Toward Resilience in the Face of Hate

Reposted from VIRGINIA LAW WEEKLY, September 13, 2017, Toward Resilience in the Face of Hate

By Baruch Nutovic (President of the LDB Law Student Chapter at the University of Virginia School of Law; UVA Law ’19)

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At first, my parents did not know what to make of the dreams. Then, it dawned on them: my grandmother’s stories.

She had been deported to Auschwitz, the Nazis’ largest concentration camp, with her family in the spring of 1944. After days in a cramped cattle car without food or water, they arrived. One of her brothers was shot in front of her. Her younger brother, after whom my brother is named, was sent with her parents to the gas chambers. I grew up hearing her stories.

I can only imagine what she’d say if she were alive to hear of white supremacists marching by the thousands through the streets where I live.

That my wife and I were going downtown to join the counter-protests was never in question. It was a surreal scene. White supremacists in militia outfits with military gear.  David Duke, former head of the KKK, spewing hate. People wearing shirts quoting Hitler, calling for the subjugation of black people. Fights breaking out in the streets between the white supremacists and Antifa. It felt like we had been transported back in time, as though we were in the old Jim Crow South or 1930s Germany. Charlottesville was not the Charlottesville we know and love on that weekend.

But it is precisely that which gives me solace. That weekend was the antithesis of what Charlottesville is about. We believe in equality for people of every race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation. We are tolerant of political differences and stand for reasoned debate in a spirit of goodwill. Charlottesville’s great coming-together after the Unite the Right rally, the candlelight vigil on the Lawn, demonstrated our unity in the face of hate.

I’m also heartened by the size of the Unite the Right rally. I don’t want to be misunderstood; a few thousand white supremacists marching through Charlottesville’s streets is a few thousand too many. But when you compare the rally, billed as the largest hate rally in America for decades, to the estimated crowd of 1.8 million at Barack Obama’s inauguration, the contemptible weakness of the white supremacist movement comes into focus. This is a small movement at the fringes of society, almost universally despised, condemned by the leadership of both major political parties. Even our vacillator-in-chief, though he managed to create the perception of ambiguity with his bumbling response, condemned them. The media spotlight that the white supremacists garner may make them seem powerful, but in reality, their movement is politically diminutive.

Their aim is to terrorize us and create a false perception of strength. The best insult we can pay them is to refuse to be intimidated or change the way we do business, except insofar as we reaffirm our core values as a community.

During the chaos that followed the dispersal of the rally, I was distraught to find Antifa extremists beating people up, as they have done at similar counter-protests across the country in recent months. We need to exorcise from our ranks those who would cede any part of the moral high ground and disregard the great Martin Luther King, Jr.’s example of nonviolence. Antifa extremism provides recruiting material for the alt-right and makes it much harder to persuade white supremacists of the error of their ways.

We should also not allow the white supremacists to appropriate the debate over historic monuments. Before the white supremacists inserted themselves into the conversation, the debate was a respectful dialogue between people of good will on both sides, a model for the rest of the South to follow as it reckons with its tragic past.

At its core, the divide on the monuments is one of perception. To some, the monuments are a statement of white supremacy, a relic of the South’s evil Jim Crow history. To others, the monuments are a tribute to those who fought with valor on behalf of their home, hearth, and state; a set of fixtures in the landscape that evoke a mystical sense of the region’s history, not the evils of racism. So it’s no surprise that the former group passionately believes the monuments must go, and the latter that they must stay. The white supremacists should be viewed as extraneous to this debate and should not be allowed to influence it.

If we’re to be true to Charlottesville values, we must work to bridge this divide and reach a shared understanding on what the monuments mean, rather than bulldozing opposition. The main reason our country is so polarized, hateful, and divided is that people of good will have lost the capacity to understand and respect those with whom they disagree. Those seeking to take the monuments down are not on an Orwellian mission to destroy history, and most of those in opposition disagree for legitimate reasons.

Irrespective of how one feels about historic monuments, I think all can agree that the South needs more monuments marking milestones in its history of integration. We should never forget that the University of Virginia was once a segregated institution. It’s high time the Law School reckoned with its Jim Crow past and honored the trailblazers who broke the color barrier here. Gregory Swanson, the first black UVa law student, and John F. Merchant, the first black UVa law graduate, merit large, prominent monuments on our campus. I can’t think of a better rebuke to the white supremacists.

Ultimately, I don’t feel the same distress I did when I was having those nightmares. I take heart from the currents of history. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The white supremacists will go the way of the dinosaurs if we fight the good fight, as I know we will. The future belongs to us.

Germany Adopts Anti-Semitism Definition

Bundesregierung_(Tobias_Koch)On Wednesday, September 20th, the German Cabinet announced that it had unanimously adopted the working definition of anti-Semitism used by the International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA). In 2016, the 31 member states of the IHRA adopted their definition after a unanimous vote at a plenary session in Bucharest City. The IHRA was the first international body to formally adopt such a definition. Similar decisions to apply this working definition of anti-Semitism have been adopted by the governments of Romania, the United Kingdom, and Austria. The European Commission also, as of April 25th, has the working definition of anti-Semitism posted on its official website.

Following the announcement, the Minister of the Interior for Germany, Thomas de Maizière stated that “History made clear to us, in the most terrible way, the horrors of which anti-Semitism can lead.” The push to adopt the definition was spearheaded by the independent Bundestag Commission on Anti-Semitism, which has also urged the appointment of a federal commissioner for anti-Semitism affairs. This move for a federal commissioner has been championed by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) as well, with the director of the AJC, Deidre Berger, promoting it as essential for “fighting anti-Semitism as well as responding to current manifestations.”

Earlier this year, Romania pledged to apply the IHRA definition as well. The Romanian government asserted that “…Romanian society will be provided with an efficient guide that will contribute toward better understanding and definition of anti-Semitic actions as well as of the consequences deriving therefrom.”

In the United States, the U.S. State Department has a definition which is almost entirely that used by both the EUMC and the IHRA. This definition is, however, only used for international monitoring. In December 2016, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (AAA) was introduced to the U.S. Congress. The AAA would have required the U.S. Department of Education to use the State Department’s definition in evaluating intent of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. The AAA bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in December of last year, did not have a chance to be voted on in the House before the legislative session ended. Several states are currently in the process of drafting their own versions of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.

The adopting and application of a uniform definition of anti-Semitism in both Europe and the United States will help provide the tools to the governments and institutions of countries where resurgent anti-Semitism and bigotry threatens to undermine the progress made in fighting intolerance during the 20th century. Germany’s decision to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism is a wonderful step in the right direction, one that will inspire other countries to follow suit.

Our friends at OSCE are recruiting again for an important position that will be of interest to human rights professionals who are concerned about the rise in global anti-Semitism:

Job Vacancy – OSCE Adviser on Combating Antisemitism (Warsaw)

by Zbyněk Tarant

ISSUED BY: OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

Re-posted from: https://jobs.osce.org/vacancies/adviser-combating-anti-semitism-vnodip00676

VACANCY NUMBER: VNODIP00676

VACANCY TYPE: International Contracted

FIELD OF EXPERTISE: Human Rights

GRADE: P3

NUMBER OF POSTS: 1

DUTY STATION: Warsaw

DEADLINE: 15 October 2017

DATE OF ISSUE: 21 September 2017

Background

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is the principal institution of the OSCE responsible for the human dimension. ODIHR is active throughout the OSCE area in the fields of election observation, democratic development, human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, and the rule of law. ODIHR’s assistance projects and other activities are implemented in participating States in accordance with ODIHR’s mandate.

Tasks and Responsibilities    

Under the general guidance of the Deputy Head of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, the Adviser on Combating Anti-Semitism performs the following functions:

  1.  Monitoring and reporting manifestations of anti-Semitism, in particular hate crimes, with a focus on the response of governmental authorities and on good practices;
  2. Providing analysis and advice on issues related to anti-Semitism and recommend interventions to the ODIHR management;
  3. Developing, managing and delivering capacity building  projects and activities aimed at combating anti-Semitism, in particular hate crime, and at the promotion of the remembrance of the Holocaust;
  4. Establishing and maintaining contact with relevant stakeholders on issues and programmes related to (combating) anti-Semitism;
  5. Providing support to the Personal Representative of the Chair-in-Office (CiO PR) on Combating Anti-Semitism;
  6. Performing other duties as required.

For more detailed information on the structure and work of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, please see: http://www.osce.org/odihr

Necessary Qualifications    

  •  First-level university degree, preferably in international relations, political science, social sciences, law or other disciplines related to human rights;
  • At least six years of progressively responsible professional experience at national and international levels in the human rights field, preferably in the field of combating  anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance; Excellent understanding of issues relating to anti-Semitism;
  • Sound political judgement, outstanding analytical skills;
  • Familiarity with regional and international initiatives to combat anti-Semitism and experience in the development and implementation of educational programmes for combating anti-Semitism;
  • Knowledge of international human rights standards;
  • Established experience in project design and implementation, preferably in the field of combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance;
  • Established experience in monitoring and reporting on incidents of anti-Semitism;
  • Training and presentation skills desirable;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English knowledge of another OSCE language is desirable;
  • Demonstrated gender awareness and sensitivity, and an ability to integrate a gender perspective into tasks and activities;
  • Ability to work in a team and to establish and maintain effective working relationships with people of different national and cultural backgrounds.

Required competencies         

  • Commitment: Actively contributes to achieving organizational goals
  • Diversity: Respects others and values their diverse perspectives and contributions
  • Integrity: Acts in a manner consistent with the Organization’s core values and organizational principles
  • Accountability: Takes responsibility for own action and delegated work    Core competencies        •    Communication: Actively works to achieve clear and transparent communication with colleagues and with stakeholders of the Organization
  • Collaboration: Works effectively with others on common goals and fosters a positive, trust-based working environment
  • Planning: Works towards the achievement of goals in a structured and measured manner
  • Analysis and decision-making: Analyses available information, draws well-founded conclusions and takes appropriate decisions
  • Initiative-taking: Proposes and initiates new ideas, activities and projects
  • Flexibility: Responds positively and effectively to changing circumstances    Managerial competencies (for positions with managerial responsibilities)
  • Leadership: Provides a clear sense of direction, builds trust and creates an enabling environment
  • Strategic thinking: Identifies goals that advance the organizational agenda and develops plans for achieving them
  • Managing performance: Helps to maximize team performance by providing active feedback and skill development opportunities

Remuneration Package     

Monthly remuneration is approximately EUR 4,900, depending on post adjustment and family status. OSCE salaries are exempt from taxation in Poland. Social benefits will include possibility of participation in the Cigna medical insurance scheme and the OSCE Provident Fund. The Organization contributes an amount equivalent to 15% of the employee’s salary to this Fund and the employee contributes 7.5%. Other allowances and benefits are similar to those offered under the United Nations Common System.

Appointments are made at step 1 of the applicable OSCE salary scale.

How To Apply    

If you wish to apply for this position, please use the OSCE’s online application link found under https://jobs.osce.org/vacancies.

The OSCE retains the discretion to re-advertise the vacancy, to cancel the recruitment, to offer an appointment at a lower grade or to offer an appointment with a modified job description or for a different duration.

Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

Please note that vacancies in the OSCE are open for competition only amongst nationals of participating States, please see http://www.osce.org/states.

The OSCE is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages qualified female and male candidates from all religious, ethnic and social backgrounds to apply to become a part of the Organization.

The OSCE is a non-career organization committed to the principle of staff rotation, therefore the maximum period of service in this post is 7 years.

Please be aware that the OSCE does not request payment at any stage of the application and review process.

Continue reading

Turning Over a New Leaf at UW

UW-Madison_logoThe new Chair of the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), the student government body at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW), formally apologized to the UW Jewish community for her actions last April. These actions included holding an ASM meeting on the Jewish holiday of Passover and pushing a BDS vote during that meeting, disregarding a request to not raise BDS at that meeting due to the fact that many Jewish students would not be on campus and a previous decision to table the issue of BDS indefinitely. This apology comes on the heels of a unanimously passed ASM resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred.

Earlier this spring, the same student who issued this apology, Katrina Morrison, was part of group of students who decided to hold a vote regarding issues of BDS on Passover. This vote came in the wake of a highly contentious 14-page resolution entitled, “Social Responsibility and University Divestment from Corporate Human Rights.” More than half of this resolution sought to condemn Israel. The ASM voted to table this resolution indefinitely on March 29th, after a contentious six-hour debate. More than 50 students appeared before the open forum to discuss the controversial proposal. The next ASM meeting after that debate was, however, scheduled for April 12th, the second night of Passover. This was a night when many Jewish students who cared deeply about this issue would not be on campus due to the holiday. Then-ASM-Budget-Chair, Jewish student Ariela Rivkin, emailed then-ASM-Chair on April 7, requesting that the ASM not take up any legislation concerning “human rights mechanisms or transparency on investment policy” at the April 12 meeting. Because it fell on Passover, Rivkin stated, the vote precluded observant Jewish students from attending and providing input on an issue of importance to the Jewish community. Despite Rivkin’s email, the ASM introduced a different piece of legislation on April 12– a “Bylaw Change for the Creation of Financial Transparency and Ethics Subcommittee” – that addressed similar issues to the March 29 BDS legislation that was supposed to be indefinitely tabled. Furthermore, then-ASM-Vice-Chair Morrison motioned to suspend the rules to allow for an initial vote on this bylaw change to occur at the introductory meeting (even though legislation requires two votes).  Concerns were raised that voting would exclude Jewish students. Morrison said it would be a “hassle” to schedule another meeting for the vote. The legislation passed.

The passing of this legislation led Rivkin to file a Student Judiciary suit against Morrison, alleging that many Jewish students would not have been able to attend due to their religious observances. On May 10, 2017, the Student Judiciary overturned the BDS bylaw change, ruling that, “Introducing legislation that members of the Jewish community had expressed interest in, when it was known that these members would not be able to attend due to religious observance, does violate the Constitution.” While this was a huge victory, prior to this decision, the ASM passed yet another BDS resolution at their April 26, 2017 meeting that also seemed to have violated ASM bylaws. This violation stemmed from the introduction of a bill that sought to divest from “private prisons, fossil fuel corporations, border walls, and arms manufacturers.” While the text did not initially include any mention of Israel, ASM members – in an orchestrated fashion – introduced several BDS amendments to this bill. In introducing these amendments, the ASM members, once again, failed to give the Jewish community any sort of notice. At the April 26 meeting, Jewish students reported feeling harassed and intimidated.

Following the April 26 vote, UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank condemned the ASM for allowing this controversial divestment measure to take place. The Louis D. Brandeis Center wrote a letter urging further action be taken on this issue, specifically that UW’s nondiscrimination policies be upheld for all students. Continue reading

Opportunities in Education

The logo of OSCE

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has recently announced a unique opportunity to aid in widening the breadth of scholarship and educational material related to anti-Semitism. The OSCE is an organization which “works for stability, peace and democracy for more than a billion people, through political dialogue about shared values and through practical work that contributes to sustainable progress.”

This opportunity is within the framework of ODIHR’s Words into Action (WIA) project.  WIA focuses on identifying key classroom challenges when addressing anti-Semitism across the OSCE region, and formulating practical recommendations for educators to address these challenges. This program helps with a review of existing literature, the implementation of recommendations and changes, and the drafting of “aide–mémoires” for secondary school teachers. WIA intends to offer secondary school teachers with strong backgrounds in pedagogy a chance to help change educational practices in the face of rising anti-Semitism.

For this new opportunity in regards to WIA, ODIHR is seeking a qualified organization (private or public) to develop full course curricula and guidance materials for primary, secondary and vocational pre-service teacher training. The call builds on advice received in a recent consultation meeting in Paris. ODIHR is looking only for a simple “Expression of Interest” now, and will move to the next stage (getting the full package of applications, proposals, quotes, and documentation) in September-October, with the intention of selecting and contracting by the end of 2017.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday, September 14, 2017.  The work on the curricula should start in January 2018.

More information can be found here:  http://www.osce.org/odihr/334321

SJP Sanctioned at UC Irvine

ucilogoFollowing years of disruptive behavior by the University of California at Irvine (UCI)’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), UCI announced last week that it has sanctioned SJP “with disciplinary probation for two academic years.” The university’s action follows steadfast action by several organizations that have spoken up for UCI’s Jewish and pro-Israel students, including the Louis D. Brandeis Center, StandWithUs (SWU), Students Supporting Israel (SSI), and the AMCHA Initiative.

This probation follows SJP’s May disruption of an on-campus discussion sponsored by UCI’s chapter of SSI. The May 10 SSI event featured five Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists, appearing on behalf of “Reservists on Duty,” a group of Israeli reservists who attend campus meetings to discuss IDF policy. The SSI meeting was interrupted repeatedly by shouting, chanting, and other verbal disruption by the students affiliated with SJP. Several of the interruptions featured profanity, including the SJP members repeatedly screaming “F-you” at the IDF reservists. Videos of the exchanges were captured by Gary Fouse, a retired UCI instructor who has done much to chronicle anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activity on that campus over the years.

In two strongly-worded letters sent in May and July, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, together with SWU and SSI, chronicled the abuses suffered by the students, and urged UCI to rectify the situation. The May letter insisted that “more must be done … to prevent SJP from engaging in this type of discriminatory and disruptive behavior again against Jewish and pro-Israel students.” LDB, SWU, and SSI reminded UCI of their obligations under federal law, as well as the UC Regent’s “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance,” which announced that “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.” The Brandeis Center also signed onto a letter organized by the AMCHA Initiative, signed by a total of 53 groups, urging further action.

After UCI Chancellor Gillman and Vice Provost Haynes acknowledged the severity of the disruption and professed concern for the safety and security of all students, LDB, SWU, and SSI sent a second letter in July outlining violations of the California Penal Code and UCI Policy and urging the UCI administration to take forceful disciplinary action. “It is unfortunate that UCI needed to be reminded of its legal obligations in this way,” LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “But we are glad that UCI is now signaling that it will protect its students from such outrages in the future. This new action is deserving of praise.” Continue reading

How Anti-Semitism Infiltrates the Left

Review of David Hirsh, Contemporary Left Antisemitism (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2017)

hirsh book

The United Kingdom’s Labour party and its trade unions, like the University College Union (UCU), consider themselves progressive and “antiracist” spaces. As such, these arenas pride themselves on being free of prejudice in the form of sexism, racism, or otherwise. And, yet, these same institutions have come to tolerate, and perhaps promote, hatred in the form of anti-Semitism. David Hirsh set out to write his book, Contemporary Left Antisemitism, as a former member of the UCU and a leading activist, speaking out against the anti-Semitism present within this realm and current editor of the online journal, Engage. In the book, Hirsh explores how these “antiracist” spaces in the UK allowed for institutional racism to foster, and why it continues. While this book focuses primarily on anti-Semitism in the contemporary left of the UK, it draws a relation to the rise in the anti-Semitism from the left on a global scale.

On the left, individuals engage in anti-Semitism most when they talk about Israel – they do so in ways that demonize, delegitimize, or hold Israel to a double standard. Singling Israel out is, to many progressives, well-founded and not anti-Semitic; it is excused as ‘criticism’ against Israel and its policies. Should anybody speak out and call it what it is, anti-Semitic, the accuser is then discredited and accused of ‘bad faith’ and trying to ‘silence criticism against Israel.’ Herein lies the “Livingstone Formulation,” a term which Hirsh coined to explain the ways in which progressives deflect allegations of anti-Semitism. And, so, antisemitism is tolerated.

Progressive institutions went beyond tolerating it, though. They served as incubators for anti-Semitism to flourish. Because the so-called antiracist and progressivist left supposedly stands up against all forms of hatred, they see themselves as the warriors for the oppressed in the fight against oppressors. Such a mentality arose from what Hirsh calls a ‘campist mentality’ wherein we now engage in politics of position, regarding your position in the world, rather than a politics of reason. In terms of position, Israel and Zionists are thrown into the oppressor camp, as allegedly part of a larger white imperialist spirit that can be accused of all that is wrong in the world. Antizionism, then, becomes legitimized as a fight against the white oppressor.

Hirsh concedes that while some criticism of Israel is indeed wholly legitimate and not anti-Semitic, much of the hostility to Israel is anti-Semitic. Hirsh explains how people have come to conflate ‘Jew’ with ‘Israeli’ and ‘Zionist’ such that criticizing Israel and Zionism is a route to target Jews. Individuals on the left (among others) will distinguish between antizionism and anti-Semitism, but Hirsh does not believe it is valid to distinguish them absolutely – there is some crossover. He draws upon historical tropes and stereotypes used against Jews throughout history, primarily medieval blood libel and conspiracy theories, and highlights how they are now being re-appropriated towards ‘Zionists.’ Continue reading

Indiana University Reports on Social Media Anti-Semitism

ISCA“With the advent of the Internet, antisemitic messages are disseminated more quickly and widely than ever before, and often go unchallenged,” opens a new report from the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA) based out of Indiana University. The report, “Best Practices to Combat Antisemitism on Social Media,” was prepared for the U.S. Department of State as part of an effort between Indiana University and the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. The study, conducted in spring of 2017, utilized the same definition of anti-Semitism used by the U.S. State Department. The study saw the ISCA send out a survey to non-governmental organizations, who have worked against anti-Semitism, 17 of which took the time to respond. The NGOs represented were from more than ten different countries. The second part of the report revolved around searching social media platforms for anti-Semitic posts, with a particular focus on Twitter, then analyzed the background of the repeat offenders.

The study reports that, based on the surveys conducted, “traditional” or “classic” anti-Semitism is the most prevalent form of anti-Semitism found on social media platforms. Stereotypes include the idea that Jews control the financial world, media and Hollywood, and are engaged in an attempt to destroy traditional or nationality-centered societies. Many of the organizations that were surveyed also noted a rise in “what can be termed as the new antisemitism” directed against Israel, which attempts to portray Israelis or Zionists as the “new Nazis.” The study’s analysis of Twitter messages also revealed that the most influential disseminators of anti-Semitic messages are white nationalist individuals, many who “self-identified or [are] clearly affiliated [with the] alt-right.” The study further documented the patterns in anti-Semitic terminology, and discovered that the three most active posters of the term “Holohoax,” used to indicate a belief the holocaust is a fabrication, garnered between 4,884 and 18,265 followers. These numbers display the large pool of supporters that gather around these anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

The study credits NGOs around the world with being at the “forefront of flagging anti-Semitic content” online, but points to the “vast quantity of anti-Semitic messages and accounts” as an obstacle to erasing this form of bigotry from social media. Another stated obstacle is the reluctance of social media platforms to block content or users for “ideological and financial reasons,” many of which revolve around issues of “free speech.” In European nations, governments increasingly pressure internet service providers and social media platforms to remove hateful content. In the case of the United States, however, this is rarely the case. Few NGOs are engaged in counter speech, or the stating of counter narratives by questioning and rejecting anti-Semitic logic, as it is believed that these counter narratives have difficulty reaching the “target audiences” and not granting anti-Semitic messages more of a platform than if they were never challenged in the first place. Continue reading

Whitewashed: Anti-Semitism in the U.K. Labour Party

The film, Whitewashed: Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, can be found online at J-TV, a YouTube channel dedicated to global Jewish interests and issues. A short documentary, it is a partner film to a book of the same title and these are part of The Whitewashed Project. The project was produced and self-financed by a group of individuals in the United Kingdom who are invested in the subject matter.david hirsh

David Hirsh is the main narrator of the film. As a member of a trade union, a member of the Labour party, and as a Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths University of London – all this while being Jewish – he was inspired to partake in the project.

Overall, the project can be seen as a direct response to the Chakrabati Report, a report written after Shami Chakrabati led an inquiry regarding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In her findings, Chakrabati concluded that there was not systematic anti-Semitism to be found within the rank and file of the UK’s Labour Patrty.

Immediately after being published, the report drew criticism from many individuals in the Jewish community. Taking just two months to complete, the report appears to have been put together hastily and to have disregarded key content. Many submissions of written testimony by Jewish members of parliament (MPs) were cast aside, bypassed, or otherwise condensed to seemingly belittle the issues these submissions rose. This film is important in bringing the omissions to the public’s attention; a report which ultimately found there to not be an issue of anti-Semitism, was in fact anti-Semitic in dismissing many of the claims otherwise.

The issue with anti-Semitism in the Labour party is the same issue seen in many circles on the Left and that is that anti-Semitism in these spheres is manifesting itself in the form of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric. Many individuals who are the worst offenders in the Labour party have been excused as being merely critical to Israel. In fact, those alleging anti-Semitism are discredited by claims that they are “disingenuously trying to silence criticism” of Israel. However, as Dr. Eve Garrard clarified, while anti-Zionism “need not be anti-Semitism,” it “most often is” which is an important statement to distinguish the difference. The Chakrabati Inquiry erred in characterizing anti-Israel statements and anti-Semitism as two different things absolutely, ignoring the instances when the anti-Israel statements crossed the line.

Whether you are an MP or a concerned citizen, whether you are in the UK or otherwise, it is nonetheless important to watch this film. If anything, it should expose the viewer to concrete examples of modern-day anti-Semitism on the left, and how easily it is now being overlooked.

British Retailer Banned in Four US States for Support of BDS

downloadIn response to the Co-operative Group’s boycott of Israeli goods, four U.S. states have banned investments in the company as a result of their respective anti-BDS laws: Arizona, New York, Illinois, and Florida. The New York State Office of General Services and the State Board of Administration of Florida placed the Co-Op Group in a list of institutions determined to participate in acts of boycott, divestment, and sanctions, and both Arizona and Illinois included it in its list of “prohibited investments.”

The Manchester-based supermarket retailer initiated its anti-Israel policy in 2009 when it refused to stock products from Israeli West Bank settlements. The company then expanded its policy in 2012 to bar engagement with Israeli suppliers known to work with settlements. The boycott directly cuts ties with the four main exporters of Israeli fresh produce, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh, and Mehadrin, and severs contracts worth up to £350,000 under the pretense of “exceptional circumstances,” stating on its website that “this position does not constitute a boycott of Israeli businesses. We remain committed to sourcing produce from and trading with Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements.” However, Luke Akehurst, director of the We Believe in Israel, a grassroots group that campaigns against boycotts, declared, “The Co-op Group’s boycott of certain Israeli suppliers has done nothing to advance peace and coexistence or to help the Palestinians. All it has achieved is to alienate Jewish and other pro-Israel customers…”

The Co-op Group is the 5th largest retail grocery chain the United Kingdom, and the only major British retailer to boycott Israeli goods.The Co-op Group is also a major funder of the Co-operative Party, which holds an electoral pact with the Labour Party. Given the current balance of power in Britain, the company’s boycott does not come as a shock. The Labour Party has increasingly faced criticism for the anti-Semitic rhetoric of its party, with up to 50 members facing suspension for allegations of anti-Semitism between April and June of 2016. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has been quoted referring to Hezbollah and Hamas as his “friends,” and has faced severe backlash for his failure to adequately respond to anti-Semitism within his own party

Following the general election last month where Corbyn and his party scored a major electoral victory over the Conservative party currently in power, the American state’s anti-BDS actions are all the more significant. Banning the Co-op Group’s financial services and retail stores from their states serves as an act of defiance against a political climate that has increasingly alienated members of the British Jewish community. The action also represents a significant victory for efforts to ensure that state anti-BDS bills are being implemented. New York, Illinois, Florida, and Arizona’s actions follow stipulations within their respective anti-BDS resolutions that require the compilation of a list of companies that engage in boycotting activities against Israel, pursuant to each state’s definition of BDS.