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New UK anti-Semitism definition includes criticism of Israel

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British Prime Minister Theresa May today announced the government’s formal adoption of a definition of anti-Semitism that includes criticism of the State of Israel and Zionism.

The PM made the announcement in a speech for the Conservative Friends of Israel, selected excerpts of which were released ahead of time by Downing Street.

The definition in question was agreed on last May by the Berlin-based International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The text is based on, and very similarly-worded to, a controversial draft definition published in 2005 by a European Union agency, and which was later abandoned as not fit for purpose.

A Downing Street statement said the intention of such a definition was to “ensure that culprits will not be able to get away with being anti-Semitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organisations or bodies have different interpretations of it.”

According to a Press Association report, while police already use a version of the definition, “it will now be used by councils, universities and other public bodies.”

In a previous press release unpacking the definition, the IHRA asserts that “contemporary examples of anti-Semitism” could include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.”

In her private lunch with the Conservative Friends of Israel, May says that “Israel guarantees the rights of people of all religions, races and sexualities, and it wants to enable everyone to flourish.”

The UK definition is almost identical to the definition of anti-Semitism at the heart of a free speech furore in the US, with groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Voice for Peace criticising what they see as efforts by Israel advocacy groups to stifle legitimate political activism.

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