Scanning the headlines about Tony Blair's latest appointment, I wanted to believe that someone was playing a joke. The war criminal who morphed into a Middle East "peace envoy" will now work pro bono for an Israel lobby group. For that is the most accurate way to describe Blair's new "employer", the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.
While its name might give the impression that it is a dispassionate intergovernmental body, the ECTR is a project of the Zionist zealot and fertilizer tycoon Moshe Kantor.
As well as being the ECTR's founder, Kantor is the president of the European Jewish Congress. Despite how he claims to represent 2.5 million Jews, Kantor regularly panders to anti-Semites.
By acting as a cheerleader for Israeli aggression, Kantor lends credence to the fallacy that Israel enjoys a universal blessing from Jews. He is completely out of sync with the growing number of his co-religionists who are speaking out against Israeli apartheid.
Kantor's stance is also at odds with that taken by Blair as prime minister. Officially, the UK views the construction of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal under international law. Kantor, on the other hand, has argued that such colonization facilitates the "positive interaction" between Israelis and Palestinians.
In a joint opinion piece with Kantor published yesterday by British newspaper The Times, Blair identifies "creating clearer definitions of what is racist and anti-Semitic" and giving judiciaries greater powers to prosecute "hate speech" as priorities for his work with the ECTR.
Blurring the distinction
Careful scrutiny of Kantor's activities indicates he is not really interested in bringing clarity. Whereas opposition to Zionism is very different from a blanket animosity towards Jews, he is seeking to blur the distinction between these two phenomena.
For example, the ECTR has drafted a convention on "promoting tolerance." Its preamble refers to "the current increase in anti-Semitism in many European countries", alleging that "this increase is also characterized by new manifestations of anti-Semitism."
Kantor's European Jewish Congress has invested much energy into accusing the Palestine solidarity movement of being responsible for "new manifestations of anti-Semitism."
I have obtained a letter sent by the EJC to the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency in April 2012. The letter alleges that "the new form of anti-Semitism, which emanates from pro-Palestinians, from Arabo-Muslim extremists [sic], is today considered by European Jews as a real threat, which creates fear and tension among European Jews. Therefore, the definition of anti-Semitism should be clarified: the new form of anti-Semitism emanates from Arabo-Muslim extremists, from pro-Palestinians, being one way importers of the mid-East conflict into Europe."
Such lobbying has proven effective. In response to pleas from the EJC and similar groups, the EU's agency decided to include calls for boycotting Israel -- a key tactic of the Palestine solidarity movement -- as examples of anti-Semitism in a report it issued during 2013.
The agency, which has been tasked with monitoring racism and xenophobia across the Union, has failed to acknowledged that the Palestinian-led mobilization for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targets goods, companies and institutions -- not individuals.
Blair's call for a crackdown on "hate speech" should be seen against the backdrop of attempts to smear Palestine solidarity campaigners. The attempts have made an impact. Canada's right-wing government is in trying to criminalize BDS campaigning by categorizing it as "hate speech."
Violence against Jews is a real problem. Just this year, there have been attacks on a kosher supermarket in Paris and a bar mitzvah in Copenhagen.
To tackle the hatred behind such incidents, it is necessary to remain focused. Smearing Palestine solidarity activists with bogus accusations is a distraction.
It would be comforting if Blair and Kantor could be dismissed as yesterday's men. Sadly, both are influential.
Kantor even has a center called after him in Tel Aviv University. It publishes annual reports that pretend to give a global overview of anti-Semitism. According to the latest such report, Israeli soldiers were blamed for "every evil on earth" at demonstrations sparked by Israel's 2014 bombing of Gaza.
No evidence is provided to back up that wild assertion. But such sloppiness does not seem to worry Blair and Kantor, who refer to the report in their aforementioned opinion piece.
Come to think of it, this isn't the first dodgy dossier that Blair has endorsed. Didn't he invade Iraq to search for weapons that did not exist?
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 5 June 2015.