Mira Bar-Hillel: silenced no more

This post picks up on the issue addressed in Marc’s recent piece: the status of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism. It is a response to a bizarre article by Mira Bar-Hillel, expressing delighted relief that the working definition has now been ‘dropped’ so that she can finally speak her mind about Israel.  She explains her particular beef with the definition here:

There was not, in that lengthy and detailed definition, anything new or that I would disagree with – apart from a dangerous sting in the end. This stretched the definition of anti-Semitism from the simple 2,000-year-old Jew-hating and baiting to “attacking Israel … by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, or holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.”

It was this dubious extension which has been used recently to gag, or at least mute, free speech and most criticism of Israel in the UK media and beyond.

Really?  I haven’t noticed criticism of Israel being particularly muted myself.   She singles out the Prawer Plan as an example of an Israeli policy which cannot easily be discussed because everyone is so cowed by the fear of being thought antisemitic. This plan has been widely criticised, and obviously some of that criticism will come from obsessive Israel-haters, but some will not, and thus should not attract accusations of antisemitism.  She goes on to complain:

[O]nly one newspaper in this country covered the proposal – or the extremely violent protests which followed.

As Cifwatch points out, the story has in fact been covered quite widely.

However, a quick Google search shows that the Indy, Guardian, Telegraph and Financial Times have all reported on the issue.

The Times can be added to that list – and, although it is generally quite supportive of Israel, this particular article (£) is sympathetic to the Bedouin perspective.

Although her discussion of the Bedouin issue is actually comparatively calm, that in itself contrives to imply that even reasoned, mild criticisms of Israel, criticism which might indeed be levelled at ‘any other democratic nation’ will cause one to be shunned and denounced.  Given the inaccuracies of Bar-Hillel’s report on media coverage, it is particularly damaging that she uses it to insinuate that Israel’s critics are being silenced by dishonest manipulation of the working definition.

I can only speculate on the reasons why, but suspect that the “working definition”, which has recently allowed all those who criticise Israel – including myself – to be labelled anti-Semitic, had something to do with it.

What damages credibility is seeking to equate criticism of bad behaviour by a powerful political entity to the daubing of swastikas and desecration of graves. Hats off to the FRA for standing up for the fundamental rights known as free speech and freedom of the press – and for setting me free too.

I’m not sure what Mira Bar-Hillel thinks she has been set free from exactly – she has hardly been inhibited in the past.

Hat Tip: Cifwatch