The Board of Deputies has said anti-Israel sentiment should be classed as anti-Semitism and called for a new European Union definition of Jew hatred to reflect it.

Desecrated Jewish graves

Desecrated Jewish graves

Board President Jonathan Arkush made the comments after an American diplomat speaking in Berlin called for a new working EU definition of anti-Semitism to include a section on Israel, noting “the importance of context”.

Ira Forman, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, drew a line between “legitimate opposition of Israeli government policies” and “rhetoric that questions Israel’s right to exist and targets Jewish communities outside Israel”.

Arkush welcomed Forman’s “emphasis that anti-Israel bigotry tends to morph into anti-Semitic hate” and said the speech would “welcomed and cited in the UK”.

Forman cautioned against abusing any wider definition of anti-Semitism, urging community leaders to be “very careful to use this definition appropriately and object to its misuse as part of efforts to silence the legitimate criticism of Israeli policies”.

The current Working Definition of Anti-Semitism was created by the EU’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) to guide law enforcement agencies, but has no legal basis.

It already includes examples, such as “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming Israel is a racist endeavour; applying double standards; using symbols/images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterise Israel/Israelis; drawing comparisons of Israeli policy to that of the Nazis; and holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.”

However, it also says that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic”.

Senior figures in the British Jewish community have long argued a link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Anthony Julius, a lawyer, said anti-Zionism “deploys against Jews collectively – in the form of the Jewish state – many of the principal stratagems and tropes” that traditional anti-Semitism directed at the Jews as individuals.