Britain to adopt new definition of anti-Semitism

The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans Monday for the adoption of a new definition of anti-Semitism, saying it will help combat hate crimes against Jews in Britain. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI

LONDON, Dec. 12 (UPI) — Britain will formally adopt a new definition of anti-Semitism, intended to target hate crimes against Jews, a statement from the prime minister said.

The definition of anti-Semitism was agreed on in May at a conference of the 31-member International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

British police already use this definition, which can now also be used by other groups, such as municipal councils and universities. The definition is not a law, but provides a formal interpretation of an illegal act that can serve as a guideline for criminal proceedings.

A statement from the office of Prime Minister Theresa May said adoption of the definition will “ensure that culprits will not be able to get away with being anti-Semitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organizations or bodies have different interpretations of it.”

Britain will be among the first countries to adopt the definition as a guideline for determining instances of anti-Semitism. The wording is similar to that of a 2005 definition adopted at a European Union conference, which pro-Palestinian activists in Britain said limited discussion or criticism of Israel.

The new wording “leaves a lot of space for people to complain about Israel. Too many opponents of Israel on the left are not mindful of their language around the issue,” said Frank Rich of the Community Security Trust, a non-governmental agency which monitors threats to Jews in Britain. He added, as an example, that accusing Israel of racist policies would not be regarded as anti-Semitic under the new definition.

The definition “catches up with modern anti-Semitism. I think it’s important not to conflate Jewish people with Israel. That actually is the point in the definition,” said Eric Pickles, a Conservative member of Parliament and the Britain’s envoy to the IHRA conference.


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