MDI in Discussion on Antisemitism on Al Jazeera

Date: 13 May 2016

Country: UK

AJstream_Giulia_Dessi_3The Media Diversity Institute (MDI) contributed to the programme The Stream on Al Jazeera on Tuesday 10 May. Within the episode “Anti-Semitism rocks UK Labour Party”, MDI explained the difficulties in having a unanimously accepted definition of antisemitism and the forms this type of racism has taken in the past and today.

“The question ‘who can define antisemitism’ suggests that a definition is possible and straightforward,” said Giulia Dessi, project coordinator of Get the Trolls Out, MDI project for combating antisemitism in the media. “International organisations and institutions generally provide definition of terms such as antisemitism, but it is very difficult to come up with a definition that is universally agreed,” she added. “Disputes constantly rage about what does or does not count as racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, and so on. Antisemitism is no different. At the Media Diversity Institute, we believe its meaning has changed over time, from theological models to race-based models, and today is strongly tied to Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Giulia Dessi concluded.

Starting from the recent antisemitism controversy in Britain, the programme focused on the concerns for safety by members of the Jewish community as well as others worrying they will be accused of racism for criticising Israel. Among the panellists were Rabbi Herschel Gluck, Chairman of the Arab-Jewish Forum and Founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum, Charley Allan, Morning Star Columnist and Jewish member of the Labour Party, and Rachel Shabi, journalist and author.

“There’s an assumption that we dealt with it whereas the reality is that it is every other forms of racism,” Rachel Shabi said. “It doesn’t really go away. It percolates under the surface and I think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has presented us with a new challenge and we need to find to have a conversation that is critical but it doesn’t veer to antisemitism.”

The theme of the this AJ Stream episode was proposed by a British pro-Palestinian activist who has “been concerned about antisemitism in the movement […]” and asked to discuss “how we define it, who defines it and how we recognise it and identify it within the movement.