Richard Kuper on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism (by Eve Garrard)

Eve Garrard

When people disagree with a definition, their reasons for doing so usually include the fact that either (a) the definition contains some false claims about its subject-matter; or (b) the definition omits some true claims about its subject matter. Richard Kuper strongly objects to the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism; indeed he warmly endorses the UCU decision to refuse to have anything to do with it. The puzzle about his attack on the Definition is that his reasons for disagreeing with it don’t include either (a) or (b) above. He thinks that what the Definition says is true; and though he seems to think it omits to say certain things, he’s wrong about that in ways which are so blatant that it’s hard to believe that he can possibly mean it.

Kuper’s main grouse about the definition is that he thinks it conflates anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of Israel; in fact he thinks it can only be understood as ‘a propaganda campaign by Israel and its supporters against the country’s deteriorating public image’….

Read Eve’s whole piece on normblog.

9 Responses to “Richard Kuper on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism (by Eve Garrard)”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    This whole argument by Eve is so wonderful that I have to bring it to your attention (so you will go and read the whole thing on normblog): “[Kuper] thinks that the definition was drafted by people some of whom have political views which he strongly dislikes, and that these views shaped earlier drafts of the definition. But even if true, this is irrelevant: either the allegedly objectionable views of some of the drafters made an objectionable difference to the final draft, or they didn’t. If they didn’t, then we need spend no further time on them: reference to the drafters and their supposed views is now purely ad hominem. If they did, then that difference will be there to be seen in the definition itself, and criticism of the supposedly objectionable difference can focus on what’s actually there in the definition. Reference to the views of the drafters will now be redundant.”

    This is a wonderful example of excellent academic thinking. It’s what we academics are always trying to achieve, even if we fail to attain this level.

    Thanks Eve.

    BTW, is Richard Kuper an academic of any sort? Google didn’t seem to know.

  2. modernityblog Says:


    “Richard Kuper is chair and publications officer of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, an organisation of more than 1,300 Jews in Britain. He grew up in apartheid South Africa and has since been a trade-union activist, a university lecturer and a publisher in Britain, and an organic farmer in France.”


    • Harry Goldstein Says:

      And also a swuppie.

      I don’t know if he still is, but certainly used to be an SWP member. I knew him in the old International Sociallsts, the SWP’s forerunner organisation.

      He’s also credited (if that’s the word) with founding the SWP’s publishing arm, Pluto Press.

  3. Matt Says:

    There are also some more specific problems with Kuper’s piece.

    “surely be possible to question whether “the Jewish people” are a people in the secular-nationalist as opposed to the religious sense of the word (as the Israeli author Shlomo Sand has done most forcefully in his recent book The Invention of the Jewish People).”

    Passages like this are always particularly galling, because it was Rashid Khalidi who wrote one of the most important works on national identification in order to defend Palestinians against charges that they weren’t a legitimate national group. All national claims are, to some extent, fabricated. When some people make such claims without contest, it is because of the totality with which they have subjugated others. Jewish national claims are as strong as any, but we are constantly made to defend ourselves against what shouldn’t be an issue. This is a regressive, and even reactionary, argument from Kuper. Actually, it strikes me as a variation on the rootless cosmopolitan line that claims that Jewish culture and Jewish difference aren’t legitimate and that the Jewish desire to refuse assimilation is wrong. Jews must be allowed difference, and we must be allowed to be different on the terms WE define, but Kuper argues for minimizing difference in order to define our politics for us.

  4. David D. Says:

    Shlomo Sand was certainly “forceful” in his book, but, unfortunately for him, not long after it was published, a comprehensive genetic study concluded that he was wrong. Dead wrong. To repeat what I wrote earlier… ( )

    “Arguments about race are inherently distasteful, but it is important to establish that myths about most Ashkenazi Jews being Khazars or the stuff that Shlomo Sand peddled in his notorious book, are pernicious nonsense. One of the happy consequences of recent advances in genetic research is to put the lie to such calumnies. It seems that the Jews are indeed a ‘people’, that they are genetically and ethnically well defined and they did, indeed, come from the Middle East. That’s not a political claim; it’s science. It doesn’t settle the Israel/Palestine problem, by any means, but it does, definitively, refute pretensions that the Jews are merely a ‘construct’ and are somehow less indigenous to the land of Israel than the Palestinians, whose own history as a distinct ethnic group is measured in mere decades.”

    “Who are the Jews? For more than a century, historians and linguists have debated whether the Jewish people are a racial group, a cultural and religious entity, or something else. More recently, scientists have been weighing in on the question with genetic data. The latest such study, published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, shows a genetic connection among all Jews, despite widespread migrations and intermarriage with non-Jews. It also apparently refutes repeated claims that most Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Central Europeans who converted to Judaism 1000 years ago.”

  5. Josephine Bacon Says:

    Eve Garrard writes about Israel’s “deteriorating public image”. Indeed, if Israel has a
    “deteriorating public image” it is not for anything that Israel has done but for what people like her say it has done. Countries with appalling human rights records such as Zimbabwe, China, every Arab country you can name, are not condemned in the same way as the Middle East’s only free democracy. There has to be a reason for this. My claim is that attacks on Israel of the ad hominem kind are inherently antisemitic. If you deny Israel the right to a homeland while admitting every other nation on earth has the right to one then you are inherently antisemitic. As for discussing whether the Jews are or are not a nationality, etc., funny how no one makes this analysis of the Palestinians who, until 1967, called themselves just “Arabs” and had no concept of independence for Palestine. I know, because I was there.

  6. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Josephine Baker has an interesting take on Eve’s comments. She (Ms Bacon) says “if Israel has a “deteriorating public image” it is not for anything that Israel has done but for what people like her say it has done.”

    This has a number of interesting implications. Among them, it suggests that if those of us who support the right of Israel to exist in peace and security (let’s leave aside, for the moment, the question of just what this means in practise) aren’t prepared to do so uncritically, then it’s our fault if others, entirely on their own, decide to take this further. Another implication is that one must always say “Israel right or wrong” – not the same thing as the previous sentence.

    This doesn’t even make sense, but it does shift the blame from Israel’s enemies to Israel’s friends. What a strange thing to do. But it’s quite common on the Zionist right. I used to be told by one right-wing Zionist that I must never criticise Israel, because it aids Israel’ enemies. I’ve got news for him and J. Baker: they don’t need any encouragement. Do you honestly think that AUT and Natfhe (and now UCU) decided that because people like Eve Garrard and David Hirsh acted towards Israel exactly as they acted towards their own government, that they could therefore go further? This insults, oddly enough, both Eve and David on the one hand and the BDS crowd on the other.

    If Ms Bacon is so convinced that what Eve Garrard is doing, and what we are doing here on engage is so damaging, could we please have something a lot more substantial? This website came into existence _because_ of the existence of the academics attacks on Israel and the growing mood of antisemitism it fed and feeds in the UK. And as for Israel’s sometimes poor press even from its friends abroad, it has only itself to blame for its apparent refusal to countenance a realistic solution to the situation (and I do not mean that therefore Israel should talk to Hamas et al with no further preconditions).

  7. Lynne T Says:


    You misunderstand Eve Garrard. She is not a detractor, but a supporter who has resigned from the UCU due to her former union’s engagement in BDS.

  8. David D. Says:


    You are (generally) right about attacks on Israel but certainly wrong about Eve Garrard — unless I am totally misreading your words “people like her”. Far from adding to attacks on Israel, Eve Garrard deconstructs them with a sharpness and clarity that is often unrivalled (in my experience) on the Internet. A quick search on this site will reveal Eve Garrard’s admirable position on Israel and antisemitism. Here’s a start:

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