(JTA) – The European Union’s agency for combating racism dropped its definition for anti-Semitism and now is unable to define the term, an agency spokeswoman said.
“We are not aware of any official definition [of anti-Semitism],” Blanca Tapia of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency told JTA on Tuesday.
Tapia was answering a query on the recent removal from the agency’s website of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism that was adopted in 2005 by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia — the EU entity that her organization has replaced. The removal was first reported by the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada.
Campaigners against anti-Semitism said the document is significant because alongside classical anti-Semitic behavior, it lists the vilification of Israel or Israelis, which some scholars call “new anti-Semitism.” The definition lists “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and drawing comparisons between Israel and Nazis as examples of anti-Semitism.
But Tapia said her organization had never viewed the document as a valid definition. Agency officials said the document had been pulled offline “together with other non-official documents.”
Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told JTA that the agency’s “disowning of its own definition is astounding” and that “those who fight anti-Semitism have lost an important weapon.” He also said the “Union’s about-face on its own definition damages its credibility.”
But Tapia said, “The agency does not need to develop its own definition of anti-Semitism in order to research these issues.”
In its 2012 “who we are” booklet, the agency listed “Deﬁne areas of work” among its tasks, but Tapia told JTA that the agency “has no mandate to develop its own definitions.” In 2008, the agency published a document that contains definitions for homophobia and transphobia. Tapia said, however, that the agency had defined neither and used “international standards” that “contain definitions, terms and concepts.”