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More than 80 UK prominent groups refuse definition of anti-Semitism

Aug. 20, 2018 11:52 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 22, 2018 4:29 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- More than 80 prominent organisations from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in the United Kingdom (UK) rejected the definition of anti-Semitism, saying it "suppresses discussion of the 'colonial history' of Palestine."

In a letter published on Friday, the groups slam attempts to silence the discourse on Palestine.

The letter also criticizes the definition of anti-Semitism, which was adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA); critics say that the definition conflates anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of Israel.

The document also provides a list of expressions that it considers anti-Semitism, including "claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor".

The 2016 document warns against "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" - which is a tactic used by some Palestinian solidarity groups to highlight Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians.

The statement comes amid signals that Britian's Labor Party is willing to adopt the full IHRA definition amid accusations of anti-Semitism against the party's leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The letter pointed out the groups are deeply worried that current attempts to "silence public discussions of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948 (when over 800 thousand Palestinians, out of 1.4 million who lived in historical Palestine, were forced out of their homes during the establishment of the state of Israel, to become refugees in neighboring Arab countries, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.)"

The letters continues that these facts are "well established and accessible," and that they are part of Britain's historical record and the direct experience of the Palestinian people themselves.

"The Palestinian community in the UK has raised the disturbing absence of key information about these past and current injustices, and highlighted the racism it exposes then and now."

Britain had ruled Palestine 1918, the end of World War I, until Israel was established in 1948.

BAME organisations and groups said that public discussions of these historical facts would be "muzzled" under IHRA's definition of anti-Semitism.

"This silencing has already begun. Today we can freely describe the racist policies experienced in the era of British and European colonialism in our countries of origin (indeed it is taught in British schools), but the colonial history of the Palestinians is continually erased."

The letter also says that "this is a dangerous breach of our own rights, and of the wider British public: we must all hear the full story of the Palestinians in order to make sense of the current discussions about racism and Israel."

The UK had adopted IHRA's definition in 2016; UK Prime Minister Theresa May had praised Israel at the time, comparing its alleged "inclusivity" to that of the UK.

May had said in a statement then that "Israel guarantees the rights of people of all religions, races and sexualities, and it wants to enable everyone to flourish, our aim in Britain is the same: to create a better, fairer society, helping everyone to reach as far as their talents will allow."

The BAME letter was signed by 84 organisations, including Arab, immigrant, African, Muslim and Asian UK-based groups.
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