By Dilia Zwart and Kenny Liebowitz
The UK Home Secretary Theresa May recently proclaimed, “We must all redouble our efforts to wipe out anti-Semitism.” Her call to action came during a memorial service in London to remember those killed in the terror attacks in France this month, including four people in a kosher supermarket.
May urged the UK to increase efforts to combat anti-Semitism so that Jewish citizens would feel safe in the country. Her call to action reaffirms the UK’s commitment to combat anti-Semitism – seen also in a report on anti-Semitism the UK government issued last month.
The report detailed the government’s strategy for and progress in stemming the rising tide of anti-Semitism within Britain’s borders. Yet while the report and May’s affirmation are important steps forward in the fight against anti-Semitism, thegovernment should be criticized for not going far enough in defining the contours of anti-Semitism.
The report summarizes the UK government’s past and ongoing efforts to address five aspects of anti-Semitic activity: anti-Semitic incidents, anti-Semitic discourse, sources of contemporary anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism on campus, and addressing anti-Semitism. Furthermore, it details the UK government’s efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of hate crime prosecution, combat the use of the Internet to spread hate messages, and address anti-Semitism on school campuses.
But to assess and effectively fight anti-Semitism, it is important to define what constitutes actionable offenses; yet the report asserts the government has no intention to formally adopt the working definition it encourages other government and law enforcement agencies to adopt from the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).
The EUMC, now named Fundamental Rights Agency, is an organization that provides data on racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism in Europe, developed and disseminated a working definition of anti-Semitism in 2005. The definition included several examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere, as well as examples of ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel. Although EUMC’s successor agency no longer includes the definition on its website, the definition and its examples remain influential throughout the world.