An op-ed in The Independent contends that accusations of antisemitism are levelled to stifle criticism of Israel while also complaining about “the trouble with Jews today”.
The brazen article, written by Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher, and published earlier this month, adopts the “Livingstone Formulation”, the formula named after Ken Livingstone that claims that accusations of antisemitism are used to silence criticism of Israel.
The article on the one hand claimed that “today, the charge of antisemitism is addressed at anyone who critiques Israeli policy,” while also insisting on the other hand that “the trouble with Jews today is that they are now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people.”
Aside from the dubious history intended to minimise if not erase the historical and religious connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, which goes back thousands of years, Mr Zizek is “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel,” in breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism. In case this was not obvious, The Independent, recognising that the statement was antisemitic, subsequently amended it to read: “the trouble with the settlement project today is that it is now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people” (emphasis added).
Of course the irony of the piece — which exemplifies the sinister folly of the Livingstone Formulation — is that Mr Zizek’s “criticism of Israel” was in this instance antisemitic, thereby undermining his entire thesis. Editors at The Independent utterly failed to recognise this, but perhaps they should be credited for correcting the article, not merely for belatedly removing the offending phrase, but also for conceding that Mr Zizek’s choice of words was appalling.
There is a common misconception — sometimes deliberately promoted — that the Definition stifles criticism of Israel. But the Definition is unequivocal: “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism published a legal opinion from expert counsel on this point, which can be read here. It states: “The Definition is a clear, meaningful and workable definition. The Definition is an important development in terms of identifying and preventing antisemitism, in particular in its modern and non-traditional forms, which often reach beyond simple expressions of hatred for Jews and instead refer to Jewish people and Jewish associations in highly derogatory, veiled terms (e.g. ‘Zio’ or ‘Rothschilds’). Public bodies in the United Kingdom are not ‘at risk’ in using this Definition. Indeed, this Definition should be used by public bodies on the basis that it will ensure that the identification of antisemitism is clear, fair and accurate. Criticism of Israel, even in robust terms, cannot be regarded as antisemitic per se and such criticism is not captured by the Definition. However, criticisms of Israel in terms which are channels of expression for hatred towards Jewish people (such as by particular invocations of the Holocaust or Nazism) will in all likelihood be antisemitic.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism calls on The Independent to issue an apology for initially publishing an antisemitic article and to allow us to write a countering article that debunks Mr Zizek’s bunkum.