Antisemitism definition greatly helps exposing antisemites
In May, the
International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) accepted a working
definition of antisemitism. It required the votes of all of its 31 member
countries. These included the United States, Canada and 24 member states of the
European Union. The adopted non-legally binding text, besides defining
antisemitism, also lists a number of its examples. From its applications in the
past few months one can already see the definition’s potential in the battle
against antisemitism as well as several of its shortcomings.
announcement by British Prime Minister Theresa May that the United Kingdom will
adopt the IHRA definition has been a great boost for the definition. It is to
be used by the police, councils, universities and public bodies, to help those
bodies decide if an incident is antisemitic or not. UK police forces already
use it for this purpose.
decision to use the definition domestically has hopefully created a precedent
to be followed by other countries.
There are three
important areas where we can already see that the definition can be of help in
identifying antisemitic acts and slurs. For instance in the definition text it
says that it is antisemitic to apply “double standards by requiring of it
[Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
One can thus authoritatively claim that promoting BDS, which focuses
exclusively on Israel and/or the disputed areas, is antisemitic.
A second area
where the usefulness of the definition has been demonstrated is investigating
antisemitic statements of individuals. I was asked by the German AfD party to
write an opinion on a number of statements by Wolfgang Gedeon, one of its
parliamentarians in the federal state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
I used the IHRA
definition to prove that his statements were indeed antisemitic.
A German expert
came to the same conclusion. Gedeon was thereafter convinced by the AfD’s
leader to leave the faction.
analysis of statements concerning Israel by a member of the House of Lords,
Baroness Jenny Tonge, shows that many are antisemitic smears covered by the
definition. An analysis of the statements of former left wing MP George
Galloway produced the same results.
One often hears
claims that Jews and Israelis cannot be antisemites.
To prove the
contrary, one only has to analyze many statements of Israeli Gilad Atzmon, who
lives in the UK.
An example of a
Christian cleric making many antisemitic slurs is Jeremiah Wright, both when he
was the Protestant preacher of a big church in Chicago, and now after his
A third important
use of the definition can be the investigation of antisemitism in political
parties, universities, trade unions, NGOs and so on. One can also analyze
reports on investigations of antisemitism in such places to see whether their
conclusions fit the IHRA definition.
much-publicized inquiry was carried out by Shami Chakrabarti, who has since
become a baroness, at the request of the leader of the British Labour Party,
Jeremy Corbyn. He asked her to investigate whether there was antisemitism,
Islamophobia or racism in the party. Chakrabarti initially asked for written
suggestions from the public.
The Board of
Deputies – the British Jewish umbrella organization – advised her to use the
IHRA definition. I made the same suggestion to her in an open letter.
saw fit not to use any definition of antisemitism. Afterwards it was easy to
prove the highly unprofessional character of her report.
of antisemitism was carried out at the City University of New York (CUNY). The
investigators did not use any definition and produced a very flawed report.
which had to be approved by 31 countries by necessity has to be concise. The
practice of applying the definition has shown that it is far too short on many
issues, in particular those concerning Israel. For instance one often finds
antisemites who use terms like “Zionist” – not mentioned explicitly in the IHRA
definition – rather than “Jewish” conspiracies. Another major antisemitic
fallacy not addressed in the IHRA definition, is the use of false moral
equivalencies against Israel.
antisemitic acts are carried out in indirect ways. Perhaps the most extreme
antisemitic incident of 2016 was when UNESCO adopted a resolution which refers
to the Temple Mount exclusively as the Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque. In so
doing, it dissociated Jews and Christians from the importance of Jerusalem to
example: UN-associated bodies appoint commissions with biased mandates to
investigate Israeli acts in military campaigns. This is covered by the ‘double
standard’ example of the IHRA definition. These commissions afterwards write
highly defamatory reports of Israel. That was the case for instance with the
Even the head of
the commission, Judge Richard Goldstone, later criticized its report. These and
many other examples show that an additional specific definition of anti-Israeli
antisemitism is required.