By Andreea Teoharescu, European Jewish Press, November 29, 2013
BRUSSELS (EJP)---Jewish groups have criticized the recent removal of the ‘’Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’’ from the website of the Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), the European Union agency tasked with providing advice to the member states on fundamental rights of people living in the EU.
The ‘’Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’’was drafted in 2004 on the initiative of the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), the predecessor of the FRA, and was considered a major achievement for the EU in the struggle against anti-Semitism.
The document was created in order to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data and supporting the implementation of legislation dealing with anti-Semitism at a European level.
It was disseminated on the FRA website and units of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concerned with combating anti-Semitism also employ the definition. The US State Department’s yearly report, ‘Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism,’ makes use of this definition for the purpose of its analysis.
Earlier this year, the EU’s ''Working Definition of anti-Semitism'' was used in Britain in a complaint relating to the BBC coverage of comments about Israel made by a British member of te Parliament, David Ward. The BBC Trust, the public broadcaster’s governing body, first upheld the definition in characterizing Ward’s comments as ‘anti-Semitic’ but later reversed its ruling following the removal of the Definition from FRA’s website.
In a communication to BBC last month, a press officer at the FRA explained that the ‘’Working Definition of anti-Semitism’’ was a ‘’discussion paper’’ which ‘’was never adopted by the EU as a working definition, although it has been on the FRA website until recently when it was removed during a clear out of “non-official” documents.
The removal is seen as ‘’wrongful’’ by the European Jewish organizations who are calling for the republication of the paper.
The European Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism in the world, has called on the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, to launch an investigation into the disappearance of the Working Definition.
Arguing that the FRA carries responsibility for the documents of its predecessor, Shimon Samuels, the Centre’s Director for Internatonal Relations, also asked to return the Definition to the current FRA website and to ensure that the appropriate EU bodies endorse it in its entirety.
Shimon Ohayon, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, who chairs the Knesset Lobby for the Struggle against Anti-Semitism, told a visiting delegation of the European Parliament that Europe needs to deal more seriously with the rise in anti-Semitism and hatred. He highlighted that there are many anti-Semites who have been fighting against the ‘Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’ for many years so they can continue their attacks on Jews and Israel.
‘’Europe needs to deal more seriously with this rise in hate which is creating an untenable situation for the Jews of Europe. However, to really fight anti-Semitism, the European Union first needs a fundamental definition which law enforcement agencies and judicial bodies can use to prosecute those who target Jews and Jewish institutions,’’ Ohayon told the MEPs.
The European Jewish Parliament (EJP) has joined other Jewish organizations in their efforts. “The Fundamental Rights Agency released a report about anti-Semitism two weeks ago, but there is a lack of coherence between the publication of this report and the deletion of the Definition of anti-Semitism. It is like identifying a disease and afterwards throwing the medication away”, said Joel Rubinfeld, Co-Chairman of the EJP.
Contacted by the European Jewish Press about the issue, a FRA official in Vienna confirmed what the body told earlier to the BBC and said : ‘’We don’t foresee adding the working definition to our webpage. The FRA is not a standard-setting body and creating definitions is not part of our mandate. The EUMC working definition of antisemitism is not an official EU definition and has not been adopted by FRA.’’