Is the Jerusalem Declaration the definition of anti-Semitism that IHRA should have been?

Interesting Twitter thread from David Rosenberg today – for all those of us who have been affected by false – IHRA definition-based – accusations of anti-Semitism.

He tweeted:

From This Writer’s point of view it is too early to say whether the new definition will do any good but I certainly hope it is a step in the right direction. The preamble to the Jerusalem Declaration makes its contrast with the IHRA working definition clear:

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.

The definition itself is short and sweet – and corresponds with one that This Site has been using for many years:

Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).

That is to say, anti-Semitism is discrimination etc against Jews for no other reason than because they are Jewish.

Taken in conjunction with the comments about the IHRA definition, we can see that efforts are being made to avoid any suggestion that criticising the activities of – or demanded by – the government of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic purely because it is criticism of a nation’s government. This is something that IHRA blurs and that has been misused by some of our favourite “bad faith actors”.

The Jerusalem Declaration goes further. Like the IHRA working definition, it also supplies guidelines – both general and with regard to Israel and Palestine. Here they are in full:

Guidelines

A. General

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  1. Applying the symbols, images and negative stereotypes of classical antisemitism (see guidelines 2 and 3) to the State of Israel.
  2. Holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct or treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel.
  3. Requiring people, because they are Jewish, publicly to condemn Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).
  4. Assuming that non-Israeli Jews, simply because they are Jews, are necessarily more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.
  5. 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)

  1. Supporting the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights, as encapsulated in international law.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The paragraph on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) has already provoked squawks from the usual suspects, and I’m sure the paragraph saying it is not anti-Semitic to mention Israel in connection with apartheid either has or will.

I think they are entirely justified and that the Jerusalem Declaration is a step in the right direction.

It is a step that could not have been taken without the IHRA definition, though. Many of the guidelines seem, to This Writer, to be responses to events that have taken place since IHRA was published and adopted by so many people/organisations – and to the false accusations to which these have led.

It seems to be a necessary response to years of abuse by that faction of the pro-Zionist, pro-Israel movement that has smeared innocents (like This Writer) with false accusations for many years.

But, as I said close to the top, it’s too early to know whether this will do any good.

Those are just my opinions. What are your thoughts?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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4 thoughts on “Is the Jerusalem Declaration the definition of anti-Semitism that IHRA should have been?

  1. mohandeer

    Many thanks for this article and the twitter comments in particular. It must be of some comfort to you and others wrongly accused of anti-Semitism by those “bad faith” actors you mentioned.

  2. The Toffee (597)

    Perhaps when it’s just a single MP – who happens to be the home sec. – it isn’t newsworthy.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=duncan+smith+house+of+commons+credit+card&ei=7QJfYOG5MbWChbIPyvCryAM&oq=duncan+smith+house+of+commons+credit+card&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EAM6BwgAEEcQsAM6BAgAEA06BggAEAcQHjoHCAAQsQMQQzoICAAQBxAKEB46CAgAEAcQBRAeOggIABAIEA0QHjoGCAAQBRAeOggIABANEAUQHjoECCEQClC6FFiIVmDNWmgDcAJ4AIABzAGIAf4ZkgEGMjYuOS4xmAEAoAEBqgEHZ3dzLXdpesgBCMABAQ&sclient=gws-wiz&ved=0ahUKEwih5MSTnNDvAhU1QUEAHUr4CjkQ4dUDCA0&uact=5

    Time for another payrise, what,what?

  3. mohandeer

    Good work Mike
    An email I received this morning which will hearten you possibly,Rabbi Alissa is a beautiful soul.
    You would know all about the ostracism, name calling and threats and more. You are not alone.

    “Dear Susan,
    I’m in my final days as JVP’s Deputy Director, and 
I’ve been thinking about the future of this beloved organization. I’ve also been thinking about the path that brought me here.
    Before I share my reflections with you, I want to ask: Will you give a gift today to honor my ten years at JVP? All donations up to $40,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar through the end of Passover, so your contribution would be especially meaningful.
    Almost 20 years ago, before I became a rabbi, a comrade and I spent weeks calling a list of liberal synagogues in Brooklyn to ask if they would host an upcoming tour of the shministim, Jewish Israeli high school students who refuse to serve in the Israeli army because of its treatment of Palestinians.
    Not a single congregation would host these young conscientious objectors. After the last call, I burst into tears. I was completely heartbroken that the community who taught me Judaism—which made me me, and led me to understand that I have a responsibility to stand with Palestinians—would refuse to hear these brave young voices challenging the occupation.
    That night, my comrade suggested I become a rabbi so there would be a congregation for us: for those committed to ensuring that Judaism endures as a force for good in the world. So I did.
    At the time, I couldn’t have imagined the community I would eventually find at JVP.
    I really just want to say how much I love you, my fellow anti-Zionist Jews and allies. I love you in your refusal to accept anything the way it is. How courageous you are to go against the grain. For some of us, our anti-Zionism came from those who raised us. Some of us, like me, were raised in Zionist communities and lost so much communal and familial comfort when we came out as anti-Zionists. Some of us came here through anti-war organizing in the 60s or ACT-UP in the 90s. Some of us just got here. We are multiracial and intergenerational. We are not one thing, but we are—you are—everything.
    Of course, our political commitments can also be excruciating. My support for Palestinian liberation has come between me and my family. Over the past 10 years, I have regularly received death threats, some delivered to my home. I have been barred from traveling to Israel. I was almost kicked out of rabbinical school.
    Like so many of you, I’ve developed the thick skin necessary to do this work. But we don’t want to let our skin be so tough that we don’t recognize the pain that is there. Let’s feel our pain AND feel our power.
    That’s why we need each other. That’s why we need JVP, and the havurot and minyanim, the DIY spiritual communities popping up across the country. That is why we make our own homes for each other and why we must tell each other we love each other more. I love you all.
    I am so enormously proud of all we have done together and still will do together, as we ensure Palestinians have all the tools, all the platforms, all the support they need as they organize and win their freedom.
    To my beloved anti-Zionist Jews and allies who face the ostracism and name calling and threats and still keep struggling to free Palestine, and Palestinians, and to build sacred Jewish practice, I want to bless you with the blessing I offer my kids’ keppies/heads every Friday night:
    Thihu asher tihieiu vtihieu bruchim bchol asher tihieu. May you be who you are, and may you be blessed in all that you are.
    Onward,
    Rabbi Alissa Wise
    P.S. Please consider making a gift today. Meeting this $40,000 match will go far to ensure JVP’s ability to continue fighting for Palestinian liberation.”

  4. disabledgrandad

    Now, this is a real anti-Semitic declaration unlike the politicised IHRA BS version it simple look…

    Anti Semitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).

    One sentence no need for multiple little add ons everyone can understand this and it shows simply if a comment or quote is anti-Semitic or simply comment on Israel. Now that is NOT anti-Semitic no matter how much the zionists want to twist the definition to make it so!

    Wonder why so called Labour wants to use a discredited version for political games maybe?

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