Israel and Antisemitism
Recent senior legal opinion in Britain has inclined to the view that all criticism of Israel falls into the category of legitimate political opinion deserving the protection of laws guar- anteeing freedom of speech. Argument for this view, from Sir Stephen Sedley and others, is defective in that it ignores an evident distinction between antisemitism considered as an emotional disposition, and antisemitism considered as a deranged pseudo-explanatory political theory. Israel has become of late years the main focus for theoretical antisemitism of this latter kind. “Criticism” of this type is antisemitic, not because it manifests “hate speech” targeted at individual Jews qua Jews, but rather because it defames the Jewish community, falsely imagined by antisemites of this type to be unanimous, uncritical, and politically isolated in its support for Israel. The kinds of “criticism” of Israel characterized as antisemitic by the IHRA Definition of antisemitism are all of this type; and the Definition therefore poses, contrary to opinion widely expressed in recent debate on both sides of the Atlantic, no threat whatsoever to freedom of speech.
Keywords: IHRA Definition, Sir Stephen Sedley, Social vs. Political Antisemitism, Labour Party
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Sir Stephen Sedley, “Defining Anti-Semitism,” London Review of Books 39 (2017): 9, 8.
See Geoffrey Robertson QC’s statement that the “IHRA Definition is not Fit for Purpose,” http://www.kidsnotsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/GMB13.12.18responses-1.pdf.
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