Anti-Semitism think-tank launched in London

UK minister suggests 'anti-Israelism' is among motives for some.

graffiti swastika 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
graffiti swastika 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
"The academic boycott of Israel is ignorant on so many different levels; it's ignorant, as it will achieve nothing, it's ignorantly ineffective, it's ignorantly motivated and it's driven by politics," UK Minister for Europe Jim Murphy said this week at the launch of a new think-tank dedicated to examining the growth and development of anti-Semitism in the world today. Speaking at the launch of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism (EISCA) in Parliament, Murphy highlighted the extremes of both Left and Right, and spoke about the legitimization of contemporary anti-Semitism by other faiths. EISCA director Dr. Winston Pickett said the institute's goal was "to become a leading think-tank on anti-Semitism, generating new strategies to counter and overcome it. Its research trajectory seeks to analyze anti-Semitism as a global phenomenon with deep historical roots and a resilient ability to adapt to present circumstances. "Our aim is to provide clear thinking on anti-Semitism - and this means regarding it as central to understanding contemporary prejudice and racial hatred today." In keeping with this goal, Pickett said, the think-tank plans to offer a Web-based network for the most comprehensive scholarship in the field and toward solutions-oriented research that explores ways to address anti-Semitism in all its forms. At the launch, Murphy enumerated two motives behind right-wing anti-Semitism: the tangible hatred of "the other" and the conspiracy theories of influence, which he said the far Left had also utilized. "For the extreme Left, I would argue it is their unresolved relationship with Israel which drives their philosophy," he said. "The idealistic dreams of Israel as a potentially enduring socialist and collectivist state were strong. But particularly during Israel's second decade as a state, some international anti-imperialists came to a different conclusion. Israel's relationship with the US was part of this. And for a tiny minority, anti-Israelism took on an air of anti-Semitism." Murphy stressed that "being critical of Israel in no way makes you an anti-Semite, any more than Zionism equals racism." But he said there were those who had "gone beyond criticism of Israel into the entirely darker sphere of anti-Semitism." "Once you set aside the legitimate criticisms people have of Israel, then you can only come to one conclusion, which is, for the vocal minority, [that] they are driven by anti-Semitism," he said. Murphy also talked about the anti-Semitism championed in the Islamic world. "In addition to the anti-Semitism of political extremes, there is also, of course, the anti-Semitic pulse from a minority in the Islamic world," he said. "President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad of Iran is the highest-profile proponent, but he is not alone. Sections of the Islamic media tolerate and on occasion advocate anti-Semitism." Murphy called for wider research on anti-Semitism and talked about the need to be much better at collecting statistics on anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe. He made it clear that the British government was fully committed to supporting the new initiative and had already provided some financing for the think-tank, via a £20,000 grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government, to publish a report later this year on anti-Semitic discourse, stemming from a key recommendation of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism. "Our commitment is absolute," he said. "That is the reason we welcomed the All-Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism and its important recommendations to the police, the Home Office, government departments, schools and universities on steps to take to monitor anti-Semitism better and to reduce levels of abuse. In particular, the report calls for further research on the correlation between conflict in the Middle East and attacks on the Jewish community." Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Stephen Pollard, chairman of EISCA, said he felt Murphy's speech set down an important marker. "Jim Murphy stressed that the government is committed to leading the fighting against anti-Semitism," he said. "That is good news, but it is terrible that in the modern world such a commitment is necessary. That is why EISCA has been formed - to study, analyze and act against the roots of contemporary anti-Semitism."