one category of the Working Definition, out of eleven examples, is dangerous. The Working Definition lists "ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context". Gordon refers to the example of "applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation." Gordon does not agree with "the categorisation of Israel as a democracy (for me as an Israeli Jew it undoubtedly is, but for my Palestinian neighbours in South Hebron it undoubtedly is not)".
In fact, Gordon himself fits the description of the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism with regard to Israel. Gordon found striking similarities between Israel and South Africa’s apartheid. In his book Israel’s Occupation he found only one "major difference" between the two, that in South Africa the apartheid regime was institutionalized, but "in the West Bank no legislation was introduced to support this practice, and no official government decision was taken to put such legislation into effect".
Gordon tries to demonstrate the fact that countries tend to use double standards when criticizing other countries. For instance, he accuses the British government of Islamophobia "given that the UK condemns Iran more harshly than China for human rights violations." But he is wrong, Iran sponsors terrorism worldwide, a well documented activity which landed the regime a number one on the State Department and EU lists of countries sponsoring terrorism. China, on the other hand, is not a state sponsor of terrorism.
Gordon furnishes other examples of double standards of the British government. He accuses the British Government of failing to speak out against Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. But he conveniently fails to mention that the Saudi intervention there was triggered by the so-called Houthi rebellion. Operating under the command of Iran's Quds Force, the foreign operation branch of the Revolutionary Guards, the Shite Houhtis occupied the capital city of Sana and deposed the government. Gordon should know that but is probably not ready to write about Iran's persistent use of terror and civil strife to destabilize countries in the Middle East.
In fact, like many of his radical activist- academic peers, Gordon has practiced double standards all along. Anyone familiar with his writings would find it hard to come across criticism of human rights violations by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or Bashar Assad, who has been massacring his own citizens. Neither does he have anything to say about the universally condemned brutality of ISIS, whose ideology justified killing, torture, and rape of civilians for the sake of recreating the Caliphate.
Gordon should know that practicing such blatant double standards undermines whatever academic legitimacy he may still have.
Neve Gordon, 15 December 2016
Anti-Semitism is on the rise and needs to be challenged. But the working definition of anti-Semitism that was formally adopted this week by the British government is dangerous. It says that anyone who subjects Israel to ‘double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’ is an anti-Semite.
Setting aside the categorisation of Israel as a democracy (for me as an Israeli Jew it undoubtedly is, but for my Palestinian neighbours in South Hebron it undoubtedly is not), what if the double-standards clause were applied in other cases? Given that the UK condemns Iran more harshly than China for human rights violations, one could conceivably accuse the British government of being Islamophobic. But then the UK’s criticism of Saudi Arabia, which is reducing parts of Yemen to rubble (with the help of arms supplied by Britain), is lax when compared to its criticism of Sudan, which would imply the British government is guilty of another sort of racism.
The definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government is itself a manifestation of a double standard, since it treats Israel differently from every other country in the world rather than as a nation among nations.