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Anti-Semitism: Double Standards

Anti-Semitism is on the rise and needs to be challenged. But the working definition of anti-Semitism that was formally adopted this week by the British government is dangerous. It says that anyone who subjects Israel to ‘double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’ is an anti-Semite.

Setting aside the categorisation of Israel as a democracy (for me as an Israeli Jew it undoubtedly is, but for my Palestinian neighbours in South Hebron it undoubtedly is not), what if the double-standards clause were applied in other cases?

Given that the UK condemns Iran more harshly than China for human rights violations, one could conceivably accuse the British government of being Islamophobic.

But then the UK’s criticism of Saudi Arabia, which is reducing parts of Yemen to rubble (with the help of arms supplied by Britain), is lax when compared to its criticism of Sudan, which would imply the British government is guilty of another sort of racism.

The definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government is itself a manifestation of a double standard, since it treats Israel differently from every other country in the world rather than as a nation among nations.

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Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

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