Legislation Against Criticism of Israel Enabled by Anti-Racism Moral Panic

The UK government is considering making certain criticisms of Israel illegal [1] (PDF).

The “Home Affairs Committee” recommends making illegal, among other things,

—Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

—Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

—Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

—Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

—Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

A similar law, but applying only to colleges and universities, the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act”, is being considered in the USA, but is widely regarded as unconstitutional, thus unenforceable [2].

The UK report refers to the Macpherson report on the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993:

The Macpherson report, published in 1999 as a result of the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, recommended that the definition of a racist incident should be “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”…

This entirely subjective definition was enshrined into law [3]. In tune with the Macpherson report, the Home Affairs Committee report considers denial of the problem of antisemitism to be evidence of it. As this 2000 report by “Civitas” explains [4], the Macpherson report considered that a police officer denying he is racist is evidence that he is.

Clearly, many people “perceive” various criticisms of Israel as a form of racism called “antisemitism”. However, the Committee generously accepts that “for a perpetrator to be prosecuted for a criminal offence that was motivated or aggravated by antisemitism”, requires evidence, and someone other than the victim to make an “objective interpretation of that evidence”. The broad definitions of “antisemitism” in this report give an idea of what the Committee considers to be “objective”. For example, it argues that “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” is objectively antisemitic. In other words, opposing racism is objectively racist.

The Committee also wants to prosecute criticism of Zionism within Britain:

Referring to Birmingham University as a “Zionist outpost” (and similar comments) smacks of outright racism…

it claims, on page 35, discussing the views of the president of the National Union of Students [1].

This assault on freedom cannot be reduced to Jewish power in British society, because it has so much in common with anti-racism in general. It’s the irrational moral panic about “racism” that enables these reports, together with a lack of understanding of the value of freedom of expression. This weakness, and this misunderstanding, need to be highlighted and challenged.

[1] Antisemitism in the UK, House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, retrieved December 24, 2016: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/136/136.pdf

[2] The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act would damage free speech rights on campus, Liz Jackson, Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2016, retrieved December 24, 2016: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-jackson-antisemitism-awareness-act-20161206-story.html

[3] Hate Crime and Crimes Against Older People, Crown Prosecution Service, retrieved December 24, 2016: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/equality/hate_crime/index.html

[4] Racist Murder and Pressure Group Politics, Civitas, September 2000, retrieved December 24, 2016: http://www.civitas.org.uk/reports_articles/racist-murder-and-pressure-group-politics-the-macpherson-report-and-the-police/