March 16 2021
European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) writes to Director O’flaherty of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency and Vice President Jourova of the European Commission, urging them not to attend the so-called Global Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism. The letter t alerts him to the nature of the organiser, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM). Not only does CAM propagate the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism that creates a bias against fundamental criticism of Israel, it also misrepresents the definition in such a way as to exacerbate the bias.
Neither the Director nor the Vice President should lend the credibility of their position to such an organisation or its conference.
EJJP’s letter to the Director is below. The letter to the Vice President is similar.
16 March 2021
Director, Fundamental Rights Agency
We are writing to you about the Global Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism today, which you are scheduled to attend. We want to alert you to two characteristics of the organiser, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM), which you may not be aware of.
The CAM Advisory Council numbers three very senior Israeli politicians, including a former Leader of the Israeli Labour Party, a former Deputy Prime Minister and the last Ambassador to the UN. The staff includes a former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. It is evident that CAM is concerned as much with protecting Israel from criticism as with combating antisemitism.
More worrying still is CAM’s presentation of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which features prominently in the published list of conference subjects. Looking up the reference to the definition on the CAM website reveals something distinctly odd. It doesn’t quote the whole Working Definition, as would be expected, but only quotes some of the examples “of contemporary antisemitism” from the Working Definition.
Moreover, it omits the conditional wording related to the examples which says that the context of a comment or statement has to be considered before it can be judged antisemitic in terms of an example. That is a significant misrepresentation of the Working Definition, which must have been designed to bias people towards misinterpreting much justifiable criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
You have to use the link to the IHRA website, and then read the Working Definition carefully before you realise the examples are meant to be conditional, not presumptive. Mos attendees will only be aware of the Working Definition in a general way and will accept what the CAM website presents at face value.
(EJJP is on record as opposing the Working Definition because of its many inadequacies as a definition and its bias towards interpreting criticism of Israel as antisemitic. The conditionality is the only thing that enables it to be used at all objectively as a test of antisemitism.)
We do not believe that you, as Director of the FRA, should give CAM or this conference the credibility of your attendance. We are therefore asking you to withdraw. We realise this is very short notice, but we only became aware of your attendance in the past few days.
For your information, we have also attached our letter to the attending mayors, the list of 17court rulings overturning bannings of BDS advocacy events and a brief introduction to EJJP.
Dror Feiler, Chair, EJJP, member Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm).
Arthur Goodman, EJJP, Diplomatic and Parliamentary Liaison Officer, JFJFP (London)