In January this year, IAM reported on “The Battle over the Meaning of anti-Semitism,” the report showed that pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel groups, among them academics, have urged to abandon the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
Many countries and institutions accepted the definition. Former US President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on December 11, 2019, which stated: “My Administration is committed to combating the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and around the world. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased since 2013, and students, in particular, continue to face anti Semitic harassment in schools and on university and college campuses.” As a result, “Discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin.” The Executive Order instructed agencies charged with enforcing Title VI, to consider the IHRA Definition, which states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Trump added that the examples identified by IHRA “might be useful as evidence of discriminatory intent.”
Likewise, in the U.K., as IAM reported in October 2020, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, warned universities that they could have their funding cut if they refuse to adopt the IHRA definition. However, critics argued such a “broadened definition of anti-Semitism” could infringe on free speech because it is “targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,” which encourages boycott against Israel “for what it deems violations of international law.” When BDS groups on college campuses hold annual events like “Israeli Apartheid Week” to push for Palestinian rights, adopting the IHRA definition would “pander to Jewish constituents,” or serves “as a goodwill gesture toward Israel,” which tries to combat anti-Semitism and the BDS movement around the world.
Many other states and institutions adopted the IHRA definition. As the IHRA website reports:
Albania (22 October 2020); Argentina (4 June 2020); Austria (25 April 2017); Belgium (14 December 2018); Bulgaria (18 October 2017); Canada (27 June 2019); Cyprus (18 December 2019); Czech Republic (25 January 2019); France (3 December 2019); Germany (20 September 2017); Greece (8 November 2019); Guatemala (27 January 2021); Hungary (18 February 2019); Israel (22 January 2017); Italy (17 January 2020); Lithuania (24 January 2018); Luxembourg (10 July 2019); Moldova (18 January 2019); Netherlands (27 November 2018); North Macedonia (6 March 2018); Romania (25 May 2017); Serbia (26 February 2020); Slovakia (28 November 2018); Slovenia (20 December 2018); Spain (22 July 2020); Sweden (21 January 2020); United Kingdom (12 December 2016); United States (11 December 2019); Uruguay (27 January 2020). The following international organizations have expressed support for the working definition of antisemitism: United Nations: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed. European Union: Council; Parliament; Commission. Organization of American States. Council of Europe: European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.
As IAM noted, there are no clauses in the IHRA definition which infringe on Palestinian rights, nor does it mention BDS. However, three clauses could affect the Palestinians, which are:
· “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor;”
· “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation;”
· “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
As IAM argues, some of the pro-Palestinian activism could be construed as anti-Semitic, a prospect that has fueled their efforts to replace the IHRA Definition. With the new US administration, several Jewish groups emerged to provide new definitions of anti-Semitism:
The “Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA)” declares itself as a “tool to identify, confront and raise awareness about antisemitism as it manifests in countries around the world today. It includes a preamble, definition, and a set of 15 guidelines that provide detailed guidance for those seeking to recognize antisemitism in order to craft responses. It was developed by a group of scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies to meet what has become a growing challenge: providing clear guidance to identify and fight antisemitism while protecting free expression. It has over 200 signatories.”
The “Understanding Antisemitism at its Nexus with Israel and Zionism,” composed of experts in antisemitism and U.S.-Israel policy, established in 2019. It aims to examine the issues at the intersection of antisemitism and Israel in American politics. The Group has discussed “Israel and Antisemitism: Policy at the Nexus of Two Critical Issues,” drafted in November 2020 and uploaded to their website in April 2021. It endeavors to define antisemitism, “relevant to the current context worldwide — especially with regard to the relationship between antisemitism, and Israel and Zionism. It is not meant as a legal document but rather as a guide for policymakers and community leaders as they grapple with the complexities at the nexus of these issues. On the Advisory Committee are Jeremy Ben-Ami, Daniel Kurtzer, Kenneth Stern, Aaron David Miller, and David N. Myers, among others, and on the Nexus Task Force, Dov Waxman, among others.
The “Jewish Faculty in Canada Against the Adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism” was composed by Jewish faculty from across Canadian universities and colleges “with deep concern regarding recent interventions on our campuses relating to Israel and Palestine.” They advocate for “addressing all forms of racism and discrimination, including antisemitism” as one category. They “add our voices to a growing international movement of Jewish scholars to insist that university policies to combat antisemitism are not used to stifle legitimate criticisms of the Israeli state, or the right to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We recognize that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a legitimate, non-violent form of protest… The IHRA working definition has come under extensive criticism. Not only does it essentialize Jewish identity, culture, and theology, it also equates Jewishness and Judaism with the State of Israel – effectively erasing generations of debate within Jewish communities. The issue is particularly pressing as the IHRA working definition has been invoked by those seeking to interfere with collegial governance and student life at Canadian universities. The IHRA working definition distracts from experiences of anti-Jewish racism, and threatens to silence legitimate criticism of Israel’s grave violations of international law and denial of Palestinian human and political rights.” According to them, the New Israel Fund of Canada has recently retracted their support for the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
It is important to note that Van Leer Jerusalem Institute is behind the Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism. By its own admission, “In 2020, a group of scholars in Antisemitism Studies and related fields, including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine and Middle East Studies, came together under the auspices of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute to address key challenges in identifying and confronting antisemitism. During a year of deliberations, they reflected on the use of existing tools, including the working definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and its implications for academic freedom and freedom of expression.”
Van Leer’s Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is long and convoluted. For example, Neve Gordon and Mark LeVine, who back the JDA, wrote an article titled “Was Einstein an Anti-Semite?” to support the JDA line. The authors argue that the IHRA definition would have defined Einstein as an anti-Semite, because Einstein wrote a letter to the New York Times, published on December 4, 1948. The letter stated that Menachen Begin’s newly established Herut party was “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” Gordon and LeVine’s deception is apparent. The IHRA definition, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” are considered antisemitism. However, Einstein’s warning that Begin’s party resembles Nazi and fascist parties is not an antisemitic statement because Einstein did not refer to the state of Israel as Nazi or described Israel’s policies as Nazi. Gordon and LeVine’s argument, based on the JDA, has no merit and serves only to confuse.
The Van Leer Institute, which is behind the JDA, has been the home, for years, for BDS supporters and anti-Semites, as defined by the IHRA definition. Their paid fellows, mostly radical scholars from around the country, have constantly degraded the Holocaust by equating it to the Palestinian Nakba. The implication here is clear, if the Nakba is the equivalent of the Holocaust, then the Israelis in 1948 are equivalent of the Nazis.
The IHRA definition reminds us that anti-Semitism has nothing to do with the ethnicity or religion of the individuals who espouse anti-Semitic ideas. Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is the epitome of anti-Semitism.
Ironically, the Israeli Council for Higher Education (CHE) offices are located on the grounds of Van Leer. The CHE would be well advised to speak out against their landlord.
Was Einstein an Anti-Semite?
According to an increasingly dominant definition, the answer is yes, Neve Gordon and Mark LeVine argue.
March 26, 2021
Was Albert Einstein an anti-Semite? Was Hannah Arendt? These questions may sound ludicrous. Yet, according to the definition of anti-Semitism that more than 30 countries — including the United States through the Biden administration — recently adopted, these two leading intellectuals could very well be labeled as such. This is due to an open letter they sent on Dec. 4, 1948, to The New York Times, claiming that the right-wing Herut Party in the newly formed State of Israel was “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”
The list of potential anti-Semites goes on. Take the British American Jewish historian Tony Judt, who not long before his death from Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2010 described Israel as “autistic” after it had put Gaza “under a punishment regime comparable to nothing else in the world.” The late Hebrew University philosopher and biochemist Yeshayahu Leibowitz would not have fared much better given his criticism of the growing “phenomena of Judeo-Nazism” following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Finally, Israel’s most prominent human rights organization, B’tselem, would also fit the anti-Semitic bill, as it has recently published a report entitled “A Regime of Jewish Supremacy From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This Is Apartheid.”
The definition in question is the 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition of anti-Semitism,” which has become a tool of choice for so-called pro-Israel organizations. This definition shifts the meaning of anti-Semitism from its traditional focus on hatred of Jews per se — the idea that Jews are naturally inferior and/or evil, or a belief in worldwide Jewish-led conspiracies or Jewish control of capitalism, or some combination thereof — to one based largely and, it seems, most importantly, on how critical one is toward Israel’s colonial and rights-abusive policies.
The problem, of course, is that when a state’s actions and its government’s policies cannot be critiqued, then the pursuit of knowledge and academic freedom are threatened. If successful, Israel’s use of the anti-Semitism charge to silence serious and well-grounded criticism could very well become the template for other countries, including the United States government, and powerful corporations to mobilize different kinds of hate-speech accusations to protect rights-abusive behavior.
A Confusing and Misleading Definition
According to the IHRA definition, “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” This formulation, as numerous Holocaust scholars have explained, is vague to the point of being unusable. It both relies on ambiguous terms such as “certain perception” and “may be expressed as hatred,” while also failing to mention key issues such as “prejudice” or “discrimination.”
The second part of the IHRA’s definition provides 11 examples of contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, seven of which refer to the State of Israel. One example of anti-Semitism is the claim “that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor” while another involves the requirement that Israel behave in a way “not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Surely it should be legitimate, not least in a university setting, to debate whether Israel, as a self-proclaimed Jewish state, is “a racist endeavor” or a “democratic nation” without being branded an anti-Semite.
On the one hand, as Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt rightly points out, the examples marginalize the kinds of anti-Jewish attacks in recent years — from Pittsburgh to Halle, Germany — that have resulted in mass casualties or the broader rise of fascism in the United States with its deeply ingrained anti-Semitism, as evidenced by the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
On the other hand, many scholars have criticized the Israeli state, underscoring its discriminatory and racist policies toward non-Jews. The controversial 2018 “nation-state bill,” which reaffirms the Jewish character of the state and legalizes discriminatory policies against Palestinian citizens, is a clear manifestation of a racist law. Moreover, the fact that millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation for over 50 years without basic civil rights undermines the IHRA document’s assumption that Israel is a liberal democracy like all others.
It is therefore not surprising that concern about the IHRA definition has been growing. Professional associations, such as the British Society for Middle East Studies, student groups and more than 100 Palestinian and Arab academics and intellectuals have argued that the IHRA definition is being used to stifle not just criticism of Israel but also, and more widely, support for Palestinian rights. Roughly 200 international scholars working in anti-Semitism studies and related fields — including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine and Middle East studies — just drafted the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism, a new definition that responds to the IHRA one and is inspired by the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1969 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Their aim is twofold: 1) to strengthen the fight against anti-Semitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested and 2) to protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine. Meanwhile, 40 Jewish organizations including the fastest growing — and explicitly anti-Zionist — Jewish organization in the United States, Jewish Voice for Peace, have “unequivocally opposed” the IHRA definition, precisely because its focus on Israel gives the definition a “strong potential for misuse.”
Today, however, it’s no longer a matter of potential misuse. That has become apparent even in colleges and universities, supposedly bastions of open intellectual and political debate. An article in The Conversation has traced how authorities have charged people who have criticized Israel with being anti-Semitic at several institutions in the United States where local jurisdictions have adopted the IHRA definition. There are currently ongoing investigations at Rutgers University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina, with another pending investigation at New York University. These attacks appear to be the harbinger of things to come. They are destructive not only for academic freedom but also for antiracist struggles on campuses.
In response, scores of Israeli academics working in the U.K. have written a letter denouncing the definition and called on university leaders to refuse the demand by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to adopt the definition or face punitive action. As noted in an extensive report about anti-Semitism on campus from a working group at the University College of London: “The IHRA working definition is unhelpful in identifying cases of harassment … the core definition itself is too vague and narrow, and the 11 examples often do not match experience.” Based on this report, the university’s academic board recommended retracting the adoption of the definition and replacing it with one “fit for purpose.”
Considering that most universities have robust guidelines that prohibit racist or anti-Semitic utterances, the adoption of the IHRA definition does not add substantive content that might help reduce hate speech on campuses. Moreover, antiracist working groups within universities that we have spoken to are all vehemently against adopting the IHRA definition.
Even the primary author of the definition himself, Kenneth Stern, has declared that “right-wing Jews are weaponizing it,” nowhere more so than on college campuses. As he put it, the widespread use of the definition on campuses “will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.”
Why Is the Criticism Ignored?
Unfortunately, such critiques have barely dented the definition’s acceptance within the corridors of institutional power. Here are six major reasons why.
First, all of Israel’s governments, from 1948 until the present, have equated Israel with the Jewish people. The equation is based, however, on an empirical fallacy, since more than half of the worldwide Jewish population does not live in Israel, more than 20 percent of the country’s citizens are not Jews, and an additional five million stateless Palestinians live within the area that Israel controls. The conflation of Israel with all Jews has, in fact, been a core goal of Zionism from the start, and its success has led to a myopic focus on criticism of Israel as the main threat to Jews worldwide.
Second, the fact that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance drafted the definition creates an immediate association with the Holocaust. That makes it exceedingly difficult to question the definition’s accuracy or motives.
Third, more than half a century of distorted media coverage of Israel has left the majority of Americans and many Europeans largely ignorant of Israel’s rights-abusive policies, helping to cast Israeli Jews as the eternal victims and Palestinians as aggressors. That has allowed the IHRA’s proponents to classify Israel as a liberal democracy when it’s anything but for half the people living under its control, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Fourth, institutionalized Jewish life in the diaspora has, for over half a century, focused on supporting Israel. Thus, the IHRA definition serves the purposes of mainstream Jewish organizations quite well, especially when it comes to policing speech in the media and in cultural spheres as well as on college campuses. In this regard, it is not particularly surprising that 145 organizations representing a who’s who of right-wing Zionist groups sent a letter to Facebook’s Board of Directors, calling upon them to fully adopt the IHRA definition as the “cornerstone of Facebook’s hate speech policy regarding anti-Semitism.”
Fifth, while the IHRA document casts the definition as legally “nonbinding,” and therefore not capable of stifling free speech and academic freedom, it is packaged as especially relevant for law enforcement agencies and for “training police officials.” The impact of the document is thus clear: its “nonbinding” designation frames the definition as benign and distracts us from how it is being used to surveil and even criminalize critical speech about Israel.
The final and in many ways most important reason the IHRA definition has been widely adopted is that it allows conservative and even moderate political forces to discipline, silence and marginalize progressive voices against racism, poverty, the climate crisis, war and predatory capitalism. Palestinians have managed to globalize their struggle for self-determination, and progressives of different stripes has championed their cause over the years. Yet now if Black Lives Matter, climate, Indigenous or feminist activists voice support for the Palestinian cause while criticizing Israel, they can be branded anti-Semitic, which can, in effect, delegitimize the other progressive issues such activists support.
A Devil’s Bargain
The fact that the IHRA definition is being wielded as a weapon to suppress a variety of progressive causes and as a tool to punish activists who fail to dissociate from Palestine is also apparent on university campuses. If a recent opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed specifically cited the IHRA definition as “great … and readily available” for teaching about anti-Semitism in universities, the reality is that it isolates Jewish students who are concerned about social justice. Rakhel Silverman, national organizer for the group Judaism on Our Own Terms, or Joot (until recently known as Open Hillel) explained to us, “The official stance of Hillel against any collaboration with anti-Zionist or BDS-supporting (which is considered anti-Semitic according to the IHRA) groups on or off campus prevents Jewish students from working with other social and racial justice and interfaith groups, including progressive Jewish groups. We can’t work to unite against white supremacy or engage with Black-Palestinian solidarity groups because these groups support BDS, even though many Jewish students support BDS as well.”
Ultimately, however, the IHRA definition is not only deployed as a weapon against progressives, but it also allows Israel to create alliances with anti-Semites. Indeed, the definition can be seen as playing a role in achieving one of Theodor Herzl’s wishes, expressed in a June 12, 1895, diary entry, where he notes that a Jewish state would lead anti-Semites to “become our most dependable friends. The anti-Semitic countries our allies.” Once criticism of Israel becomes the primary marker of anti-Semitism, then the unquestioned support of American evangelicals for Israel is considered a blessing, even as anti-Jewish stereotypes remain prevalent among members of their communities, while Israel’s alliance with Europe’s most illiberal and anti-Semitic governments (particularly Hungary‘s and Poland‘s) is considered ethically kosher.
Despite the incessant work of the pro-Israel lobby and the Israeli government, this kind of devil’s bargain will not end up benefiting Jews, particularly those in the diaspora. Only the most honest and robust debate about Israel and Zionism, on campus as well as more broadly, will ensure Jewish students and the wider Jewish community are truly protected from anti-Semitism and can participate most fully in the struggles for social, racial, economic and climate justice that have finally been foregrounded today.
Neve Gordon (@nevegordon) teaches in the school of law at Queen Mary University of London. He is the co-author of Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire and a signatory of the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism and the letter of Israeli academics working in the U.K. Mark LeVine is professor of history at University of California, Irvine, and a 2020-21 Guggenheim Fellow. Among his books on Israel are Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine; Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel (with Gershon Shafir); and One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States (with Mathias Mossberg).
Neve Gordon and Mark LeVine
A letter to The New York Times, published in the “Books” section (Page 12) of Saturday December 4, 1948 by Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook, et.al.
Source: Text from original microfilm
New Palestine Party ————————-Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed ————————
TO THE EDITORS OF NEW YORK TIMES:
Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.
The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.
Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.
The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.
Attack on Arab Village
A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants (240 men, women, and children) and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.
The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.
Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.
During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.
The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.
The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.
The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.
ISIDORE ABRAMOWITZ, HANNAH ARENDT, ABRAHAM BRICK, RABBI JESSURUN CARDOZO, ALBERT EINSTEIN, HERMAN EISEN, M.D., HAYIM FINEMAN, M. GALLEN, M.D., H.H. HARRIS, ZELIG S. HARRIS, SIDNEY HOOK, FRED KARUSH, BRURIA KAUFMAN, IRMA L. LINDHEIM, NACHMAN MAISEL, SEYMOUR MELMAN, MYER D. MENDELSON, M.D., HARRY M. OSLINSKY, SAMUEL PITLICK, FRITZ ROHRLICH, LOUIS P. ROCKER, RUTH SAGIS, ITZHAK SANKOWSKY, I.J. SHOENBERG, SAMUEL SHUMAN, M. SINGER, IRMA WOLFE, STEFAN WOLFE.
New York, Dec. 2, 1948
Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is a tool to identify, confront and raise awareness about antisemitism as it manifests in countries around the world today. It includes a preamble, definition, and a set of 15 guidelines that provide detailed guidance for those seeking to recognize antisemitism in order to craft responses. It was developed by a group of scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies to meet what has become a growing challenge: providing clear guidance to identify and fight antisemitism while protecting free expression. It has over 200 signatories.
In 2020, a group of scholars in Antisemitism Studies and related fields, including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine and Middle East Studies, came together under the auspices of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute to address key challenges in identifying and confronting antisemitism. During a year of deliberations, they reflected on the use of existing tools, including the working definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and its implications for academic freedom and freedom of expression. The JDA organizers and signatories represent a wide range of academic disciplines and regional perspectives and they have diverse views on questions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But they agreed on the need for a more precise interpretive tool to help clarify conditions that are antisemitic as well as conditions that are not definitive proof of antisemitism.
The Jerusalem Declaration
We, the undersigned, present the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, the product of an initiative that originated in Jerusalem. We include in our number international scholars working in Antisemitism Studies and related fields, including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine, and Middle East Studies. The text of the Declaration has benefited from consultation with legal scholars and members of civil society.
Inspired by the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the 1969 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the 2000 Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, and the 2005 United Nations Resolution on Holocaust Remembrance, we hold that while antisemitism has certain distinctive features, the fight against it is inseparable from the overall fight against all forms of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and gender discrimination.
Conscious of the historical persecution of Jews throughout history and of the universal lessons of the Holocaust, and viewing with alarm the reassertion of antisemitism by groups that mobilize hatred and violence in politics, society, and on the internet, we seek to provide a usable, concise, and historically-informed core definition of antisemitism with a set of guidelines.
The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism responds to “the IHRA Definition,” the document that was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Because the IHRA Definition is unclear in key respects and widely open to different interpretations, it has caused confusion and generated controversy, hence weakening the fight against antisemitism. Noting that it calls itself “a working definition,” we have sought to improve on it by offering (a) a clearer core definition and (b) a coherent set of guidelines. We hope this will be helpful for monitoring and combating antisemitism, as well as for educational purposes. We propose our non-legally binding Declaration as an alternative to the IHRA Definition. Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a tool for interpreting it.
The IHRA Definition includes 11 “examples” of antisemitism, 7 of which focus on the State of Israel. While this puts undue emphasis on one arena, there is a widely-felt need for clarity on the limits of legitimate political speech and action concerning Zionism, Israel, and Palestine. Our aim is twofold: (1) to strengthen the fight against antisemitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested, (2) to protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine. We do not all share the same political views and we are not seeking to promote a partisan political agenda. Determining that a controversial view or action is not antisemitic implies neither that we endorse it nor that we do not.
The guidelines that focus on Israel-Palestine (numbers 6 to 15) should be taken together. In general, when applying the guidelines each should be read in the light of the others and always with a view to context. Context can include the intention behind an utterance, or a pattern of speech over time, or even the identity of the speaker, especially when the subject is Israel or Zionism. So, for example, hostility to Israel could be an expression of an antisemitic animus, or it could be a reaction to a human rights violation, or it could be the emotion that a Palestinian person feels on account of their experience at the hands of the State. In short, judgement and sensitivity are needed in applying these guidelines to concrete situations.
Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).
- It is racist to essentialize (treat a character trait as inherent) or to make sweeping negative generalizations about a given population. What is true of racism in general is true of antisemitism in particular.
- What is particular in classic antisemitism is the idea that Jews are linked to the forces of evil. This stands at the core of many anti-Jewish fantasies, such as the idea of a Jewish conspiracy in which “the Jews” possess hidden power that they use to promote their own collective agenda at the expense of other people. This linkage between Jews and evil continues in the present: in the fantasy that “the Jews” control governments with a “hidden hand,” that they own the banks, control the media, act as “a state within a state,” and are responsible for spreading disease (such as Covid-19). All these features can be instrumentalized by different (and even antagonistic) political causes.
- Antisemitism can be manifested in words, visual images, and deeds. Examples of antisemitic words include utterances that all Jews are wealthy, inherently stingy, or unpatriotic. In antisemitic caricatures, Jews are often depicted as grotesque, with big noses and associated with wealth. Examples of antisemitic deeds are: assaulting someone because she or he is Jewish, attacking a synagogue, daubing swastikas on Jewish graves, or refusing to hire or promote people because they are Jewish.
- Antisemitism can be direct or indirect, explicit or coded. For example, “The Rothschilds control the world” is a coded statement about the alleged power of “the Jews” over banks and international finance. Similarly, portraying Israel as the ultimate evil or grossly exaggerating its actual influence can be a coded way of racializing and stigmatizing Jews. In many cases, identifying coded speech is a matter of context and judgement, taking account of these guidelines.
- Denying or minimizing the Holocaust by claiming that the deliberate Nazi genocide of the Jews did not take place, or that there were no extermination camps or gas chambers, or that the number of victims was a fraction of the actual total, is antisemitic.
B. Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are antisemitic
- Applying the symbols, images and negative stereotypes of classical antisemitism (see guidelines 2 and 3) to the State of Israel.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct or treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel.
- Requiring people, because they are Jewish, publicly to condemn Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).
- Assuming that non-Israeli Jews, simply because they are Jews, are necessarily more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.
- Denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.
C. Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are not antisemitic
(whether or not one approves of the view or action)
- Supporting the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights, as encapsulated in international law.
- Criticizing or opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism, or arguing for a variety of constitutional arrangements for Jews and Palestinians in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. It is not antisemitic to support arrangements that accord full equality to all inhabitants “between the river and the sea,” whether in two states, a binational state, unitary democratic state, federal state, or in whatever form.
- Evidence-based criticism of Israel as a state. This includes its institutions and founding principles. It also includes its policies and practices, domestic and abroad, such as the conduct of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, the role Israel plays in the region, or any other way in which, as a state, it influences events in the world. It is not antisemitic to point out systematic racial discrimination. In general, the same norms of debate that apply to other states and to other conflicts over national self-determination apply in the case of Israel and Palestine. Thus, even if contentious, it is not antisemitic, in and of itself, to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid.
- Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.
- Political speech does not have to be measured, proportional, tempered, or reasonable to be protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments. Criticism that some may see as excessive or contentious, or as reflecting a “double standard,” is not, in and of itself, antisemitic. In general, the line between antisemitic and non-antisemitic speech is different from the line between unreasonable and reasonable speech.
Seth Anziska, Mohamed S. Farsi-Polonsky Associate Professor of Jewish-Muslim Relations, University College London
Aleida Assmann, Professor Dr., Literary Studies, Holocaust, Trauma and Memory Studies, Konstanz University
Alon Confino, Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies, Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Director Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Emily Dische-Becker, Journalist
David Feldman, Professor, Director of the Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London
Amos Goldberg, Professor, The Jonah M. Machover Chair in Holocaust Studies, Head of the Avraham Harman Research Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Brian Klug, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford; Member of the Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University
Stefanie Schüler Springorum, Professor Dr., Director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität Berlin
Q: What is the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA)?
The JDA is a resource for strengthening the fight against antisemitism. It comprises a preamble, definition, and a set of 15 guidelines.
Who are the authors?
International scholars in antisemitism studies and related fields, who, from June 2020, met in a series of online workshops, with different participants at different times. The JDA is endorsed by a diverse range of distinguished scholars and heads of institutes in Europe, the United States, Canada and Israel.
Originally, the JDA was convened in Jerusalem by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
The JDA responds to the Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. “The IHRA Definition” (including its “examples”) is neither clear nor coherent. Whatever the intentions of its proponents, it blurs the difference between antisemitic speech and legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism. This causes confusion, while delegitimizing the voices of Palestinians and others, including Jews, who hold views that are sharply critical of Israel and Zionism. None of this helps combat antisemitism. The JDA responds to this situation.
So, is the JDA intended to be an alternative to the IHRA Working Definition?
Yes, it is. People of goodwill seek guidance about the key question: When does political speech about Israel or Zionism cross the line into antisemitism and when should it be protected? The JDA is intended to provide this guidance, and so should be seen as a substitute for the IHRA Definition. But if an organization has formally adopted the IHRA Definition it can use the JDA as a corrective to overcome the shortcomings of the IHRA Definition.
Who does the definition cover?
The definition applies whether Jewish identity is understood as ethnic, biological, religious, cultural, etc. It also applies in cases where a non-Jewish person or institution is either mistaken for being Jewish (“discrimination by perception”) or targeted on account of a connection to Jews (“discrimination by association”).
Should the JDA be officially adopted by, say, governments, political parties or universities?
The JDA can be used as a resource for various purposes. These include education and raising awareness about when speech or conduct is antisemitic (and when it is not), developing policy for fighting antisemitism, and so on. It can be used to support implementation of anti-discrimination legislation within parameters set by laws and norms protecting free expression.
Should the JDA be used as part of a “hate speech code”?
No, it should not. The JDA is not designed to be a legal or quasi-legal instrument of any kind. Nor should it be codified into law, nor used to restrict the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, whether in teaching or research, nor to suppress free and open public debate that is within the limits laid down by laws governing hate crime.
Will the JDA settle all the current arguments over what is and what is not antisemitic?
The JDA reflects the clear and authoritative voice of scholarly experts in relevant fields. But it cannot settle all arguments. No document on antisemitism can be exhaustive or anticipate all the ways in which antisemitism will manifest in the future. Some guidelines (such as #5), give just a few examples in order to illustrate a general point. The JDA is intended as an aid to thinking and to thoughtful discussion. As such, it is a valuable resource for consultations with stakeholders about identifying antisemitism and ensuring the most effective response.
Why are 10 of the 15 guidelines about Israel and Palestine?
This responds to the emphasis in the IHRA Definition, in which 7 out of 11 “examples” focus on the debate about Israel. Moreover, it responds to a public debate, both among Jews and in the wider population, that demonstrates a need for guidance concerning political speech about Israel or Zionism: when should it be protected and when does it cross the line into antisemitism?
What about contexts other than Israel and Palestine?
The general guidelines (1-5) apply in all contexts, including the far right, where antisemitism is increasing. They apply, for instance, to conspiracy theories about “the Jews” being behind the Covid-19 pandemic, or George Soros funding BLM and Antifa protests to promote a “hidden Jewish agenda.”
Does the JDA distinguish between anti-Zionism and antisemitism?
The two concepts are categorically different. Nationalism, Jewish or otherwise, can take many forms, but it is always open to debate. Bigotry and discrimination, whether against Jews or anyone else, is never acceptable. This is an axiom of the JDA.
Then does the JDA suggest that anti-Zionism is never antisemitic?
No. The JDA seeks to clarify when criticism of (or hostility to) Israel or Zionism crosses the line into antisemitism and when it does not. A feature of the JDA in this connection is that (unlike the IHRA Definition) it also specifies what is not, on the face of it, antisemitic.
What is the underlying political agenda of the JDA as regards Israel and Palestine?
There isn’t one. That’s the point. The signatories have diverse views about Zionism and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including political solutions, such as one-state versus two-states. What they share is a twofold commitment: fighting antisemitism and protecting freedom of expression on the basis of universal principles.
But doesn’t guideline 14 support BDS as a strategy or tactic aimed against Israel?
No. The JDA’s signatories have different views on BDS. Guideline 14 says only that boycotts, divestments and sanctions aimed at Israel, however contentious, are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.
So, how can someone know when BDS (or any other measure) is antisemitic?
That’s what the general guidelines (1 to 5) are for. In some cases it is obvious how they apply, in others it is not. As has always been true when making judgments about any form of bigotry or discrimination, context can make a huge difference. Moreover, each guideline should be read in the light of the others. Sometimes you have to make a judgement call. The 15 guidelines are intended to help people make those calls.
Guideline 10 says it is antisemitic to deny the right of Jews in the State of Israel “to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews”. Isn’t this contradicted by guidelines 12 and 13?
There is no contradiction. The rights mentioned in guideline 10 attach to Jewish inhabitants of the state, whatever its constitution or name. Guidelines 12 and 13 clarify that it is not antisemitic, on the face of it, to propose a different set of political or constitutional arrangements.
What, in short, are the advantages of the JDA over the IHRA Definition?
There are several, including the following: The JDA benefits from several years of reflection on, and critical assessment of, the IHRA Definition. As a result, it is clearer, more coherent and more nuanced. The JDA articulates not only what antisemitism is but also, in the context of Israel and Palestine, what, on the face of it, it is not. This is guidance that is widely needed. The JDA invokes universal principles and, unlike the IHRA Definition, clearly links the fight against antisemitism with the fight against other forms of bigotry and discrimination. The JDA helps create a space for frank and respectful discussion of difficult issues, including the vexed question of the political future for all inhabitants of Israel and Palestine. For all these reasons, the JDA is more cogent, and, instead of generating division, it aims at uniting all forces in the broadest possible fight against antisemitism.
Ludo Abicht, Professor Dr., Political Science Department, University of Antwerp
Taner Akçam, Professor, Kaloosdian/Mugar Chair Armenian History and Genocide, Clark University
Gadi Algazi, Professor, Department of History and Minerva Institute for German History, Tel Aviv University
Seth Anziska, Mohamed S. Farsi-Polonsky Associate Professor of Jewish-Muslim Relations, University College London
Aleida Assmann, Professor Dr., Literary Studies, Holocaust, Trauma and Memory Studies, Konstanz University
Jean-Christophe Attias, Professor, Medieval Jewish Thought, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Université PSL Paris
Leora Auslander, Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor of Western Civilization in the College and Professor of European Social History, Department of History, University of Chicago
Bernard Avishai, Visiting Professor of Government, Department of Government, Dartmouth College
Angelika Bammer, Professor, Comparative Literature, Affiliate Faculty of Jewish Studies, Emory University
Omer Bartov, John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Brown University
Almog Behar, Dr., Department of Literature and the Judeo-Arabic Cultural Studies Program, Tel Aviv University
Moshe Behar, Associate Professor, Israel/Palestine and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Manchester
Peter Beinart, Professor of Journalism and Political Science, The City University of New York (CUNY); Editor at large, Jewish Currents
Elissa Bemporad, Jerry and William Ungar Chair in East European Jewish History and the Holocaust; Professor of History, Queens College and The City University of New York (CUNY)
Sarah Bunin Benor, Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Wolfgang Benz, Professor Dr., fmr. Director Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität Berlin
Doris Bergen, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies, Department of History and Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto
Werner Bergmann, Professor Emeritus, Sociologist, Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität Berlin
Michael Berkowitz, Professor, Modern Jewish History, University College London
Louise Bethlehem, Associate Professor and Chair of the Program in Cultural Studies, English and Cultural Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
David Biale, Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor, University of California, Davis
Leora Bilsky, Professor, The Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University
Monica Black, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Daniel Blatman, Professor, Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Omri Boehm, Associate Professor of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research, New York
Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley
Christina von Braun, Professor Dr., Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin
Micha Brumlik, Professor Dr., fmr. Director of Fritz Bauer Institut-Geschichte und Wirkung des Holocaust, Frankfurt am Main
Jose Brunner, Professor Emeritus, Buchmann Faculty of Law and Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, Tel Aviv University
Darcy Buerkle, Professor and Chair of History, Smith College
John Bunzl, Professor Dr., The Austrian Institute for International Politics
Michelle U. Campos, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and History Pennsylvania State University
Francesco Cassata, Professor, Contemporary History Department of Ancient Studies, Philosophy and History, University of Genoa
Naomi Chazan, Professor Emerita of Political Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Bryan Cheyette, Professor and Chair in Modern Literature and Culture, University of Reading
Stephen Clingman, Distinguished University Professor, Department of English, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Raya Cohen, Dr., fmr. Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University; fmr. Department of Sociology, University of Naples Federico II
Alon Confino, Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies, Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Director Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Sebastian Conrad, Professor of Global and Postcolonial History, Freie Universität Berlin
Lila Corwin Berman, Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History, Temple University
Deborah Dash Moore, Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of History and Professor of Judaic Studies, University of Michigan
Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor Emerita, Princeton University and University of Toronto
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Professor Emerita, Comparative Literature, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hasia R. Diner, Professor, New York University
Arie M. Dubnov, Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies and Director Judaic Studies Program, The George Washington University
Debórah Dwork, Director Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY)
Yulia Egorova, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Director Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture, Society and Politics
Helga Embacher, Professor Dr., Department of History, Paris Lodron University Salzburg
Vincent Engel, Professor, University of Louvain, UCLouvain
David Enoch, Professor, Philosophy Department and Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Yuval Evri, Dr., Leverhulme Early Career Fellow SPLAS, King’s College London
Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law, Princeton University; Chair of Global Law, School of Law, Queen Mary University, London
David Feldman, Professor, Director of the Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London
Yochi Fischer, Dr., Deputy Director Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Head of the Sacredness, Religion and Secularization Cluster
Ulrike Freitag, Professor Dr., History of the Middle East, Director Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin
Ute Frevert, Professor of Modern History, Department of History, University of Zurich
Katharina Galor, Professor Dr., Hirschfeld Visiting Associate Professor, Program in Judaic Studies, Program in Urban Studies, Brown University
Chaim Gans, Professor Emeritus, The Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University
Alexandra Garbarini, Professor, Department of History and Program in Jewish Studies, Williams College
Shirli Gilbert, Professor of Modern Jewish History, University College London
Sander Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences; Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University
Shai Ginsburg, Associate Professor, Chair of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Faculty Member of the Center for Jewish Studies, Duke University
Victor Ginsburgh, Professor Emeritus, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels
Carlo Ginzburg, Professor Emeritus, UCLA and Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa
Snait Gissis, Dr., Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University
Glowacka Dorota, Professor, Humanities, University of King’s College, Halifax
Amos Goldberg, Professor, The Jonah M. Machover Chair in Holocaust Studies, Head of the Avraham Harman Research Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Harvey Goldberg, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Sylvie-Anne Goldberg, Professor, Jewish Culture and History, Head of Jewish Studies at the Advanced School of Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris
Svenja Goltermann, Professor Dr., Historisches Seminar, University of Zurich
Neve Gordon, Professor of International Law, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London
Emily Gottreich, Adjunct Professor, Global Studies and Department of History, UC Berkeley, Director MENA-J Program
Leonard Grob, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Jeffrey Grossman, Associate Professor, German and Jewish Studies, Chair of the German Department, University of Virginia
Atina Grossmann, Professor of History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Cooper Union, New York
Wolf Gruner, Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and Founding Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, University of Southern California
François Guesnet, Professor of Modern Jewish History, Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London
Ruth HaCohen, Artur Rubinstein Professor of Musicology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Aaron J. Hahn, Tapper Professor, Mae and Benjamin Swig Chair in Jewish Studies, University of San Francisco
Liora R. Halperin, Associate Professor of International Studies, History and Jewish Studies; Jack and Rebecca Benaroya Endowed Chair in Israel Studies, University of Washington
Rachel Havrelock, Professor of English and Jewish Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago
Sonja Hegasy, Professor Dr., Scholar of Islamic Studies and Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin
Elizabeth Heineman, Professor of History and of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, University of Iowa
Didi Herman, Professor of Law and Social Change, University of Kent
Deborah Hertz, Wouk Chair in Modern Jewish Studies, University of California, San Diego
Dagmar Herzog, Distinguished Professor of History and Daniel Rose Faculty Scholar Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY)
Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies, Chair, Jewish Studies Program, Dartmouth College
Dafna Hirsch, Dr., Open University of Israel
Marianne Hirsch, William Peterfield Trent Professor of Comparative Literature and Gender Studies, Columbia University
Christhard Hoffmann, Professor of Modern European History, University of Bergen
Dr. habil. Klaus Holz, General Secretary of the Protestant Academies of Germany, Berlin
Eva Illouz, Professor, Senior Research Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and School of Advanced Studies, Paris
Jill Jacobs, Rabbi, Executive Director, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, New York
Uffa Jensen, Professor Dr., Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität, Berlin
Jonathan Judaken, Professor, Spence L. Wilson Chair in the Humanities, Rhodes College
Robin E. Judd, Associate Professor, Department of History, The Ohio State University
Irene Kacandes, The Dartmouth Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature, Dartmouth University
Marion Kaplan, Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History, New York University
Eli Karetny, Deputy Director Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies; Lecturer Baruch College, The City University of New York (CUNY)
Nahum Karlinsky, The Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Menachem Klein, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Studies, Bar Ilan University
Brian Klug, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford; Member of the Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University
Francesca Klug, Visiting Professor at LSE Human Rights and at the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Sheffield Hallam University
Thomas A. Kohut, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Professor of History, Williams College
Teresa Koloma Beck, Professor of Sociology, Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg
Rebecca Kook, Dr., Department of Politics and Government, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Claudia Koonz, Professor Emeritus of History, Duke University
Hagar Kotef, Dr., Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Comparative Political Thought, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London
Gudrun Kraemer, Professor Dr., Senior Professor of Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
Cilly Kugelman, Historian, fmr. Program Director of the Jewish Museum, Berlin
Tony Kushner, Professor, Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton
Dominick LaCapra, Bowmar Professor Emeritus of History and of Comparative Literature, Cornell University
Daniel Langton, Professor of Jewish History, University of Manchester
Shai Lavi, Professor, The Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University; The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
Claire Le Foll, Associate Professor of East European Jewish History and Culture, Parkes Institute, University of Southampton; Director Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations
Nitzan Lebovic, Professor, Department of History, Chair of Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values, Lehigh University
Mark Levene, Dr., Emeritus Fellow, University of Southampton and Parkes Centre for Jewish/non-Jewish Relations
Simon Levis Sullam, Associate Professor in Contemporary History, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, University Ca’ Foscari Venice
Lital Levy, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University
Lior Libman, Assistant Professor of Israel Studies, Associate Director Center for Israel Studies, Judaic Studies Department, Binghamton University, SUNY
Caroline Light, Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Harvard University
Kerstin von Lingen, Professor for Contemporary History, Chair for Studies of Genocide, Violence and Dictatorship, Vienna University
James Loeffler, Jay Berkowitz Professor of Jewish History, Ida and Nathan Kolodiz Director of Jewish Studies, University of Virginia
Hanno Loewy, Director of the Jewish Museum Hohenems, Austria
Ian S. Lustick, Bess W. Heyman Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Sergio Luzzato, Emiliana Pasca Noether Chair in Modern Italian History, University of Connecticut
Shaul Magid, Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College
Avishai Margalit, Professor Emeritus in Philosophy, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jessica Marglin, Associate Professor of Religion, Law and History, Ruth Ziegler Early Career Chair in Jewish Studies, University of Southern California
Arturo Marzano, Associate Professor of History of the Middle East, Department of Civilizations and Forms of Knowledge, University of Pisa
Anat Matar, Dr., Department of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University
Manuel Reyes Mate Rupérez,Instituto de Filosofía del CSIC, Spanish National Research Council, Madrid
Menachem Mautner, Daniel Rubinstein Professor of Comparative Civil Law and Jurisprudence, Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University
Brendan McGeever, Dr., Lecturer in the Sociology of Racialization and Antisemitism, Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London
David Mednicoff, Chair Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Public Policy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Eva Menasse, Novelist, Berlin
Adam Mendelsohn, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Cape Town
Leslie Morris, Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in Liberal Arts, Professor and Chair Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch, University of Minnesota
Dirk Moses, Frank Porter Graham Distinguished Professor of Global Human Rights History, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Samuel Moyn, Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of History, Yale University
Susan Neiman, Professor Dr., Philosopher, Director of the Einstein Forum, Potsdam
Anita Norich, Professor Emeritus, English and Judaic Studies, University of Michigan
Xosé Manoel Núñez Seixas,Professor of Modern European History, University of Santiago de Compostela
Esra Ozyurek, Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths and Shared Values Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge
Ilaria Pavan, Associate Professor in Modern History, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa
Derek Penslar, William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History, Harvard University
Andrea Pető, Professor, Central European University (CEU), Vienna; CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest
Valentina Pisanty, Associate Professor, Semiotics, University of Bergamo
Renée Poznanski, Professor Emeritus, Department of Politics and Government, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
David Rechter, Professor of Modern Jewish History, University of Oxford
James Renton, Professor of History, Director of International Centre on Racism, Edge Hill Universit
Shlomith Rimmon Kenan,Professor Emerita, Departments of English and Comparative Literature, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Member of the Israel Academy of Science
Shira Robinson, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, George Washington University
Bryan K. Roby, Assistant Professor of Jewish and Middle East History, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Na’ama Rokem, Associate Professor, Director Joyce Z. And Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies, University of Chicago
Mark Roseman, Distinguished Professor in History, Pat M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies, Indiana University
Göran Rosenberg, Writer and Journalist, Sweden
Michael Rothberg, 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies, UCLA
Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Modern History, Queen Mary University of London
Dirk Rupnow, Professor Dr., Department of Contemporary History, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Philippe Sands, Professor of Public Understanding of Law, University College London; Barrister; Writer
Victoria Sanford, Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College Doctoral Faculty, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY)
Gisèle Sapiro, Professor of Sociology at EHESS and Research Director at the CNRS (Centre européen de sociologie et de science politique), Paris
Peter Schäfer, Professor of Jewish Studies, Princeton University, fmr. Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin
Andrea Schatz, Dr., Reader in Jewish Studies, King’s College London
Jean-Philippe Schreiber, Professor, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels
Stefanie Schüler-Springorum,Professor Dr., Director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität Berlin
Guri Schwarz, Associate Professor of Contemporary History, Dipartimento di Antichità, Filosofia e Storia, Università di Genova
Raz Segal, Associate Professor, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Stockton University
Joshua Shanes, Associate Professor and Director of the Arnold Center for Israel Studies, College of Charleston
David Shulman, Professor Emeritus, Department of Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Dmitry Shumsky, Professor, Israel Goldstein Chair in the History of Zionism and the New Yishuv, Director of the Bernard Cherrick Center for the Study of Zionism, the Yishuv and the State of Israel, Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Marcella Simoni, Professor of History, Department of Asian and North African Studies, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice
Santiago Slabodsky, The Robert and Florence Kaufman Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies and Associate Professor of Religion, Hofstra University, New York
David Slucki, Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life and Culture, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University, Australia
Tamir Sorek, Liberal Arts Professor of Middle East History and Jewish Studies, Penn State University
Levi Spectre, Dr., Senior Lecturer at the Department of History, Philosophy and Judaic Studies, The Open University of Israel; Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University, Sweden
Michael P. Steinberg, Professor, Barnaby Conrad and Mary Critchfield Keeney Professor of History and Music, Professor of German Studies, Brown University
Lior Sternfeld, Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Penn State Univeristy
Michael Stolleis, Professor of History of Law, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main
Mira Sucharov, Professor of Political Science and University Chair of Teaching Innovation, Carleton University Ottawa
Adam Sutcliffe, Professor of European History, King’s College London
Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, Professor, Mae and Benjamin Swig Chair in Jewish Studies, University of San Francisco
Anya Topolski, Associate Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy, Radboud University, Nijmegen
Barry Trachtenberg, Associate Professor, Rubin Presidential Chair of Jewish History, Wake Forest University
Emanuela Trevisan Semi, Senior Researcher in Modern Jewish Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
Heidemarie Uhl, PhD, Historian, Senior Researcher, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna
Peter Ullrich, Dr. Dr., Senior Researcher, Fellow at the Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität Berlin
Uğur Ümit Üngör, Professor and Chair of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam; Senior Researcher NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam
Nadia Valman, Professor of Urban Literature, Queen Mary, University of London
Dominique Vidal, Journalist, Historian and Essayist
Alana M. Vincent, Associate Professor of Jewish Philosophy, Religion and Imagination, University of Chester
Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi, Head of The Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Anika Walke, Associate Professor of History, Washington University, St. Louis
Yair Wallach, Dr., Senior Lecturer in Israeli Studies School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, SOAS, University of London
Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science, Princeton
Dov Waxman, Professor, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Israel Studies, University of California (UCLA)
Ilana Webster-Kogen, Joe Loss Senior Lecturer in Jewish Music, SOAS, University of London
Bernd Weisbrod, Professor Emeritus of Modern History, University of Göttingen
Eric D. Weitz, Distinguished Professor of History, City College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY)
Michael Wildt, Professor Dr., Department of History, Humboldt University, Berlin
Abraham B. Yehoshua, Novelist, Essayist and Playwright
Noam Zadoff, Assistant Professor in Israel Studies, Department of Contemporary History, University of Innsbruck
Tara Zahra, Homer J. Livingston Professor of East European History; Member Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies, University of Chicago
José A. Zamora Zaragoza, Senior Researcher, Instituto de Filosofía del CSIC, Spanish National Research Council, Madrid
Lothar Zechlin, Professor Emeritus of Public Law, fmr. Rector Institute of Political Science, University of Duisburg
Yael Zerubavel, Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies and History, fmr. Founding Director Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, Rutgers University
Moshe Zimmermann, Professor Emeritus, The Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Steven J. Zipperstein, Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History, Stanford University
Moshe Zuckermann, Professor Emeritus of History and Philosophy, Tel Aviv University
Jewish Faculty in Canada Against the Adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism
We write as Jewish faculty from across Canadian universities and colleges with deep concern regarding recent interventions on our campuses relating to Israel and Palestine. Addressing all forms of racism and discrimination, including antisemitism, is imperative at this historical moment. Among the signatories, many share family histories profoundly and intimately shaped by the Holocaust. We write out of a strong commitment to justice, which for some of us is vital to an ethical Jewish life.
We add our voices to a growing international movement of Jewish scholars to insist that university policies to combat antisemitism are not used to stifle legitimate criticisms of the Israeli state, or the right to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We recognize that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a legitimate, non-violent form of protest. While not all of us endorse the BDS movement we oppose equating its support with antisemitism. We also are deeply disturbed by the upsurge of antisemitic acts in recent years which display painfully familiar forms of antisemitism.
We are specifically concerned with recent lobbying on our campuses for the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. This definition offers a vague and worrisome framing of antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” and that may be “directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property.” The most serious problem however is that the definition is tied to a series of examples of which many are criticisms of the Israeli state. For this reason, the IHRA working definition has come under extensive criticism. Not only does it essentialize Jewish identity, culture, and theology, it also equates Jewishness and Judaism with the State of Israel – effectively erasing generations of debate within Jewish communities. The issue is particularly pressing as the IHRA working definition has been invoked by those seeking to interfere with collegial governance and student life at Canadian universities. The IHRA working definition distracts from experiences of anti-Jewish racism, and threatens to silence legitimate criticism of Israel’s grave violations of international law and denial of Palestinian human and political rights.
On campuses where this definition has been adopted it has been used to intimidate and silence the work of unions, student groups, academic departments and faculty associations that are committed to freedom, equality and justice for Palestinians. A range of international Jewish institutions have recognized this problem; for example, the New Israel Fund of Canada has recently retracted their support for the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. Furthermore, the University College London (UCL) has seen its Academic Board advise that the university seek an alternative definition of antisemitism and reverse adoption of the IHRA model. The UCL Academic Board joins a growing chorus of voices, including over 500 Canadian academics and multiple statements by Jewish and Israeli academics, British academics who are Israeli citizens, and specialists in Jewish and Holocaust history, opposing the adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
We know that there is serious and occasionally fractious disagreement on our campuses about antisemitism and its relationship to criticism of the State of Israel. These disputes cannot and will not be resolved by definitional fiat. If the goal of adopting the IHRA definition is to quell further conflict around the legitimate scope of criticism of Israel, it will surely fail. This is already evident at many academic institutions.
Adopting a seriously flawed framework to confront antisemitism is antithetical to the broader pursuit of justice and tolerance at the core of the mission statement of many universities. Freedom to criticize the policies and practices of any state without exception, including the State of Israel, is central to accountable scholarship, learning and education. We believe it is also central to building a more just academy.
Signed,Howard Tzvi Adelman, History and Jewish Studies, Queen’s University Jonathan Alschech, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Northern British Columbia Vered Amit, Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University Meir Amor, Associate Professor, Concordia University Shira Avni, Associate Professor, Concordia University Abigail B. Bakan, Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto Joel Bakan, Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia Lisa Barg, McGill University Bruce Baum, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia Daniel Bender, History and Food Studies, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, University of Toronto Joseph Berkovitz, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto Rachel Berger, Associate Professor, History, Concordia University Jody Berland, Professor, Department of Humanities, York University Bruce J. Berman, Queen’s University Rachel Berman, Associate Professor, Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University Lauren Bialystok, Associate Professor, Department of Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto Anne-Emanuelle Birn, Professor of Critical Development Studies & Global Health University of Toronto Gary Bloch, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto Michael Blum, Professor, École des arts visuels et médiatiques, Université du Québec à Montréal Shamma Boyarin, English Department/Religion Culture and Society Program, University of Victoria Lara Braitstein, Associate Professor, School of Religious Studies, McGill University Elise K. Burton, Assistant Professor, History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto Nadya Burton, Associate Professor, Midwifery Education Program, Ryerson University Shelley Ruth Butler, Lecturer, McGill University Nergis Canefe, Associate Professor of Politics, Public Policy and Law, York University Eric Cazdyn, Professor, University of Toronto Claudia Chaufan, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, York University Rebecca Comay, Professor, Philosophy and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto Jonah Corne, Associate Professor, Department of English, Theatre, Film and Media, University of Manitoba Deborah Cowen, Professor, Geography and Planning, University of Toronto Leah Decter, Canada Research Chair in Creative Technologies, Division of Media Arts, NSCAD University Sheila Delany, Emerita, Simon Fraser University James Deutsch MD, PhD, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Toronto Mark Etkin, MD, FRCPC, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba Aaron Ettinger, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Carleton University Alvin Finkel, Retired Professor of History, Athabasca University Elle Flanders, Lecturer, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto John Fox, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, McMaster University Sid Frankel, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba Gavin Fridell, Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University Harriet Friedmann, Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of Toronto Lara Rosenoff Gauvin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Manitoba Stella Gaon, Professor, Department of Political Science, Saint Mary’s University Judith A. Garber, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta Roni Gechtman, Associate Professor, Department of History, Mount Saint Vincent University Mimi Gellman, Associate Professor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Amanda Glasbeek, Associate Professor, Department of Social Science, York University Harry Glasbeek, Professor Emeritus, York University Luin Goldring, Professor of Sociology, York University Tara Goldstein, Professor, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, OISE, University of Toronto Cy Gonick, Founder Canadian Dimension magazine, retired economics professor University of Manitoba Rachel Gorman, Associate Professor, Critical Disability Studies, York University Barbara Graves, Professor, Faculté d’éducation, University of Ottawa Jonathan Greene, Associate Professor, Political Studies, Trent University Jesse Greener, Professor of Chemistry, Université Laval Ricardo Grinspun, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, York University Kevin A. Gould, Associate Professor, Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University Gal Gvili, McGill University Jasmin Habib, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo Chaya Halberstam, King’s University College at Western University Judy Haiven, PhD. Retired Professor, Saint Mary’s University Larry Haiven, PhD. Professor Emeritus, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada Max Haiven, Associate Professor, CRC in Culture, Media and Social Justice, Lakehead University Orit Halpern, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University Rick Halpern, Professor, History, University of Toronto Monica Heller, Professor, University of Toronto Judith Adler Hellman, Senior Scholar and Professor Emerita, Politics and Social Science, York University Stephen M. Hellman, Senior Scholar and Professor Emeritus, Department of Politics, York University Sivane Hirsch, Professor, Education Department, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Risa Horowitz, Associate Professor, Visual Arts, University of Regina Penelope Ironstone, Department of Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University Dan Jacobson, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Calgary JoAnn Jaffe, Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina David Kahane, Professor of Political Science, University of Alberta Ivan Kalmar, Professor, University of Toronto Ilan Kapoor, Professor, York University David Kattenburg, University of Manitoba Ariel Katz, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto Ryan M. Katz-Rosene, Assistant Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa W. Reuben Kaufman, Professor Emeritus, Dept. Biological Sciences, University of Alberta Robert Kirchner, PhD. University of Alberta Linguistics Dept., Associate Professor (retired) Martin Klein, Professor (Emeritus), University of Toronto Peter Klein, Professor, University of British Columbia Natalie Kouri-Towe, Assistant Professor, Concordia University Jeffrey Kugler, Executive Director (retired), Centre for Urban Schooling, OISE, University of Toronto Michael Lambek, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto Robert Latham, Department of Politics, York University Gordon Laxer, Professor Emeritus, Political Economy, University of Alberta Michael A. Lebowitz, Professor Emeritus, Economics, Simon Fraser University Barbara Leckie, Professor, Department of English and Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture, Carleton University Josh Lepawsky, Memorial University Richard Borshay Lee, University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto Erica Lehrer, Professor, Concordia University Melissa Levin, Assistant Professor: Teaching Stream, New College, University of Toronto Charmain Levy, Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Université du Québec en Outaouais Joel Lexchin, Professor Emeritus, School of Health Policy and Management, Faculty of Health, York University Felice Lifshitz, Professor, University of Alberta Andrew P. Lyons, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Wilfrid Laurier University. Harriet Lyons, Professor Emerita, Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo Shoshana Magnet, Professor, Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, University of Ottawa Sara Matthews, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University Don Mazer, Associate Professor of Psychology (retired), University of Prince Edward Island Marguerite Mendell, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Concordia University, Montreal Jeffrey B. Meyers, TRU, Law Dorit Naaman, Full Professor, Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Queen’s University Joanne Naiman, Professor Emerita, Ryerson University, Toronto Neil Naiman, Senior Scholar, York University Sheryl Nestel, PhD, Lecturer (retired), Ontario institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto Jesse Salah Ovadia, Associate Professor Department of Political Science, University of Windsor Shiri Pasternak, Assistant Professor, Criminology, Ryerson University Alejandro I. Paz, Associate Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough Karen Pearlston, Professor of Law, University of New Brunswick Shayna Plaut, Adjunct Professor Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Manitoba Natasha Pravaz, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Cultural Analysis and Social Theory, Wilfrid Laurier University Janna Promislow, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria Yakov M. Rabkin, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Montreal Dennis Raphael, Professor of Health Policy and Management, York University Ester Reiter, Professor Emeritus, York University Shelley Zipora Reuter, Professor, Concordia University Jillian Rogin, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor Richard Roman, University of Toronto Reuben Rose-Redwood, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Victoria Daniel Rosenblatt, Associate Professor, Carleton University Reuben Roth, Associate Professor, School of Northern and Community Studies, Laurentian University Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough Alan Rutkowski, Librarian (retired), University of Alberta Deborah Rutman, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Victoria Ariel Salzmann, Queen’s University Itay Sapir, Associate Professor, Art History, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Rebecca Schein, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies, Carleton University Alan Sears, Professor, Department of Sociology, Ryerson University Naomi Seidman, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto Devin Zane Shaw, Regular Faculty, Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Douglas College Lincoln Z. Shlensky, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Victoria Jonathan Sterne, Professor, McGill University Jeremy Stolow, Department of Communication Studies, Concordia University Mira Sucharov, Professor, Political Science and University Chair of Teaching Innovation, Carleton University Gail Super, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Sociology (UTM), University of Toronto Mark Sussman, Concordia University, Theatre Department/Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society & Culture Donald Swartz, Professor, Carleton University (retired) Vannina Sztainbok, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, University of Toronto Judith Taylor, Associate Professor, Sociology and WGSI, University of Toronto Eliot Tretter, Associate Professor, Geography and the Urban Studies Program, University of Calgary Eric Tucker, Professor Osgoode Hall Law School, York University Brenda Vellino, Department of English/Human Rights, Carleton University Richard Wellen, Associate Professor, Department of Social Science, York University Abraham Weizfeld PhD, former Course Director York University, Departments of Political Science & Social & Political Thought Joel Westheimer, University Research Chair in Democracy & Education, University of Ottawa Daphne Winland, Department of Anthropology, York University Yves Winter, Associate Professor, Political Science, McGill University Lesley Wood, Associate Professor, Sociology, York University b.h. Yael, Professor, Faculty of Art, OCAD University Maya A. Yampolsky, Assistant Professor, Université Laval Anna Zalik, Associate Professor, York University Keren Zaiontz, Assistant Professor, Department of Film and Media, Queen’s University Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor of History (retired), University of Toronto Marvin Zuker, OISE, University of Toronto===================================================================
Understanding Antisemitism at its Nexus with Israel and Zionism1
Draft – November 22, 2020
This document endeavors to define antisemitism 2 so that it is relevant to the current context worldwide — especially with regard to the relationship between antisemitism, and Israel and Zionism. It is not meant as a legal document but rather as a guide for policymakers and community leaders as they grapple with the complexities at the nexus of these issues.
Antisemitism consists of anti-Jewish attitudes, actions or systemic conditions. It includes negative beliefs and feelings about Jews, hostile behavior directed against Jews, and conditions that discriminate against Jews and impede their ability to participate as equals in political, religious, cultural, economic, or social life.
Uniting all of antisemitism’s strands is a persistent demonization that casts Jews not only as “others” (i.e., as intrinsically different or alien) but also as irredeemably threatening and dangerously powerful There are multiple reasons that people may have for opposing Zionism and/or Israel. Such opposition does not necessarily reflect specific anti-Jewish animus nor purposefully lead to antisemitic behaviors and conditions. For example, someone might oppose the principle of nationalism or ethnonationalist ideology, of which Zionism is an example. Someone’s personal or national experience may have been adversely affected by the creation of the State of Israel (e.g., Palestinians for whom Zionism/Israel has created inequality and/or led to exile). Indeed, there are Jewish anti-Zionists who hold ethical and religious convictions that oppose a Jewish state. None of these motivations or attitudes toward Israel and/or Zionism necessarily constitute antisemitic behavior as troublemakers, shysters, capitalists, anarchists, communists, sexual degenerates, etc. The elements that make up antisemitism derive from various historical conditions, and in our current time combine to form pejorative claims that include religion, race, culture and politics. They portray Jews as secretive, manipulative, untrustworthy, controlling, and dangerous — as well as responsible for other people’s suffering.
Understanding and addressing antisemitism is important in its own right, and it is a critical part of the broader struggle against all forms of oppression.
Antisemitic behaviors and conditions may emerge from indifference, stereotyping, or the rejection of Jewish perspectives and interests because they are held by Jews. It is even possible to engage in antisemitic behavior, or to promote antisemitic conditions, without holding expressly prejudicial attitudes toward Jews. In some cases, antisemitic behaviors and conditions may coexist with positive attitudes toward certain Jews or Jewish institutions.
Antisemitism can present in different forms; people change it and adapt it to their own social, political, cultural, religious, and historical circumstances. It can be used to target Jews of all races, denominations, gender identities, levels of observance, and political ideologies.
Antisemitism fulfills a social function: It provides an explanation for social disorders. People use it to demonize and fuel the oppression of any minority and all minorities 3, while fomenting division between Jews and other minorities.
As the embodiment/realization of collective Jewish organization and action, Israel is a magnet for and a target of antisemitic behavior. Thus, it is important for Jews and their allies to understand what is and what is not antisemitic in relation to Israel.
Antisemitism, Israel, and Zionism
Israel and Zionism:
Historically, and especially since its establishment as a state in 1948, Israel has served as one expression of Jewish national identity. Zionism is a political ideology that says the Jewish people constitute a modern national collective. During the 20th century, Jews in many European and Middle Eastern countries were assaulted, oppressed, and economically deprived, culminating in the murder of 6,000,000 Jews in the Holocaust. This led most Jews worldwide to embrace Israel and Zionism.
As a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations, Israel has the rights and responsibilities of other sovereign states. It is subject to praise and condemnation, support and opposition, according to the expectations and provisions of its international and domestic relationships and obligations. Zionism asserts that the Jewish people should be able to exercise self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Beyond this core affirmation, the word Zionism often means different things to different people, and should therefore be used with precision. There are numerous varieties of Zionism and many attempts to appropriate the term in service of a particular political perspective.
Zionism makes no judgment regarding the justice or wisdom of particular Israeli governmental policies (e.g., Israel’s precise borders or the character of its democracy).
If a person identifies as a “Zionist,” such association does not entail carte blanche approval of all or even any policies or politics of a specific Israeli government. Similarly, “anti-Zionist” is not an appropriate label for a speaker merely because he or she opposes specific Israeli policies.
Criticism of Israel and Zionism:
Criticism of Zionism and Israel, opposition to Israel’s policies, or nonviolent political action directed at the State of Israel and/or its policies should not, as such, be deemed antisemitic.
Using accusations of antisemitism as a tool to suppress criticism of Israel is dangerous on many levels. It distracts attention from bona fide antisemitism, infringes on the principle of freedom of expression, and militates against constructive dialogue and debate among people with differing opinions.
Even contentious, strident, or harsh criticism of Israel for its policies and actions, including those that led to the creation of Israel, is not per se antisemitic. This includes critiques of specific forms of Zionism that are incompatible with the equal dignity or self-determination of others (e.g., forms of Zionism which are opposed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state or to any other credible mechanism for upholding Palestinian democratic rights).
Generally speaking, judging Israel using the same standards applied to other countries is not antisemitism. Paying disproportionate attention to Israel and/or treating it differently than other countries is not prima facie evidence of antisemitism. There are numerous reasons for treating Israel differently or devoting special attention to Israel, among them that Israel receives more military aid than any other country or that someone has a special religious connection with Israel. Singling out Israel because it is a Jewish state, using standards different than those applied to other countries, is antisemitism.
Opposition to Zionism and/or Israel:
There are multiple reasons that people may have for opposing Zionism and/or Israel. Such opposition does not necessarily reflect specific anti-Jewish animus nor purposefully lead to antisemitic behaviors and conditions. For example, someone might oppose the principle of nationalism or ethnonationalist ideology, of which Zionism is an example.7 Someone’s personal or national experience may have been adversely affected by the creation of the State of Israel (e.g., Palestinians for whom Zionism/Israel has created inequality and/or led to exile). Indeed, there are Jewish anti-Zionists who hold ethical and religious convictions that oppose a Jewish state. None of these motivations or attitudes toward Israel and/or Zionism necessarily constitute antisemitic behavior.
When is criticism or opposition to Zionism and/or Israel antisemitic?
All claims of antisemitism, like all claims of discrimination and oppression in general, should be given serious attention. Arguments that claims of antisemitism are always or primarily tools to suppress criticism of Israel or opposition to its policies often justify the dismissal of Jewish concerns, allowing even serious cases of antisemitism to go unchallenged. In particular, antisemitic speech or conduct is not insulated simply because it styles itself as “criticism of Israel.”
Whether or not speech or conduct about Zionism and Israel is antisemitic should be based on the standards for speech or conduct that apply to antisemitic behavior in general. Thus, it is antisemitic to promote myths, stereotypes or attitudes about Zionism and/or Israel that derive from and/or reinforce antisemitic accusations and tropes. These include:
- Characterizing Israel as being part of a sinister world conspiracy of Jewish control of the media, economy, government or other financial, cultural or societal institutions; 4
- Indiscriminately blaming suffering and injustices around the world on a Jewish conspiracy or as the maligning hand of Israel or Zionism. 5
- Holding individuals or institutions, because they are Jewish, a priori culpable of real or imagined wrongdoing committed by Israel. 6
- Considering Jews to be a priori incapable of setting aside their affinity/loyalty to the Jewish people and/or Israel. 7
- Denigrating or denying the Jewish identity of certain Jews because they are perceived as holding the “wrong” position (whether too critical or too favorable) on Israel. 8
Other cases in which criticism of Zionism and Israel or opposition to Israel’s policies might be deemed antisemitic include:
- Including symbols and images that present Jews worldwide as collectively guilty for the actions of the State of Israel.
- Attacking a Jew because of her/his relationship to Israel. Conveying intense hostility toward Jews who are connected to Israel in a way that intentionally or irresponsibly (acting with disregard to potential violent consequences) provokes antisemitic violence.
- Treating Israel in a negative manner based on a claim that Jews in particular should be denied the right to define themselves as a people and to exercise self-determination.
- Advocating a political solution that denies Jews the right to define themselves as a people, thereby denying them because they are Jews the right to self-determination, and/or denying Jews the right to physical safety and full human, civil, and religious rights.
Overall, the criterion for judging whether instances are antisemitic is the same criterion for judging antisemitic behavior in any of its forms. It is antisemitic if it includes harmful hostile, degrading, or discriminatory behaviors directed toward Jews — in word and/or in action, that harm Jews — and significantly impede their ability to participate as equals in political, religious, cultural, economic, or social life.
1 This paper was drafted by the Nexus Task Force, a project of the Knight Program on Media and Religion at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC. The Task Force is examining the issues at the nexus of antisemitism and Israel in American politics.
2 For the purposes of this paper we are using the term “antisemitic” and “antisemitism” to refer to all forms of anti-Jewish behavior. We also use “antisemitism” (without a hyphen) to emphasize that there is no ideology of “Semitism” that antisemites oppose — antisemitism is not, for example, hostility towards speakers of Semitic language groups.For the purposes of this paper we are using the term “antisemitic” and “antisemitism” to refer to all forms of anti-Jewish behavior. We also use “antisemitism” (without a hyphen) to emphasize that there is no ideology of “Semitism” that antisemites oppose—antisemitism is not, for example, hostility towards speakers of Semitic language groups.
3 See “Skin in the Game” by Eric Ward for an articulation of the ways in which antisemitism animates white nationalism.
4 From the Iranian run Press TV broadcasting in North America and Europe: “Netanyahu still has his hands on the strings that control puppets around the world, the press, entertainment industry, key world leaders.”
5 An Algerian news site blamed the “Zionist Entity” (Israel) for the Coronavirus and a collaboration between a “Zionist Institute” and a French Jewish billionaire. https://almasdar-dz.com/?p=103657
6 A study by the UK based Institute for Jewish Policy Research showed “almost eighty percent of respondents, indicated that “they have felt blamed by non-Jews, at least occasionally, for the actions of the Israeli government, purely on the basis of their Jewishness.”
7 In August 2019, President Trump, while praising the loyalty of Israeli Jews to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused American Jewish Democrats of disloyalty. The New York Times wrote of the incident: “It was the second day in a row that Mr. Trump addressed Jews and loyalty, a theme evoking an anti-Semitic trope that Jews have a “dual loyalty” and are often more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.” “If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday at the White House.”
8 David Friedman, prior to becoming U.S. Ambassador to Israel called, J St supporters “worse than Kapos.” https://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/18828ADVISORY COMMITTEE Jeremy Ben-Ami Sarah Bunin Benor Michael Berenbaum Lila Corwin Berman Rabbi Sharon Brous Geoffrey Cowan Reuven Firestone Rabbi Laura Geller Father James Lewis Heft Rabbi Jill Jacobs Dove Kent Daniel Kurtzer Rabbi Joy Levitt Aaron David Miller David N. Myers Bruce Phillips Steve Rabinowitz Norman Rosenberg Rabbi Jennie Rosenn Hannah Rosenthal Rabbi John L. Rosove Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds Rabbi Ruth Sohn Varun Soni Kenneth Stern Nomi M. Stolzenberg Rabbi Burt Visotzky Steven Windmueller
TASK FORCE MEMBERS Aaron Back Steven Beller Eric Greene Rabbi Jocee Hudson Jonathan Jacoby Ethan Katz Analucía Lopezrevoredo Matt Nosanchuk David Schraub Joshua Shanes Norman Rosenberg Tema Smith Dov Waxman Diane H. Winston SPECIAL THANKS . . . Sarah Brown Michelle Castillo Boaz Gerstl (USC Intern) Quan Le (USC Intern) Maria Lentz Mary MacVean Ginger Mayerson Graham Murray Yara Razzouk Gary Wexler
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