Saturday, 19 Oct 2019 - 20 of Tishri, 5780
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U.S. State Department amends website on anti-Semitism definition to include comparison of Israeli policy to that of the Nazis

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The State Department, under the leadership of Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Elan Carr, the U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, determined that comparisons of Israeli policies to those of the Nazis  constitute antisemitism and have added it to the definition.

 

WASHINGTON—The U.S. State Department has amended its website after a critical omission on its page defining anti-Semitism.

The State Department’s website “Defining Anti-Semitism,” which is based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism that was adopted in 2016, originally omitted the line, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

While an earlier version of the State Department’s website, in use until 2017, did include the line, it appears that at some point the critical wording was omitted.

However, after some pro-Israel activists noticed the omission, it appears that the State Department has updated the site to include it.

The State Department, under the leadership of Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Elan Carr, the U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, determined that comparisons of Israeli policies to those of the Nazis  constitute antisemitism and have added it to the definition.

Comparing Israel’s policies to that of Nazis is a familiar anti-Israel trope often used by BDS supporters and other critics of Israel.

“This can be an important tool against those who make a cynical and horrific use of the Jewish holocaust for the purpose of delegitimizing the Jewish state and promote anti-Semitic sentiments in the general public,” Yifa Segal, director of the International Legal Fund, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, many studies show that this rhetoric is widely used in the U.S. today, and including this legal definition will make clear that this type of comparison originates in anti-Semitism and is not a legitimate discourse.”

Anti-Israel politicians, not only in the United States but elsewhere, have been using this comparison quite regularly.

In July, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) drew criticism for comparing the anti-Israel BDS movement to previous boycotts of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In Canada, a political candidate from the New Democratic Party in Nova Scotia was also recently ousted for this comparison, and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was criticized for speaking at a 2009 protest likening Israel to Nazi Germany.

 

 

A screenshot of the State Department’s website “Defining Anti-Semitism,” showing that the addition of the omitted line on Israel. Credit: Screenshot.

Comparing Israel’s policies to that of Nazis is a familiar anti-Israel trope often used by BDS supporters and other critics of Israel.

“This can be an important tool against those who make a cynical and horrific use of the Jewish holocaust for the purpose of delegitimizing the Jewish state and promote anti-Semitic sentiments in the general public,” Yifa Segal, director of the International Legal Fund, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, many studies show that this rhetoric is widely used in the U.S. today, and including this legal definition will make clear that this type of comparison originates in anti-Semitism and is not a legitimate discourse.”

Anti-Israel politicians, not only in the United States but elsewhere, have been using this comparison quite regularly.

In July, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) drew criticism for comparing the anti-Israel BDS movement to previous boycotts of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

“Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad including… boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead up to the Holocaust,” said Omar in the pro-BDS resolution, which was co-sponsored by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and John Lewis (D-Georgia).

In Canada, a political candidate from the New Democratic Party in Nova Scotia was also recently ousted for this comparison, and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was criticized for speaking at a 2009 protest likening Israel to Nazi Germany.

The working definition of antisemitism also includes the understanding that “antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law. Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews,” according to the US government’s website. In addition, “Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.”

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