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February 15, 2024
Dane County Board Resolutions

Update February 15, 2024
The substitute Resolution 314 (Miles) on Antisemitism and Resolution 321 on Islamophobia passed unanimously. Resolution 333 Calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza passed with Jeff Weigand voting no and Dave Ripp abstaining.

From Kierstin Huelsemann, Dane County Board of Supervisors District 27:

    February 9, 2024

    Hello. I am reaching out in hopes that you will support the following Resolutions which will be discussed this week by the Dane County Board’s Executive Committee and the board as a whole.

    • 2023 RES-314, CONDEMNING ANTISEMITISM IN THE DANE COUNTY COMMUNITY AND BEYOND
      (Support either the Huelsemann or Miles Sub)
    • 2023 RES-321, CONDEMNING ISLAMOPHOBIA IN THE DANE COUNTY COMMUNITY AND BEYOND
    • 2023 RES-333, CALLING FOR A CEASEFIRE IN GAZA

    Executive Committee Meeting
    Thursday, February 15, 2024 5:00 PM
    Attend in person at the City County Building, Room 354
    or Register by 4:30 pm to attend via zoom.

    County Board Meeting
    Thursday, February 15, 2024 7:00 PM
    Attend in person at the City County Building, Room 201
    or Register by 6:30 pm to attend via zoom.

    OR you can email the board with your comments and support.

Critics say bill targeting anti-Zionism is new McCarthyism

HR 6578 would build a commission with subpoena authority to force Americans to testify and produce evidence to “investigate the facts and causes of antisemitism in the present day”

Lisa Kwon, Prism, December 12th, 2023

color photograph of an outdoor protest in an urban center. in the middle of the frame, someone waves a large palestinian flag
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 11: People gather in front of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN) building across the street from United Nations Headquarters to protest U.S. veto of U.N. Security Council resolution requesting urgent humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza on Dec. 11, 2023, in New York. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A new bipartisan bill introduced Dec. 4 aims to target critics of Israel. Civil rights groups and organizers worry that House Resolution 6578, also known as Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act, would usher in a new era of McCarthyism during a pivotal time of resistance and legitimate criticism of the apartheid state of Israel and its violent occupation of Palestinian territories. 

“This should have every American worried that we are going down a road where people are going to be targeted simply for what they believe in,” said Abed Ayoub, the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). “We haven’t seen anything like this in the U.S. in our generation. It’s going to have some serious ramifications on this country.” 

HR 6578, which was introduced by Iowa Rep. Mariannette Jane Miller-Meeks, cites the “Hamas deadly invasion of the nation of Israel” on Oct. 7 and a subsequent purported rise of antisemitic activity as substantial reason to build a commission with broad subpoena authority to force Americans to testify and produce “evidence” related to the committee’s mission to “investigate the facts and causes of antisemitism in the present day.” Additionally, any American called to testify or produce evidence cannot decline to do so based on the Fifth Amendment, legally requiring them to self-incriminate before the committee. However, the bill appears to protect people from criminal prosecution on the basis of any self-incriminating testimony if a witness does indeed invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Two of the most vocal supporters of the Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act are the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 

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“The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) takes the threat of antisemitism very seriously, and groups like the ADL have watered down this term to apply it to critics of Israel,” said Robert McCaw, the government affairs department director of CAIR. “When we look at this bill that would create a commission with subpoena power to investigate claims of antisemitism, it is alarming to think that the ADL itself could get subpoena power to investigate critics of Israel whom they wrongly claim are antisemitic.” 

The ADL is often cited by political groups as a perpetrator of coordinated attacks on Muslims, Arabs, immigrants, and communities of color. In 1993, the organization was investigated for funding and orchestrating a surveillance operation to collect information on a wide range of individuals and organizations deemed anti-Jewish or hostile to Israel. One of their targets was ADC, which was already in a vulnerable period of rebuilding after three of their offices were bombed or set on fire, killing West Coast Director Alexander Michel Odeh and injuring other staff members. 

With firsthand insight into the illegal and violating ways that ADL stifles social justice movements, Ayoub fears the future of unchecked powers with a bill like the Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act. 

“If you now have a committee to review antisemitism, and they take action or hold people accountable like taking away your right to remain silent, it’s trying to chip away at the Constitution,” Ayoub said. “They’re beginning with Arabs and Palestinians because we’re the lowest-hanging fruit—no one will defend us, historically—but this is a buildup to strip away the rights of every American.”

The introduction of HR 6578 comes at a critical time as youth-led movements around the liberation of Palestine gain momentum. The recent increase in American student groups rallying and protesting for divestment from deals with Israel has consequently made them recent targets by supporters of the bill, such as ADL.

In a statement to Prism, Maryam Iqbal of the Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine writes, “The ADL has historically spied on anti-apartheid South African activists, is the single largest non-governmental police trainer in the country, demonizes nonviolent tactics by Palestinian activists such as BDS, supports antisemites such as Donald Trump and other right-wing influencers, has advocated for surveillance of Muslim communities in America, validated groups orchestrating online smear campaigns like Canary Mission, attacked the Black Lives Matter movement for support of Palestine, and erases anti-Zionist Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace.”

The crystalline understanding of ADL’s history among student-led groups has also led to a greater resolve to continue protesting and calling for immediate and total divestment even amid recent university-sanctioned suspensions of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. 

Similarly, the Palestinian Youth Movement has felt further moved to continue organizing through the increased law enforcement, censorship, and targeting of their communities because of the growing changing public opinion on the Palestinian people’s struggle. 

“Although this moment has clarified that elected officials do not stand for the interests of the people, it has also proven that popular support from the masses are with Palestine,” said Selena, an organizing member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement who asked to withhold her last name due to safety concerns. “If this bill were to be conceived, we will continue to organize through increased law enforcement, surveillance, censorship, and the targeting of our communities, we will continue to develop and disseminate education on the realities of the Zionist occupation and the realities of our liberatory struggle, and we will continue to take to the streets and take action until all of our demands are met because we know that power lies in the streets and not in government offices.”

Much of the fight against HR 6578 is to push back against the pro-Zionist objective of suppression after the events of early October led to a complete siege of Gaza. Since the State of Israel began its genocide of Gazans, violence against Palestinians has increased in the U.S. In October, a white man stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian boy named Wadea al-Fayoume to death in his home in Chicago and also stabbed and wounded al-Fayoume’s mother. In November, three Palestinian college students were shot by a white man on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner in Burlington, Vermont. As of Dec. 7, CAIR has received a “staggering” 2,171 complaintsof anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bias over the past two months. The total requests for help and reports of bias represented a 172% increase over a similar two-month period the previous year, legitimizing a need for vocal solidarity with the Muslim and Palestinian populations.

“Far too many people and institutions have spent the past two months weaponizing Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias to both justify the ongoing violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights here in America,” writes CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor in CAIR’s official press release of the report. 

In addition to the Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act, on Dec. 5 the House of Representatives passed a resolution to condemn the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world. With a 311-14 vote, the resolution affirms that the House “clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” 

The recent fervor for government authority on the definition and ramifications of antisemitic activity, backed by the likes of ADL and AIPAC, has galvanized groups like ADC and CAIR to continue fighting the coordinated misunderstanding that equates antisemitism with anti-Zionism. 

“There are people out there willing to sabotage and lie and create falsehoods, misinformation, and misunderstandings in the public simply to fulfill their political objectives even though they know they are wrong,” Ayoub said. “We see that happening here with the constant need to change the definition of antisemitism and move the goalpost to fulfill their political objectives … This is dangerous.”


Related

In the Shadow of the Holocaust, Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, December 9, 2023
How two definitions of antisemitsm differ

In the Shadow of the Holocaust

How the politics of memory in Europe obscures what we see in Israel and Gaza today

 
How two definitions of antisemitsm differ

“In 1948, Hannah Arendt wrote an open letter that began, ‘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.’… Just three years after the Holocaust, Arendt was comparing a Jewish Israeli party to the Nazi Party, an act that today would be a clear violation of the I.H.R.A.’s definition of antisemitism.”

“For the last seventeen years, Gaza has been a hyperdensely populated, impoverished, walled-in compound where only a small fraction of the population had the right to leave for even a short amount of time—in other words, a ghetto. Not like the Jewish ghetto in Venice or an inner-city ghetto in America but like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany. In the two months since Hamas attacked Israel, all Gazans have suffered from the barely interrupted onslaught of Israeli forces. Thousands have died. On average, a child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes. Israeli bombs have struck hospitals, maternity wards, and ambulances. Eight out of ten Gazans are now homeless, moving from one place to another, never able to get to safety.”

The Heinrich Böll Foundation has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Hannah Arendt Prize to the author for this essay.

A blackandwhite photo of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin Germany.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin, photographed in 2013. Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin / Magnum

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Berlin never stops reminding you of what happened there. Several museums examine totalitarianism and the Holocaust; the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe takes up an entire city block. In a sense, though, these larger structures are the least of it. The memorials that sneak up on you—the monument to burned books, which is literally underground, and the thousands of Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones,” built into sidewalks to commemorate individual Jews, Sinti, Roma, homosexuals, mentally ill people, and others murdered by the Nazis—reveal the pervasiveness of the evils once committed in this place. In early November, when I was walking to a friend’s house in the city, I happened upon the information stand that marks the site of Hitler’s bunker. I had done so many times before. It looks like a neighborhood bulletin board, but it tells the story of the Führer’s final days.

In the late nineteen-nineties and early two-thousands, when many of these memorials were conceived and installed, I visited Berlin often. It was exhilarating to watch memory culture take shape. Here was a country, or at least a city, that was doing what most cultures cannot: looking at its own crimes, its own worst self. But, at some point, the effort began to feel static, glassed in, as though it were an effort not only to remember history but also to insure that only this particular history is remembered—and only in this way. This is true in the physical, visual sense. Many of the memorials use glass: the Reichstag, a building nearly destroyed during the Nazi era and rebuilt half a century later, is now topped by a glass dome; the burned-books memorial lives under glass; glass partitions and glass panes put order to the stunning, once haphazard collection called “Topography of Terror.” As Candice Breitz, a South African Jewish artist who lives in Berlin, told me, “The good intentions that came into play in the nineteen-eighties have, too often, solidified into dogma.”

Among the few spaces where memory representation is not set in apparent permanence are a couple of the galleries in the new building of the Jewish Museum, which was completed in 1999. When I visited in early November, a gallery on the ground floor was showing a video installation called “Rehearsing the Spectacle of Spectres.” The video was set in Kibbutz Be’eri, the community where, on October 7th, Hamas killed more than ninety people—almost one in ten residents—during its attack on Israel, which ultimately claimed more than twelve hundred lives. In the video, Be’eri residents take turns reciting the lines of a poem by one of the community’s members, the poet Anadad Eldan: “. . . from the swamp between the ribs / she surfaced who had submerged in you / and you are constrained not shouting / hunting for the forms that scamper outside.” The video, by the Berlin-based Israeli artists Nir Evron and Omer Krieger, was completed nine years ago. It begins with an aerial view of the area, the Gaza Strip visible, then slowly zooms in on the houses of the kibbutz, some of which looked like bunkers. I am not sure what the artists and the poet had initially meant to convey; now the installation looked like a work of mourning for Be’eri. (Eldan, who is nearly a hundred years old, survived the Hamas attack.)

Down the hallway was one of the spaces that the architect Daniel Libeskind, who designed the museum, called “voids”—shafts of air that pierce the building, symbolizing the absence of Jews in Germany through generations. There, an installation by the Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman, titled “Fallen Leaves,” consists of more than ten thousand rounds of iron with eyes and mouths cut into them, like casts of children’s drawings of screaming faces. When you walk on the faces, they clank, like shackles, or like the bolt handle of a rifle. Kadishman dedicated the work to victims of the Holocaust and other innocent victims of war and violence. I don’t know what Kadishman, who died in 2015, would have said about the current conflict. But, after I walked from the haunting video of Kibbutz Be’eri to the clanking iron faces, I thought of the thousands of residents of Gaza killed in retaliation for the lives of Jews killed by Hamas. Then I thought that, if I were to state this publicly in Germany, I might get in trouble.

View of the Fallen Leaves exhibition room at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. A number of metal face cutouts lie on the ground.
Metal faces fill the floor of the “Fallen Leaves” exhibition room at the Jewish Museum, in Berlin.Photograph from Shutterstock

On November 9th, to mark the eighty-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht, a Star of David and the phrase “Nie Wieder Ist Jetzt!”—“Never Again Is Now!”—was projected in white and blue on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. That day, the Bundestag was considering a proposal titled “Fulfilling Historical Responsibility: Protecting Jewish Life in Germany,” which contained more than fifty measures intended to combat antisemitism in Germany, including deporting immigrants who commit antisemitic crimes; stepping up activities directed against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement; supporting Jewish artists “whose work is critical of antisemitism”; implementing a particular definition of antisemitism in funding and policing decisions; and beefing up coöperation between the German and the Israeli armed forces. In earlier remarks, the German Vice-Chancellor, Robert Habeck, who is a member of the Green Party, said that Muslims in Germany should “clearly distance themselves from antisemitism so as not to undermine their own right to tolerance.”

Germany has long regulated the ways in which the Holocaust is remembered and discussed. In 2008, when then Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke before the Knesset, on the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, she emphasized Germany’s special responsibility not only for preserving the memory of the Holocaust as a unique historical atrocity but also for the security of Israel. This, she went on, was part of Germany’s Staatsräson—the reason for the existence of the state. The sentiment has since been repeated in Germany seemingly every time the topic of Israel, Jews, or antisemitism arises, including in Habeck’s remarks. “The phrase ‘Israel’s security is part of Germany’s Staatsräson’ has never been an empty phrase,” he said. “And it must not become one.”

At the same time, an obscure yet strangely consequential debate on what constitutes antisemitism has taken place. In 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (I.H.R.A.), an intergovernmental organization, adopted the following definition: “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.” This definition was accompanied by eleven examples, which began with the obvious—calling for or justifying the killing of Jews—but also included “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.”

This definition had no legal force, but it has had extraordinary influence. Twenty-five E.U. member states and the U.S. State Department have endorsed or adopted the I.H.R.A. definition. In 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order providing for the withholding of federal funds from colleges where students are not protected from antisemitism as defined by the I.H.R.A. On December 5th of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution condemning antisemitism as defined by the I.H.R.A.; it was proposed by two Jewish Republican representatives and opposed by several prominent Jewish Democrats, including New York’s Jerry Nadler.

In 2020, a group of academics proposed an alternative definition of antisemitism, which they called the Jerusalem Declaration. It defines antisemitism as “discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish)” and provides examples that help distinguish anti-Israel statements and actions from antisemitic ones. But although some of the preëminent scholars of the Holocaust participated in drafting the declaration, it has barely made a dent in the growing influence of the I.H.R.A. definition. In 2021, the European Commission published a handbook “for the practical use” of the I.H.R.A. definition, which recommended, among other things, using the definition in training law-enforcement officers to recognize hate crimes, and creating the position of state attorney, or coördinator or commissioner for antisemitism.

Germany had already implemented this particular recommendation. In 2018, the country created the Office of the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism, a vast bureaucracy that includes commissioners at the state and local level, some of whom work out of prosecutors’ offices or police precincts. Since then, Germany has reported an almost uninterrupted rise in the number of antisemitic incidents: more than two thousand in 2019, more than three thousand in 2021, and, according to one monitoring group, a shocking nine hundred and ninety-four incidents in the month following the Hamas attack. But the statistics mix what Germans call Israelbezogener Antisemitismus—Israel-related antisemitism, such as instances of criticism of Israeli government policies—with violent attacks, such as an attempted shooting at a synagogue, in Halle, in 2019, which killed two bystanders; shots fired at a former rabbi’s house, in Essen, in 2022; and two Molotov cocktails thrown at a Berlin synagogue this fall. The number of incidents involving violence has, in fact, remained relatively steady, and has not increased following the Hamas attack.

There are now dozens of antisemitism commissioners throughout Germany. They have no single job description or legal framework for their work, but much of it appears to consist of publicly shaming those they see as antisemitic, often for “de-singularizing the Holocaust” or for criticizing Israel. Hardly any of these commissioners are Jewish. Indeed, the proportion of Jews among their targets is certainly higher. These have included the German-Israeli sociologist Moshe Zuckermann, who was targeted for supporting the B.D.S. movement, as was the South African Jewish photographer Adam Broomberg.

In 2019, the Bundestag passed a resolution condemning B.D.S. as antisemitic and recommending that state funding be withheld from events and institutions connected to B.D.S. The history of the resolution is telling. A version was originally introduced by the AfD, the radical-right ethnonationalist and Euroskeptic party then relatively new to the German parliament. Mainstream politicians rejected the resolution because it came from the AfD, but, apparently fearful of being seen as failing to fight antisemitism, immediately introduced a similar one of their own. The resolution was unbeatable because it linked B.D.S. to “the most terrible phase of German history.” For the AfD, whose leaders have made openly antisemitic statements and endorsed the revival of Nazi-era nationalist language, the spectre of antisemitism is a perfect, cynically wielded political instrument, both a ticket to the political mainstream and a weapon that can be used against Muslim immigrants.

The B.D.S. movement, which is inspired by the boycott movement against South African apartheid, seeks to use economic pressure to secure equal rights for Palestinians in Israel, end the occupation, and promote the return of Palestinian refugees. Many people find the B.D.S. movement problematic because it does not affirm the right of the Israeli state to exist—and, indeed, some B.D.S. supporters envision a total undoing of the Zionist project. Still, one could argue that associating a nonviolent boycott movement, whose supporters have explicitly positioned it as an alternative to armed struggle, with the Holocaust is the very definition of Holocaust relativism. But, according to the logic of German memory policy, because B.D.S. is directed against Jews—although many of the movement’s supporters are also Jewish—it is antisemitic. One could also argue that the inherent conflation of Jews with the state of Israel is antisemitic, even that it meets the I.H.R.A. definition of antisemitism. And, given the AfD’s involvement and the pattern of the resolution being used largely against Jews and people of color, one might think that this argument would gain traction. One would be wrong.

The German Basic Law, unlike the U.S. Constitution but like the constitutions of many other European countries, has not been interpreted to provide an absolute guarantee of freedom of speech. It does, however, promise freedom of expression not only in the press but in the arts and sciences, research, and teaching. It’s possible that, if the B.D.S. resolution became law, it would be deemed unconstitutional. But it has not been tested in this way. Part of what has made the resolution peculiarly powerful is the German state’s customary generosity: almost all museums, exhibits, conferences, festivals, and other cultural events receive funding from the federal, state, or local government. “It has created a McCarthyist environment,” Candice Breitz, the artist, told me. “Whenever we want to invite someone, they”—meaning whatever government agency may be funding an event—“Google their name with ‘B.D.S.,’ ‘Israel,’ ‘apartheid.’ ”

A couple of years ago, Breitz, whose art deals with issues of race and identity, and Michael Rothberg, who holds a Holocaust studies chair at the University of California, Los Angeles, tried to organize a symposium on German Holocaust memory, called “We Need to Talk.” After months of preparations, they had their state funding pulled, likely because the program included a panel connecting Auschwitz and the genocide of the Herero and the Nama people carried out between 1904 and 1908 by German colonizers in what is now Namibia. “Some of the techniques of the Shoah were developed then,” Breitz said. “But you are not allowed to speak about German colonialism and the Shoah in the same breath because it is a ‘levelling.’ ”

The insistence on the singularity of the Holocaust and the centrality of Germany’s commitment to reckoning with it are two sides of the same coin: they position the Holocaust as an event that Germans must always remember and mention but don’t have to fear repeating, because it is unlike anything else that’s ever happened or will happen. The German historian Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, who heads the Centre for Research on Antisemitism, in Berlin, has argued that unified Germany turned the reckoning with the Holocaust into its national idea, and as a result “any attempt to advance our understanding of the historical event itself, through comparisons with other German crimes or other genocides, can [be] and is being perceived as an attack on the very foundation of this new nation-state.” Perhaps that’s the meaning of “Never again is now.”

Some of the great Jewish thinkers who survived the Holocaust spent the rest of their lives trying to tell the world that the horror, while uniquely deadly, should not be seen as an aberration. That the Holocaust happened meant that it was possible—and remains possible. The sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman argued that the massive, systematic, and efficient nature of the Holocaust was a function of modernity—that, although it was by no means predetermined, it fell in line with other inventions of the twentieth century. Theodor Adorno studied what makes people inclined to follow authoritarian leaders and sought a moral principle that would prevent another Auschwitz.

In 1948, Hannah Arendt wrote an open letter that began, “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.” Just three years after the Holocaust, Arendt was comparing a Jewish Israeli party to the Nazi Party, an act that today would be a clear violation of the I.H.R.A.’s definition of antisemitism. Arendt based her comparison on an attack carried out in part by the Irgun, a paramilitary predecessor of the Freedom Party, on the Arab village of Deir Yassin, which had not been involved in the war and was not a military objective. The attackers “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.”

The occasion for Arendt’s letter was a planned visit to the United States by the party’s leader, Menachem Begin. Albert Einstein, another German Jew who fled the Nazis, added his signature. Thirty years later, Begin became Prime Minister of Israel. Another half century later, in Berlin, the philosopher Susan Neiman, who leads a research institute named for Einstein, spoke at the opening of a conference called “Hijacking Memory: The Holocaust and the New Right.” She suggested that she might face repercussions for challenging the ways in which Germany now wields its memory culture. Neiman is an Israeli citizen and a scholar of memory and morals. One of her books is called “Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil.” In the past couple of years, Neiman said, memory culture had “gone haywire.”

Germany’s anti-B.D.S. resolution, for example, has had a distinct chilling effect on the country’s cultural sphere. The city of Aachen took back a ten-thousand-euro prize it had awarded to the Lebanese-American artist Walid Raad; the city of Dortmund and the jury for the fifteen-thousand-euro Nelly Sachs Prize similarly rescinded the honor that they had bestowed on the British-Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie. The Cameroonian political philosopher Achille Mbembe had his invitation to a major festival questioned after the federal antisemitism commissioner accused him of supporting B.D.S. and “relativizing the Holocaust.” (Mbembe has said that he is not connected with the boycott movement; the festival itself was cancelled because of covid.) The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum, Peter Schäfer, resigned in 2019 after being accused of supporting B.D.S.—he did not, in fact, support the boycott movement, but the museum had posted a link, on Twitter, to a newspaper article that included criticism of the resolution. The office of Benjamin Netanyahu had also asked Merkel to cut the museum’s funding because, in the Israeli Prime Minister’s opinion, its exhibition on Jerusalem paid too much attention to the city’s Muslims. (Germany’s B.D.S. resolution may be unique in its impact but not in its content: a majority of U.S. states now have laws on the books that equate the boycott with antisemitism and withhold state funding from people and institutions that support it.)

After the “We Need to Talk” symposium was cancelled, Breitz and Rothberg regrouped and came up with a proposal for a symposium called “We Still Need to Talk.” The list of speakers was squeaky clean. A government entity vetted everyone and agreed to fund the gathering. It was scheduled for early December. Then Hamas attacked Israel. “We knew that after that every German politician would see it as extremely risky to be connected with an event that had Palestinian speakers or the word ‘apartheid,’ ” Breitz said. On October 17th, Breitz learned that funding had been pulled. Meanwhile, all over Germany, police were cracking down on demonstrations that call for a ceasefire in Gaza or manifest support for Palestinians. Instead of a symposium, Breitz and several others organized a protest. They called it “We Still Still Still Still Need to Talk.” About an hour into the gathering, police quietly cut through the crowd to confiscate a cardboard poster that read “From the River to the Sea, We Demand Equality.” The person who had brought the poster was a Jewish Israeli woman.

The “Fulfilling Historical Responsibility” proposal has since languished in committee. Still, the performative battle against antisemitism kept ramping up. In November, the planning of Documenta, one of the art world’s most important shows, was thrown into disarray after the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung dug up a petition that a member of the artistic organizing committee, Ranjit Hoskote, had signed in 2019. The petition, written to protest a planned event on Zionism and Hindutva in Hoskote’s home town of Mumbai, denounced Zionism as “a racist ideology calling for a settler-colonial, apartheid state where non-Jews have unequal rights, and in practice, has been premised on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on it under the heading “Antisemitism.” Hoskote resigned and the rest of the committee followed suit. A week later, Breitz read in a newspaper that a museum in Saarland had cancelled an exhibit of hers, which had been planned for 2024, “in view of the media coverage about the artist in connection with her controversial statements in the context of Hamas’ war of aggression against the state of Israel.”

This November, I left Berlin to travel to Kyiv, traversing, by train, Poland and then Ukraine. This is as good a place as any to say a few things about my relationship to the Jewish history of these lands. Many American Jews go to Poland to visit what little, if anything, is left of the old Jewish quarters, to eat food reconstructed according to recipes left by long-extinguished families, and to go on tours of Jewish history, Jewish ghettos, and Nazi concentration camps. I am closer to this history. I grew up in the Soviet Union in the nineteen-seventies, in the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust, because only a part of my family had survived it and because Soviet censors suppressed any public mention of it. When, around the age of nine, I learned that some Nazi war criminals were still on the loose, I stopped sleeping. I imagined one of them climbing in through our fifth-floor balcony to snatch me.

During summers, our cousin Anna and her sons would visit from Warsaw. Her parents had decided to kill themselves after the Warsaw Ghetto burned down. Anna’s father threw himself in front of a train. Anna’s mother tied the three-year-old Anna to her waist with a shawl and jumped into a river. They were plucked out of the water by a Polish man, and survived the war by hiding in the countryside. I knew the story, but I wasn’t allowed to mention it. Anna was an adult when she learned that she was a Holocaust survivor, and she waited to tell her own kids, who were around my age. The first time I went to Poland, in the nineteen-nineties, was to research the fate of my great-grandfather, who spent nearly three years in the Białystok Ghetto before being killed in Majdanek.

The Holocaust memory wars in Poland have run in parallel with Germany’s. The ideas being battled out in the two countries are different, but one consistent feature is the involvement of right-wing politicians in conjunction with the state of Israel. As in Germany, the nineteen-nineties and two-thousands saw ambitious memorialization efforts, both national and local, that broke through the silence of the Soviet years. Poles built museums and monuments that commemorated the Jews killed in the Holocaust—which claimed half of its victims in Nazi-occupied Poland—and the Jewish culture that was lost with them. Then the backlash came. It coincided with the rise to power of the right-wing, illiberal Law and Justice Party, in 2015. Poles now wanted a version of history in which they were victims of the Nazi occupation alongside the Jews, whom they tried to protect from the Nazis.

This was not true: instances of Poles risking their lives to save Jews from the Germans, as in the case of my cousin Anna, were exceedingly rare, while the opposite—entire communities or structures of the pre-occupation Polish state, such as the police or city offices, carrying out the mass murder of Jews—was common. But historians who studied the Poles’ role in the Holocaust came under attack. The Polish-born Princeton historian Jan Tomasz Gross was interrogated and threatened with prosecution for writing that Poles killed more Polish Jews than Germans. The Polish authorities hounded him even after he retired. The government squeezed Dariusz Stola, the head of polin, Warsaw’s innovative museum of Polish Jewish history, out of his post. The historians Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking were dragged into court for writing that the mayor of a Polish village had been a collaborator in the Holocaust.

When I wrote about Grabowski and Engleking’s case, I received some of the scariest death threats of my life. (I’ve been sent a lot of death threats; most are forgettable.) One, sent to a work e-mail address, read, “If you keep writing lies about Poland and the Poles, I will deliver these bullets to your body. See the attachment! Five of them in every kneecap, so you won’t walk again. But if you continue to spread your Jewish hatred, I will deliver next 5 bullets in your pussy. The third step you won’t notice. But don’t worry, I’m not visiting you next week or eight weeks, I’ll be back when you forget this e-mail, maybe in 5 years. You’re on my list. . . .” The attachment was a picture of two shiny bullets in the palm of a hand. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, headed by a government appointee, tweeted a condemnation of my article, as did the account of the World Jewish Congress. A few months later, a speaking invitation to a university fell through because, the university told my speaking agent, it had emerged that I might be an antisemite.

Throughout the Polish Holocaust-memory wars, Israel maintained friendly relations with Poland. In 2018, Netanyahu and the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, issued a joint statement against “actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators of different nations.” The statement asserted, falsely, that “structures of the Polish underground state supervised by the Polish government-in-exile created a mechanism of systematic help and support to Jewish people.” Netanyahu was building alliances with the illiberal governments of Central European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, in part to prevent an anti-occupation consensus from solidifying in the European Union. For this, he was willing to lie about the Holocaust.

Each year, tens of thousands of Israeli teen-agers travel to the Auschwitz museum before graduating from high school (though last year the trips were called off over security issues and the Polish government’s growing insistence that Poles’ involvement in the Holocaust be written out of history). It is a powerful, identity-forming trip that comes just a year or two before young Israelis join the military. Noam Chayut, a founder of Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation advocacy group in Israel, has written of his own high-school trip, which took place in the late nineteen-nineties, “Now, in Poland, as a high-school adolescent, I began to sense belonging, self-love, power and pride, and the desire to contribute, to live and be strong, so strong that no one would ever try to hurt me.”

Chayut took this feeling into the I.D.F., which posted him to the occupied West Bank. One day he was putting up property-confiscation notices. A group of children was playing nearby. Chayut flashed what he considered a kind and non-threatening smile at a little girl. The rest of the children scampered off, but the girl froze, terrified, until she, too, ran away. Later, when Chayut published a book about the transformation this encounter precipitated, he wrote that he wasn’t sure why it was this girl: “After all, there was also the shackled kid in the Jeep and the girl whose family home we had broken into late at night to remove her mother and aunt. And there were plenty of children, hundreds of them, screaming and crying as we rummaged through their rooms and their things. And there was the child from Jenin whose wall we blasted with an explosive charge that blew a hole just a few centimeters from his head. Miraculously, he was uninjured, but I’m sure his hearing and his mind were badly impaired.” But in the eyes of that girl, on that day, Chayut saw a reflection of annihilatory evil, the kind that he had been taught existed, but only between 1933 and 1945, and only where the Nazis ruled. Chayut called his book “The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust.”

I took the train from the Polish border to Kyiv. Nearly thirty-four thousand Jews were shot at Babyn Yar, a giant ravine on the outskirts of the city, in just thirty-six hours in September, 1941. Tens of thousands more people died there before the war was over. This was what is now known as the Holocaust by bullets. Many of the countries in which these massacres took place—the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine—were re-colonized by the Soviet Union following the Second World War. Dissidents and Jewish cultural activists risked their freedom to maintain a memory of these tragedies, to collect testimony and names, and, where possible, to clean up and protect the sites themselves. After the fall of the Soviet Union, memorialization projects accompanied efforts to join the European Union. “Holocaust recognition is our contemporary European entry ticket,” the historian Tony Judt wrote in his 2005 book, “Postwar.”

In the Rumbula forest, outside of Riga, for example, where some twenty-five thousand Jews were murdered in 1941, a memorial was unveiled in 2002, two years before Latvia was admitted to the E.U. A serious effort to commemorate Babyn Yar coalesced after the 2014 revolution that set Ukraine on an aspirational path to the E.U. By the time Russia invaded Ukraine, in February, 2022, several smaller structures had been completed and ambitious plans for a larger museum complex were in place. With the invasion, construction halted. One week into the full-scale war, a Russian missile hit directly next to the memorial complex, killing at least four people. Since then, some of the people associated with the project have reconstituted themselves as a team of war-crimes investigators.

The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has waged an earnest campaign to win Israeli support for Ukraine. In March, 2022, he delivered a speech to the Knesset, in which he didn’t stress his own Jewish heritage but focussed on the inextricable historical connection between Jews and Ukrainians. He drew unambiguous parallels between the Putin regime and the Nazi Party. He even claimed that eighty years ago Ukrainians rescued Jews. (As with Poland, any claim that such aid was widespread is false.) But what worked for the right-wing government of Poland did not work for the pro-Europe President of Ukraine. Israel has not given Ukraine the help it has begged for in its war against Russia, a country that openly supports Hamas and Hezbollah.

Still, both before and after the October 7th attack, the phrase I heard in Ukraine possibly more than any other was “We need to be like Israel.” Politicians, journalists, intellectuals, and ordinary Ukrainians identify with the story Israel tells about itself, that of a tiny but mighty island of democracy standing strong against enemies who surround it. Some Ukrainian left-wing intellectuals have argued that Ukraine, which is fighting an anti-colonial war against an occupying power, should see its reflection in Palestine, not Israel. These voices are marginal and most often belong to young Ukrainians who are studying or have studied abroad. Following the Hamas attack, Zelensky wanted to rush to Israel as a show of support and unity between Israel and Ukraine. Israeli authorities seem to have other ideas—the visit has not happened.

While Ukraine has been unsuccessfully trying to get Israel to acknowledge that Russia’s invasion resembles Nazi Germany’s genocidal aggression, Moscow has built a propaganda universe around portraying Zelensky’s government, the Ukrainian military, and the Ukrainian people as Nazis. The Second World War is the central event of Russia’s historical myth. During Vladimir Putin’s reign, as the last of the people who lived through the war have been dying, commemorative events have turned into carnivals that celebrate Russian victimhood. The U.S.S.R. lost at least twenty-seven million people in that war, a disproportionate number of them Ukrainians. The Soviet Union and Russia have fought in wars almost continuously since 1945, but the word “war” is still synonymous with the Second World War and the word “enemy” is used interchangeably with “fascist” and “Nazi.” This made it that much easier for Putin, in declaring a new war, to brand Ukrainians as Nazis.

Netanyahu has compared the Hamas murders at the music festival to the Holocaust by bullets. This comparison, picked up and recirculated by world leaders, including President Biden, serves to bolster Israel’s case for inflicting collective punishment on the residents of Gaza. Similarly, when Putin says “Nazi” or “fascist,” he means that the Ukrainian government is so dangerous that Russia is justified in carpet-bombing and laying siege to Ukrainian cities and killing Ukrainian civilians. There are significant differences, of course: Russia’s claims that Ukraine attacked it first, and its portrayals of the Ukrainian government as fascist, are false; Hamas, on the other hand, is a tyrannical power that attacked Israel and committed atrocities that we cannot yet fully comprehend. But do these differences matter when the case being made is for killing children?

In the first weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, when its troops were occupying the western suburbs of Kyiv, the director of Kyiv’s museum of the Second World War, Yurii Savchuk, was living at the museum and rethinking the core exhibit. One day after the Ukrainian military drove the Russians out of the Kyiv region, he met with the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and got permission to start collecting artifacts. Savchuk and his staff went to Bucha, Irpin, and other towns and cities that had just been “deoccupied,” as Ukrainians have taken to saying, and interviewed people who had not yet told their stories. “This was before the exhumations and the reburials,” Savchuk told me. “We saw the true face of war, with all its emotions. The fear, the terror, was in the atmosphere, and we absorbed it with the air.”

In May, 2022, the museum opened a new exhibit, titled “Ukraine – Crucifixion.” It begins with a display of Russian soldiers’ boots, which Savchuk’s team had collected. It’s an odd reversal: both the Auschwitz museum and the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., have displayed hundreds or thousands of shoes that belonged to victims of the Holocaust. They convey the scale of loss, even as they show only a tiny fraction of it. The display in Kyiv shows the scale of the menace. The boots are arranged on the floor of the museum in the pattern of a five-pointed star, the symbol of the Red Army that has become as sinister in Ukraine as the swastika. In September, Kyiv removed five-pointed stars from a monument to the Second World War in what used to be called Victory Square—it’s been renamed because the very word “Victory” connotes Russia’s celebration in what it still calls the Great Patriotic War. The city also changed the dates on the monument, from “1941-1945”—the years of the war between the Soviet Union and Germany—to “1939-1945.” Correcting memory one monument at a time.

In 1954, an Israeli court heard a libel case involving a Hungarian Jew named Israel Kastner. A decade earlier, when Germany occupied Hungary and belatedly rushed to implement the mass murder of its Jews, Kastner, as a leader of the Jewish community, entered into negotiations with Adolf Eichmann himself. Kastner proposed to buy the lives of Hungary’s Jews with ten thousand trucks. When this failed, he negotiated to save sixteen hundred and eighty-five people by transporting them by chartered train to Switzerland. Hundreds of thousands of other Hungarian Jews were loaded onto trains to death camps. A Hungarian Jewish survivor had publicly accused Kastner of having collaborated with the Germans. Kastner sued for libel and, in effect, found himself on trial. The judge concluded that Kastner had “sold his soul to the devil.”

The charge of collaboration against Kastner rested on the allegation that he had failed to tell people that they were going to their deaths. His accusers argued that, had he warned the deportees, they would have rebelled, not gone to the death camps like sheep to slaughter. The trial has been read as the beginning of a discursive standoff in which the Israeli right argues for preëmptive violence and sees the left as willfully defenseless. By the time of the trial, Kastner was a left-wing politician; his accuser was a right-wing activist.

Seven years later, the judge who had presided over the Kastner libel trial was one of the three judges in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Here was the devil himself. The prosecution argued that Eichmann represented but one iteration of the eternal threat to the Jews. The trial helped to solidify the narrative that, to prevent annihilation, Jews should be prepared to use force preëmptively. Arendt, reporting on the trial, would have none of this. Her phrase “the banality of evil” elicited perhaps the original accusations, levelled against a Jew, of trivializing the Holocaust. She wasn’t. But she saw that Eichmann was no devil, that perhaps the devil didn’t exist. She had reasoned that there was no such thing as radical evil, that evil was always ordinary even when it was extreme—something “born in the gutter,” as she put it later, something of “utter shallowness.”

Arendt also took issue with the prosecution’s story that Jews were the victims of, as she put it, “a historical principle stretching from Pharaoh to Haman—the victim of a metaphysical principle.” This story, rooted in the Biblical legend of Amalek, a people of the Negev Desert who repeatedly fought the ancient Israelites, holds that every generation of Jews faces its own Amalek. I learned this story as a teen-ager; it was the first Torah lesson I ever received, taught by a rabbi who gathered the kids in a suburb of Rome where Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union lived while waiting for their papers to enter the United States, Canada, or Australia. In this story, as told by the prosecutor in the Eichmann trial, the Holocaust is a predetermined event, part of Jewish history—and only Jewish history. The Jews, in this version, always have a well-justified fear of annihilation. Indeed, they can survive only if they act as though annihilation were imminent.

When I first learned the legend of Amalek, it made perfect sense to me. It described my knowledge of the world; it helped me connect my experience of getting teased and beaten up to my great-grandmother’s admonitions that using household Yiddish expressions in public was dangerous, to the unfathomable injustice of my grandfather and great-grandfather and scores of other relatives being killed before I was born. I was fourteen and lonely. I knew myself and my family to be victims, and the legend of Amalek imbued my sense of victimhood with meaning and a sense of community.

Netanyahu has been brandishing Amalek in the wake of the Hamas attack. The logic of this legend, as he wields it—that Jews occupy a singular place in history and have an exclusive claim on victimhood—has bolstered the anti-antisemitism bureaucracy in Germany and the unholy alliance between Israel and the European far right. But no nation is all victim all the time or all perpetrator all the time. Just as much of Israel’s claim to impunity lies in the Jews’ perpetual victim status, many of the country’s critics have tried to excuse Hamas’s act of terrorism as a predictable response to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Conversely, in the eyes of Israel’s supporters, Palestinians in Gaza can’t be victims because Hamas attacked Israel first. The fight over one rightful claim to victimhood runs on forever.

For the last seventeen years, Gaza has been a hyperdensely populated, impoverished, walled-in compound where only a small fraction of the population had the right to leave for even a short amount of time—in other words, a ghetto. Not like the Jewish ghetto in Venice or an inner-city ghetto in America but like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany. In the two months since Hamas attacked Israel, all Gazans have suffered from the barely interrupted onslaught of Israeli forces. Thousands have died. On average, a child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes. Israeli bombs have struck hospitals, maternity wards, and ambulances. Eight out of ten Gazans are now homeless, moving from one place to another, never able to get to safety.

The term “open-air prison” seems to have been coined in 2010 by David Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary who was then Prime Minister. Many human-rights organizations that document conditions in Gaza have adopted the description. But as in the Jewish ghettoes of Occupied Europe, there are no prison guards—Gaza is policed not by the occupiers but by a local force. Presumably, the more fitting term “ghetto” would have drawn fire for comparing the predicament of besieged Gazans to that of ghettoized Jews. It also would have given us the language to describe what is happening in Gaza now. The ghetto is being liquidated.

The Nazis claimed that ghettos were necessary to protect non-Jews from diseases spread by Jews. Israel has claimed that the isolation of Gaza, like the wall in the West Bank, is required to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians. The Nazi claim had no basis in reality, while the Israeli claim stems from actual and repeated acts of violence. These are essential differences. Yet both claims propose that an occupying authority can choose to isolate, immiserate—and, now, mortally endanger—an entire population of people in the name of protecting its own.

From the earliest days of Israel’s founding, the comparison of displaced Palestinians to displaced Jews has presented itself, only to be swatted away. In 1948, the year the state was created, an article in the Israeli newspaper Maariv described the dire conditions—“old people so weak they were on the verge of death”; “a boy with two paralyzed legs”; “another boy whose hands were severed”—in which Palestinians, mostly women and children, departed the village of Tantura after Israeli troops occupied it: “One woman carried her child in one arm and with the other hand she held her elderly mother. The latter couldn’t keep up the pace, she yelled and begged her daughter to slow down, but the daughter did not consent. Finally the old lady collapsed onto the road and couldn’t move. The daughter pulled out her hair … lest she not make it on time. And worse than this was the association to Jewish mothers and grandmothers who lagged this way on the roads under the crop of murderers.” The journalist caught himself. “There is obviously no room for such a comparison,” he wrote. “This fate—they brought upon themselves.”

Jews took up arms in 1948 to claim land that was offered to them by a United Nations decision to partition what had been British-controlled Palestine. The Palestinians, supported by surrounding Arab states, did not accept the partition and Israel’s declaration of independence. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Transjordan invaded the proto-Israeli state, starting what Israel now calls the War of Independence. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the fighting. Those who did not were driven out of their villages by Israeli forces. Most of them were never able to return. The Palestinians remember 1948 as the Nakba, a word that means “catastrophe” in Arabic, just as Shoah means “catastrophe” in Hebrew. That the comparison is unavoidable has compelled many Israelis to assert that, unlike the Jews, Palestinians brought their catastrophe on themselves.

The day I arrived in Kyiv, someone handed me a thick book. It was the first academic study of Stepan Bandera to be published in Ukraine. Bandera is a Ukrainian hero: he fought against the Soviet regime; dozens of monuments to him have appeared since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. He ended up in Germany after the Second World War, led a partisan movement from exile, and died after being poisoned by a K.G.B. agent, in 1959. Bandera was also a committed fascist, an ideologue who wanted to build a totalitarian regime. These facts are detailed in the book, which has sold about twelve hundred copies. (Many bookstores have refused to carry it.) Russia makes gleeful use of Ukraine’s Bandera cult as evidence that Ukraine is a Nazi state. Ukrainians mostly respond by whitewashing Bandera’s legacy. It is ever so hard for people to wrap their minds around the idea that someone could have been the enemy of your enemy and yet not a benevolent force. A victim and also a perpetrator. Or vice versa. ♦

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described what Jan Tomasz Gross wrote. It also misstated when Anna’s parents decided to kill themselves and Anna’s age at the time of those events.

Debunking The Myth That Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitic

This article was first published in 2019

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons WhyPhoto: Gili Getz

 
Peter BeinartPeter Beinart, The Forward, February 27, 2019

It’s a bewildering and alarming time to be a Jew, both because anti-Semitism is rising and because so many politicians are responding to it not by protecting Jews but by victimizing Palestinians.

On February 16, members of France’s Yellow Vest protest movement hurled anti-Semitic insults at the distinguished French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. On February 19, swastikas were found on 80 gravestones in Alsace. Two days later, French President Emmanuel Macron, after announcing that Europe was “facing a resurgence of anti-Semitism unseen since World War II,” unveiled new measures to fight it.

Among them was a new official definition of anti-Semitism. That definition, produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, includes among its “contemporary examples” of anti-Semitism “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.” In other words, anti-Zionism is Jew hatred.

In so doing, Macron joined Germany, Britain, The United States and roughly thirty other governments. And like them, he made a tragic mistake.

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Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

People take part in a rally against anti-Semitism on the Republic Square on February 19, 2019 in Paris, France. Image by Getty Images

Anti-Zionism is not inherently anti-Semitic — and claiming it is uses Jewish suffering to erase the Palestinian experience.

Yes, anti-Semitism is growing. Yes, world leaders must fight it fiercely. But in the words of a great Zionist thinker, “This is not the way.”

The argument that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic rests on three pillars. The first is that opposing Zionism is anti-Semitic because it denies to Jews what every other people enjoys: a state of its own. “The idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to self-determination but Jews cannot,” declared Chuck Schumer in 2017, “is anti-Semitism.”

As David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, put it last year, “To deny the Jewish people, of all the peoples on earth, the right to self-determination surely is discriminatory.”

All the peoples on earth? The Kurds don’t have their own state. Neither do the Basques, Catalans, Scots, Kashmiris, Tibetans, Abkhazians, Ossetians, Lombards, Igbo, Oromo, Uyghurs, Tamils, Quebecois nor dozens of other peoples who have created nationalist movements to seek self-determination but failed to achieve it.

Yet barely anyone suggests that opposing a Kurdish or Catalan state makes you an anti-Kurdish or anti-Catalan bigot. It’s widely recognized that states based on ethnic nationalism — states created to represent and protect one particular ethnic group — are not the only legitimate way to ensure public order and individual freedom. Sometimes it’s better to foster civic nationalism, a nationalism built around borders rather than heritage: to make Spanish identity more inclusive of Catalans or Iraqi identity more inclusive of Kurds, rather than carving those multi-ethnic states up.



You’d think Jewish leaders would understand this. You’d think they would understand it because many of the same Jewish leaders who call national self-determination a universal right are quite comfortable denying it to Palestinians.

Argument number two is a variation on this theme. Maybe it’s not bigoted to oppose a people’s quest for statehood. But it’s bigoted to take away that statehood once achieved. “It is one thing to argue, in the moot court of historical what-ifs, that Israel should not have come into being,” argued New York Times columnist Bret Stephens earlier this month. However, “Israel is now the home of nearly nine million citizens, with an identity that is as distinctively and proudly Israeli as the Dutch are Dutch or the Danes Danish. Anti-Zionism proposes nothing less than the elimination of that identity and the political dispossession of those who cherish it.”

But it’s not bigoted to try to turn a state based on ethnic nationalism — a state designed to protect and represent one ethnic group — into a state based on civic nationalism, in which no ethnic group enjoys special privileges.

In the nineteenth century, Afrikaners created several countries — among them the Transvaal and the Orange Free State — designed to fulfill their quest for national self-determination. Then, in 1909, those two Afrikaner states merged with two states dominated by English-speaking whites to become the Union of South Africa (later the Republic of South Africa), which offered a kind of national self-determination to white South Africans.

The problem, of course, was that the versions of self-determination upheld by the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and apartheid South Africa excluded millions of blacks living within their borders.

This changed in 1994. By ending apartheid, South Africa replaced an Afrikaner ethnic nationalism and a white racial nationalism with a civic nationalism that encompassed people of all ethnicities and races. It inaugurated a constitution that guaranteed “the right of the South African people as a whole to self-determination.”

That wasn’t bigotry, but it’s opposite.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

A BDS protest of the Israeli Philharmonic outside Carnegie Hall today in NYC. Image by Photo: Gili Getz

I don’t consider Israel an apartheid state. But its ethnic nationalism excludes many of the people under its control. Stephens notes that Israel contains almost nine million citizens. What he doesn’t mention is that Israel also contains close to five million non-citizens: Palestinians who live under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (yes, Israel still controls Gaza) without basic rights in the state that dominates their lives.

One reason Israel doesn’t give these Palestinians citizenship is because, as a Jewish state designed to protect and represent Jews, it wants to retain a Jewish majority, and giving five million Palestinians the vote would imperil that.



Even among Israel’s nine million citizens, roughly two million — the so-called “Arab Israelis” — are Palestinian. Stephens says overturning Zionism would mean the “political dispossession” of Israelis. But, according to polls, most of Israel’s Palestinian citizens see it the opposite way. For them, Zionism represents a form of political dispossession. Because they live in a state that privileges Jews, they must endure an immigration policy that allows any Jew in the world to gain instant Israeli citizenship yet makes Palestinian immigration to Israel virtually impossible.

They live in a state whose national anthem speaks of the “Jewish soul,” whose flag features a Star of David and which, by tradition, excludes Israel’s Palestinian parties from its governing coalitions. A commission created in 2003 by the Israeli government itself described Israel’s “handling of the Arab sector” as “discriminatory.”

So long as Israel remains a Jewish state, no Palestinian citizen can credibly tell her son or daughter that they can become prime minister of the country in which they live.

In these ways, Israel’s form of ethnic nationalism—Zionism—denies equality to the non-Jews who live under Israeli control.



My preferred solution would be for the West Bank and Gaza Strip to become a Palestinian state, thus giving Palestinians in those territories citizenship in an ethnically nationalist (though hopefully democratic) country of their own.

I’d also try to make Israel’s ethnic nationalism more inclusive by, among other things, adding a stanza to Israel’s national anthem that acknowledges the aspirations of its Palestinian citizens.

But, in a post-Holocaust world where anti-Semitism remains frighteningly prevalent, I want Israel to remain a state with a special obligation to protect Jews.

To seek to replace Israel’s ethnic nationalism with civic nationalism, however, is not inherently bigoted. Last year, three Palestinian Members of the Knesset introduced a bill to turn Israel from a Jewish state into a “state for all its citizens.” As one of those Knesset members, Jamal Zahalka, explained, “We do not deny Israel or its right to exist as a home for Jews. We are simply saying that we want to base the existence of the state not on the preference of Jews, but on the basics of equality… The state should exist in the framework of equality, and not in the framework of preference and superiority.”

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Israeli Arab lawmakers were ejected from parliament as they stood to protest a speech by Vice President Mike Pence. Image by Getty Images

One might object that it’s hypocritical for Palestinians to try to repeal Jewish statehood inside Israel’s original boundaries while promoting Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza. One might also ask whether Zahalka’s vision of Jewish and Palestinian equality in a post-Zionist state is naïve given that powerful Palestinian movements like Hamas want not equality but Islamic domination.

These are reasonable criticisms. But are Zahalka and his colleagues — who face structural discrimination in a Jewish state — anti-Semites because they want to replace Zionism with a civic nationalism that promises equality to people of all ethnic and religious groups?

Of course not.

There is, finally, a third argument for why anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. It’s that, as a practical matter, the two animosities simply go together.

“Of course it’s theoretically possible to distinguish anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism, just as it’s theoretically possible to distinguish segregationism from racism,” writes Stephens. In reality, however, just as virtually all segregationists are also racists, virtually all anti-Zionists are also anti-Semites. You rarely find one without the other.

But that claim is empirically false. In the real world, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism don’t always go together. It’s easy to find anti-Semitism among people who, far from opposing Zionism, enthusiastically embrace it.

Before Israel’s creation, some of the world leaders who most ardently promoted Jewish statehood did so because they did not want Jews in their own countries. Before declaring, as Foreign Secretary in 1917, that Britain “view[s] with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” Arthur Balfour had supported the 1905 Aliens Act, which restricted Jewish immigration to the United Kingdom.

And two years after his famous declaration, Balfour explained that Zionism would “mitigate the age-long miseries created for Western civilization by the presence in its midst of a Body [the Jews] which it too long regarded as alien and even hostile, but which it was equally unable to expel or to absorb.”

In the 1930s, the Polish government adopted a similar tack. It’s ruling party, which excluded Jews, trained Zionist fighters from Betar and the Irgun on Polish military bases. Why? Because it wanted Polish Jews to emigrate. And a Jewish state would give them somewhere to go.

You find echoes of this anti-Semitic Zionism among some right-wing American Christians who are far friendlier to the Jews of Israel than the Jews of the United States.

In 1980, Jerry Falwell, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, quipped that Jews “can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose.”

Benjamin Netanyahu in 2005 said, “we have no greater friend in the whole world than Pat Robertson” — the same Pat Robertson who later called former US Air Force Judge Mikey Weinstein a “little Jewish radical” for promoting religious freedom in the American military.

After being criticized by the Anti-Defamation League in 2010 for calling George Soros a “puppet master” who “wants to bring America to her knees” and “reap obscene profits off us,” Glenn Beck travelled to Jerusalem to hold a pro-Israel rally.

More recently, Donald Trump — who told the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015 that “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money” — invited Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who has said Jews are going to hell for not accepting Jesus, to lead a prayer at the ceremony inaugurating the American embassy in Jerusalem.

In 2017, Richard Spencer, who leads crowds in Nazi salutes, called himself a “white Zionist,” who sees Israel as a model for the white homeland he wants in the United States.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, calls himself a Zionist. Image by Getty Images

Some of the European leaders who traffic most blatantly in anti-Semitism—Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party and Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany, which promotes nostalgia for the Third Reich—publicly champion Zionism too.

If anti-Semitism exists without anti-Zionism, anti-Zionism also clearly exists without anti-Semitism.

Consider the Satmar, the largest Hasidic sect in the world. In 2017, twenty thousand Satmar men — a larger crowd than attended that year’s AIPAC Policy Conference — filled Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for a rally aimed at showing, in the words of one organizer, that “We feel very strongly that there should not be and could not be a State of Israel before the Messiah comes.”

Last year, Satmar Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum told thousands of followers that, “We’ll continue to fight God’s war against Zionism and all its aspects.”

Say what you want about Rebbe Teitelbaum and the Satmar, but they’re not anti-Semites.

Neither is Avrum Burg. Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset, in 2018 declared that settlement growth in the West Bank had rendered the two state solution impossible. Thus, he argued, Israelis must “depart from the Zionist paradigm, and move into a more inclusive paradigm. Israel must belong to all of its residents, including Arabs, not to the Jews alone.”

Other Jewish Israeli progressives, including former deputy Jerusalem mayor Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and the activists of the Federation Movement, have followed a similar path.

Can one question their proposals? Of course. Are they anti-Semites? Of course not.

To be sure, some anti-Zionists really are anti-Semites: David Duke, Louis Farrakhan and the authors of the 1988 Hamas Covenant certainly qualify. So do the thugs from France’s Yellow Vest movement who called Finkielkraut a “dirty Zionist shit.”

In some precincts, there’s a growing and reprehensible tendency to use the fact that many Jews are Zionists (or simply assumed to be Zionists) to bar them from progressive spaces. People who care about the moral health of the American left will be fighting this prejudice for years to come.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Pro-Israeli protesters with an Israeli flag confront Ultra-Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionism protesters who joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Image by Getty Images

But while anti-Zionist anti-Semitism is likely on the rise, so is Zionist anti-Semitism. And, in the United States, at least, it’s not clear that anti-Zionists are any more likely to harbor anti-Semitic attitudes than people who support the Jewish state.

In 2016, the ADL gauged anti-Semitism by asking Americans whether they agreed with statements like “Jews have too much power” and “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.” It found that anti-Semitism was highest among the elderly and poorly educated: “The most well educated Americans are remarkably free of prejudicial views, while less educated Americans are more likely to hold anti-Semitic views. Age is also a strong predictor of anti-Semitic propensities. Younger Americans — under 39 — are also remarkably free of prejudicial views.”

In 2018, however, when the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ attitudes about Israel, it discovered the reverse pattern: Americans over the age of 65 — the very cohort that expressed the most anti-Semitism — also expressed the most sympathy for Israel. By contrast, Americans under 30, who according to the ADL harbored the least anti-Semitism, were least sympathetic to Israel.

It was the same with education. Americans who possessed a high school degree or less — the most anti-Semitic educational cohort — was the most pro-Israel. Americans with “postgraduate degrees” — the least anti-Semitic — were the least pro-Israel.

As statistical evidence goes, this is hardly airtight. But it confirms what anyone who listens to progressive and conservative political commentary can grasp: That younger progressives are highly universalistic. They’re suspicious of any form of nationalism that seems exclusive. That universalism makes them suspicious of both Zionism and the white Christian nationalism that in the United States sometimes shades into anti-Semitism.

By contrast, some older Trump supporters, who fear a homogenizing globalism, admire Israel for preserving Jewish identity while yearning to preserve America’s Christian identity in ways that exclude Jews.

If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are both conceptually different and, in practice, often espoused by different people, why are politicians like Macron responding to rising anti-Semitism by calling anti-Zionism a form of bigotry?

Because, in many countries, that’s what communal Jewish leaders want them to do.

It’s an understandable impulse: Let the people threatened by anti-Semitism define anti-Semitism.

The problem is that, in many countries, Jewish leaders serve both as defenders of local Jewish interests and defenders of the Israeli government. And the Israeli government wants to define anti-Zionism as bigotry because doing so helps Israel kill the two state solution with impunity.

For years, Barack Obama and John Kerry warned that if Israel continued the settlement growth in the West Bank that made a Palestinian state impossible, Palestinians would stop demanding a Palestinian state alongside Israel and instead demand one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, neither Jewish nor Palestinian, that replaces Israel.

Defining anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism reduces that threat. It means that if Palestinians and their supporters respond to the demise of the two state solution by demanding one equal state, some of the world’s most powerful governments will declare them bigots.

Which leaves Israel free to entrench its own version of one state, which denies millions of Palestinians basic rights.



Silencing Palestinians isn’t a particularly effective way to fight rising anti-Semitism, much of which comes from people who like neither Palestinians nor Jews.

But, just as importantly, it undermines the moral basis of that fight.

Anti-Semitism isn’t wrong because it’s wrong to denigrate and dehumanize Jews. Anti-Semitism is wrong because it’s wrong to denigrate and dehumanize anyone. Which means, ultimately, that any effort to fight anti-Semitism that contributes to the denigration and dehumanization of Palestinians is no fight against anti-Semitism at all.


Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. He is also a Contributor to The Atlantic and a CNN Political Commentator.

Have the People Protesting a Palestinian Literary Festival Read Any Palestinian Literature?

 
Sources Cited in this Video

  • The Palestine Writes Literature Festival, held last weekend.
  • A letter by University of Pennsylvania alums asking the university to denounce the festival.
  • A letter by the Brandeis Center claiming that the Palestine Writes festival will endanger Jewish students.
  • Why Zionists in the US and Europe express higher rates of antisemitism, as traditionally defined, than anti-Zionists.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Hi. Our guest this Friday at noon EDT, our normal time, will be with Samuel Moyn. Our conversation will be with Samuel Moyn. Samuel is a professor of law and history at Yale. He’s written a really important new book, which has gotten a lot of attention, called Liberalism against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times. It’s a portrait of a series of influential thinkers like Lionel Trilling and Isaiah Berlin, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Judith Shklar, whose discourse he argues has had really profound and negative effects on the way Americans think about politics and liberalism in particular today. But for our purposes, it’s also interesting because he talks about the way they thought about Zionism, and the relationship between Cold War liberalism and Zionism. And so, the book, I think, has a lot to say also about the way that period in the middle of the twentieth century has influenced, shaped discourse in the US about Zionism too. So, that’ll be Friday at noon for paid subscribers who also get access to our library of previous calls with people like Ilhan Omar, Bret Stephens, Thomas Friedman, Noam Chomsky, and others.

I wanted to say something about this literary festival that was held this weekend the University of Pennsylvania. It’s the only North American Palestinian Literary Festival. And it elicited this letter from alums of the University of Pennsylvania, basically calling on the university to denounce it, and not saying it should be shut down, but basically saying that Penn and other institutions like that should basically make it harder for these kinds of things to take place. And I looked at the names of those folks and I thought, you know, I bet I know some of these people, and if not, they’re only one degree of separation away from me. We’re probably roughly the same age, me and these alums. I’m obviously Jewish too, and I went to a similar kind of university. And I feel like I wish I could speak to the folks who wrote that letter, and so this is kind of my effort to do so. And if you are one of those people, thank you for listening. And if you know some of those people, maybe consider passing this on to them.

And the question I would ask the folks who signed the letter is: how many novels by Palestinians have you read? How many books in general about Palestinians have you read? How many lectures have you heard Palestinians give? How much time have you spent talking to Palestinians about their experience, seeing their experience in the West Bank or even inside Israel proper? Now, there may be some folks on that letter for whom the answer is they’ve done that a lot. Good for them. But my assumption is going to be that for the vast majority, the answer is very little or not at all. Because that’s the norm in the organized American Jewish community is that listening to Palestinians is very unusual. Jewish organizations in general don’t expose their communities to Palestinian perspectives. And so, it seems to me, if that’s the case, there is a really sad, even tragic, irony in this, right? Because a group of people who have not exposed themselves to Palestinian cultural and literary production are basically going out to try to make it hard for Palestinians to speak publicly about Palestinian art, culture in the public square. And I really believe that if more of those folks who signed the letter actually had had the very experience that the Palestinian Rights Literary Festival is trying to create, they would not be trying to demonize it and trying to get the University of Pennsylvania to make it harder for it to operate.

And the reason is this. The discourse in this letter, which is typical of American Jewish discourse, is that the speakers in this literary festival, or at least some of them, are antisemitic and hateful because of what they say about Israel and Zionism. And generally, what they say about Israel and Zionism that people claim to be antisemitic and hateful is that a Jewish state is inherently immoral, and unjust, and it’s settler colonial, and it practices apartheid. These various kinds of things, right? These very hostile and fundamental critiques of the very notion of Israel and Zionism, and even some speakers have said that they support armed resistance against Israel. So, this is interpreted as antisemitism.

But if you listen to Palestinians talk about their own experience, then you have a fundamentally different context from which to understand these kinds of comments, right. Because Palestinians suffer brutal oppression at the hands of the Israeli state. And that’s not new, right? They have for a very, very long time. And so, if you understand that context, then these statements of hostility towards Israel and Zionism don’t necessarily seem antisemitic and pathological, they seem like a response to the Palestinian experience. But what happens in American Jewish discourse is the question of what has actually happened to Palestinians—what happened to Palestinians when most Palestinians were expelled in the Nakba in 1948, what it’s like for Palestinians to live today in the West Bank without the most basic rights, the right to be a citizen of the country in which you live—all of that is pushed to the side, not discussed at all. Or if it’s discussed, it’s discussed in a way that basically suggests that Palestinians are to blame for their own dispossession. And once that’s shunted to the side, there’s this claim that these statements of hostility to Israel and Zionism are antisemitic and endanger Jews.

But if we were to think about another group of people who experience oppression and the way they talk about their oppressors, we would immediately understand that this interpretation doesn’t make sense, right? So, if you were thinking about a Ukrainian literary festival, and the way they would talk about Russians, or a Uighur literary festival and the way they would talk about the Chinese state, right, and you saw that those literary festivals had speakers who had said, these states are fundamentally unjust. They’re fundamentally discriminatory. They are committing horrific acts of violence, right? And they use terms like colonial, or settler colonial, or apartheid, or racist, or whatever, or even a Nazi analogy, right? We might not agree with every particular statement, right? But we would recognize that it doesn’t come from pathological hatred. It comes from the experience of oppression. We would understand that that experience of oppression is central, right, to the hostility that you would see among Uighurs towards the Chinese state or Ukrainians towards the Russian state. And if somebody Ukrainian said they supported armed resistance against the Russian state, we would say we understand the reasons for that. And if they supported armed resistance against Russian civilians, I would say I oppose it just like I oppose armed resistance against Israeli civilians. But I would also understand that it comes out of a context in which these people are themselves the subject of tremendous violence. All of this would be kind of obvious, right? Because in American public discourse and Jewish public discourse too, it’s taken for granted, it’s accepted that Uighurs and Ukrainians are being denied basic rights. But when it comes to Palestinians, that central fundamental, foundational fact, right, is basically treated as irrelevant, or denied all together.

And so, I think that we have in this situation a kind of an effort by people inside the Jewish community to essentially reproduce our own ignorance. Because it is the ignorance of the Palestinian experience that I think leads people to not understand that there are very good reasons for Palestinians to have hostility to Zionism and Israel. Doesn’t mean that you have to agree with every particular statement that any particular person has made, but that you have to understand that that’s the foundational context, right? Just as you would understand that if you’re dealing with essentially discourse of Black Americans vis-à-vis white Americans, or any group of people that’s oppressed—or, you know, the way Jews thought about Polish or Ukrainian people a hundred years ago—that a context comes out of that. That there’s a context of oppression that you have to have to understand this discourse.

And so, instead what you see from this letter is this idea that Jewish students are endangered by this discourse, which I think is really nonsense. In fact, if you look at the best data that we have—and I’ve said this time and time again about antisemitism United States, antisemitism defined the old-fashioned way like statements about Jews as Jews, you know, are they disloyal? Are they dishonest, etc., etc.? It’s vastly, vastly higher on the right. In fact, I think there’s pretty compelling evidence that anti-Zionists in the United States have lower levels of antisemitism than do Zionists. And I’ll link to some of the stuff I’ve written about this. But instead, what we have is this fervent effort always to connect Palestinian critiques of Israel and Zionism with assaults on Jews, right, even though the data shows that in fact—and I’m quoting Hersch and Royden’s paper here, which is the best thing we have on the subject, that ‘antisemitic attitudes are rare on the ideological left but common on the ideological right.’

Despite that, we had this constant discourse of keeping Jewish students safe, which really, actually mirrors the kind of worst, most caricatured version of ‘woke’ safe space discourse. Jewish students at Penn are not threatened by Palestinian speakers talking about their experience. And the language of safety in this case is actually an effort to try to keep them ignorant of the Palestinian experience, right, and to try to get the university to make it less likely that they will actually listen to Palestinians. Which is fundamentally antithetical to the purpose of a university. What we should be doing is encouraging these Jewish students to go outside of their comfort zone and listen to Palestinians even though it’s going to be difficult, and produce cognitive dissonance for them, and be painful in some ways for them to hear that the state that they have been raised to love has actually done these terrible things to Palestinians. That’s not violence. That’s not a threat to someone’s safety. It’s education. This is what we should want all students to be experiencing while they’re at university. And it drives me crazy that many of the people who understand that point the most clearly and make it so often when it comes to the safe spaces of Black students or LGBT students or whatever. When it comes to Jewish students, they actually want to prevent that process of education because they describe the process of education vis-à-vis the Palestinian experience, as an experience of threat to the safety of Jewish students. It’s not. It’s actually an experience of education that we should welcome. So, again our call on Friday is going to be with Samuel Moyn at noon. I hope many of you will join us.

Subscribe to The Beinart Notebook

A conversation about American foreign policy, Palestinian freedom and the Jewish people. Thousands of paid subscribers.

 

Why we are anti-Zionist Jews

JUDITH LAITMAN AND TSELA BARR — GUEST COLUMN, JUNE 14, 2023

This year on April 26, millions celebrated the 75th anniversary of Israel’s creation on Israel Independence Day. However, we, as anti-Zionist Jews, did not celebrate.

Instead, on May 15, we stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people by commemorating the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” The Nakba was the mass expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians prior to and following the official establishment of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. It was the direct result of a deliberate campaign by Israel to expel the region’s indigenous people.

During that period, an estimated 13,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces or terrorist gangs. More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. In just a few months, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris, 34 massacres of Palestinians occurred. As a result, 731,000 Palestinians fled and were never allowed to return to their homes.

While the Holocaust created an urgent need for a safe haven for Jewish refugees during and after World War II, the establishment of Israel was the culmination of the Zionist movement that began a half-century before. This movement sought an exclusive homeland for the Jewish people, a group that had faced persecution and displacement for much of their history.

Ironically, Palestine had long been a place that accepted Jewish immigrants. In fact, by 1931 Jews were approximately 17% of Palestine’s population. Zionists, however, wanted more. In 1958, Israel Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the country’s lawmakers that in just a decade of existence Israel had “redeemed thousands of Jews from poverty and degeneration in exile, and transformed them into proud, creative Jews.”

Sadly, the Zionists’ dream became the Palestinians’ nightmare. Indeed, the Nakba that began 75 years ago has never ended.

The reality is that Zionism is not and never has been a redemption for the Jewish people. Rather, it has been a colonial project of displacement, theft of land and subjugation of one set of people by another. The truth is that Israel is a democracy only for Jews. In January 2021, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem issued its report called “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.” It described Israel as a state that has a different set of rights for Palestinians that is “always inferior to the rights of Jews.”

This year, an extreme right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has escalated attacks on Palestinians and greenlighted additional illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. This government has removed even the veneer of democratic discourse in Israel, with some government officials openly espousing racist policies and inciting violence. As of mid-May, Israeli forces had killed at least 123 Palestinians, including at least 27 children.

Even worse, Israel continues to commit its crimes against the Palestinian people with impunity. Instead of being sanctioned for its human rights abuses, Israel receives over $4 billion a year in U.S. tax dollars to help ensure it has one of the world’s most powerful militaries. The U.S. also provides Israel with political cover when its human rights violations come up in the U.N.

One reason for this impunity has to do with the branding of criticism of Israel as “antisemitic.” This lie is designed to silence and shame critics. But criticism of Israel is not antisemitic; it is demanded by Jewish ethical teachings.

As Jews, we applaud new efforts in Congress to condition U.S. aid to Israel on ending its oppression of Palestinians. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum recently re-introduced the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This legislation would prohibit Israel’s government from using U.S taxpayer dollars for the detention or abuse of Palestinian children, or from seizing or destroying Palestinian property.

Americans can act now to be on the side of the oppressed by contacting Congress in support of this bill.

Judith Laitman and Tsela Barr are members of the Madison chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Tsela Barr is a founding member of Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Victory! ABA removes controversial definition of antisemitism

Proposed resolution targeted Palestinian rights advocacy

In January, we sent letters urging the American Bar Association (ABA) to remove its reference to the “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism” in its proposed Resolution 514, explaining that rather than fighting antisemitism, the controversial IHRA definition is used to silence Palestinian rights advocates. In a victory for human rights and free speech, the ABA decided to drop the definition in passing its resolution.

Meanwhile, we continue to fight the use of IHRA as it is being pushed through in various arenas to suppress Palestinian voices. Virginia legislators are considering HB 1606 which would adopt IHRA, including its contemporary examples related to Israel, as a tool and guide for recognizing and combating antisemitic discrimination and hate crimes in Virginia. We joined Palestine Legal and other groups in a letter to legislators explaining the dangers of the definition, and how it has widely been used to suppress criticism of Israel, not to combat antisemitism. The bill passed out of committee on Friday, and the fight continues.

 

Distorted Definition: Redefining Antisemitism to Silence Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

One of the primary tactics opponents of the movement for Palestinian freedom have used to silence political debate is the branding of all support for Palestinian rights as anti-Jewish. Roughly half of the incidents of suppression Palestine Legal responds to each year include false accusations of antisemitism, totaling 895 incidents from 2014 to 2020.   

In an effort to add legitimacy to this tactic, Israel lobby groups have employed distorted definition of antisemitism that encompasses virtually all criticism of Israel and have attempted to entrench this definition through policy changes and legislation. 

This page tracks the evolution of the cynical ways Israel lobby groups have abused the definition and the definition’s impact on advocates for Palestinian rights.

We invite you to explore the following components:

 
2004 – 2008

Origins of a Politicized Redefinition

After decades of attempting to smear Palestine advocacy with false antisemitism accusations, Israel lobby groups develop a new Israel-centered definition of antisemitism. It is adopted by an EU body, and the U.S. State Department cites it in a report.

  • The European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) begins working with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other Jewish and Israel advocacy groups to expand the definition of antisemitism. The AJC encourages inclusion of criticism of Israel in this redefinition.

    At the same time, Israeli politician Natan Sharansky creates the “3Ds Test” which defines “delegitimizing,” “demonizing” or “applying double standards” to Israel as examples of antisemitism.

  • The EUMC publishes a “Working Definition of Antisemitism,” which includes criticism of Israel and the “3Ds Test.” The body posts the definition to its website as a “practical guide for identifying incidents,” but never formally adopts it. After the EUMC, now renamed the Fundamental Rights Agency, quietly drops the definition from the agency website in 2013, a spokesperson explains that the agency never viewed the document as a valid definition.

  • The U.S. State Department uses the EUMC redefinition in a report, but states that some international approaches to defining antisemitism would violate the First Amendment if used in the United States. The report states that the State Department “does not endorse any such measures that prohibit conduct that would be protected under the U.S. Constitution.”


2008 – 2014

Pro-Israel Groups Unsuccessfully Target Students in the U.S.

Lawyers affiliated with pro-Israel groups attempt multiple times to abuse U.S. civil rights law to claim that campus advocacy for Palestine is antisemitic, filing federal complaints against three University of California campuses and Rutgers University.

The complaints use similar language attempting to redefine antisemitism including the “3Ds Test.”

All of the complaints are dismissed.

  • The Department of Education opens an investigation into the
    University of California, Irvine following a complaint by the right-wing Zionist Organization of America that advocacy for Palestinian rights created an antisemitic climate. The complaint alleges among other claims that the university failed to discipline students for “distribut[ing] flyers attributing, allegedly falsely, an anti-Israel statement to Nelson Mandela” and for wearing t-shirts that say “UC Intifada: How You Can Help Palestine.”

  • Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, head of another right-wing Israel advocacy group AMCHA Initiative, files a complaint alleging that the screening of the documentary “Occupation 101” and a teach-in called “Understanding Gaza” created a hostile environment for Jewish students at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Department of Education opens an investigation into the complaint in 2011.

  • This lawsuit argues that the University of California, Berkeley failed to stop speech and activity for Palestinian rights on campus, such as theatrical mock checkpoints and events critical of Israel’s policies, creating a hostile climate for Jewish students. After the case is dismissed by the court because it targeted First Amendment protected activities, the lawyers file the claims in a complaint to the Department of Education.

  • The Zionist Organization of America files a complaint against Rutgers University alleging that advocacy for Palestinian rights created an antisemitic climate. The complaint focuses primarily on an event sponsored by student groups that featured stories of Holocaust and Nakba survivors.

  • The Department of Education dismisses three complaints against Palestine advocacy at the University of California’s Berkeley, Irvine, and Santa Cruz campuses, emphasizing that this political activity is protected by the First Amendment.

  • The Department of Education dismisses a complaint by the Zionist Organization of America against Rutgers University, finding that the political activity complained of is protected by the First Amendment and that there is no evidence to support the allegations made in the complaint.

  • Despite continued efforts by the Zionist Organization of America and the AMCHA Initiative to push their theory that criticism of Israel is antisemitic, the Department of Education definitively denies two appeals challenging the dismissals of civil rights complaints filed against University of California campuses at Berkeley and Santa Cruz.


2015 – 2018

Efforts to Adopt Distorted Definition Fail in U.S., Gain Steam in Europe

After the Department of Education dismisses complaints against universities, pro-Israel groups seek official endorsement of the redefinition of antisemitism.

These efforts gain little traction with Congress, state governments, and universities.

Student governments, including at Indiana University, San Diego State, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison adopt the redefinition following lobbying by Israel groups.


2018 – 2021

Trump Administration Weaponizes Definition

Trump appoints a key player in efforts to use the redefinition to silence Palestine advocacy as head of civil rights at the Department of Education.

States begin to adopt the redefinition, but efforts in Congress remain stalled.

Trump eventually imposes the definition on federal agencies in a controversial executive order, leading to a rapid uptick in federal complaints and investigations against campus Palestine advocacy.

Following the exit of the Trump administration, advocates for Palestinian freedom and pro-Israel groups face uncertainty as to whether the Biden administration will extend Trump’s adoption of IHRA as a censorship tool.

Various state and local governments adopt the distorted definition, including Texas, Nassau and Suffolk counties in Long Island, and Sharon, Massachusetts.

An Israeli government official tries to pressure a public university to cancel a course on Israel/Palestine using the definition.

A right-wing group seeks to punish Ben & Jerry’s after they announce they will no longer sell their ice cream in settlements, claiming that respecting international law is discriminatory under IHRA.

Student governments, including at CUNY City College, Florida State
University, and Stanford adopt the redefinition following lobbying by Israel groups.

  • Despite opposition from civil rights groups and after months of delay, the Senate approves redefinition lobbyist Kenneth Marcus as head of the Department of Education’s
    Office for Civil Rights
    .

    Within weeks, Marcus reopens a seven-year-old complaint against Palestine advocacy at Rutgers University. In a letter announcing the reopening, Marcus states that the
    redefinition is in use
    by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

  • A provision tacked onto the state’s
    budget bill requires South Carolina public colleges and universities to consider the redefinition when investigating allegations of discrimination. Lawmakers in Tennessee also propose a bill to adopt the redefinition.

  • Florida adopts the redefinition for use in the state’s public schools. Under the new law, applying a “double standard” by, for example, “focusing peace or human rights investigations only on Israel” constitutes antisemitism. Lawmakers in
    Tennessee and New
    Jersey
    also propose bills to adopt the redefinition, but these bills fail to pass.

  • Trump signs an executive order that directs government agencies, including the Department of Education, to consider the distorted definition of antisemitism when investigating civil rights complaints. The order attracts widespread criticism.

  • In the weeks after Trump’s executive order, three federal complaints are filed against Palestine advocacy on campus, all citing the order.

    The Lawfare Project files a federal complaint against Columbia University for allowing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to hold events, art installations and engage in other speech activity advocating for Palestinian freedom. A second complaint is also filed against Columbia within a week.

    A third complaint is filed against Georgia Tech by the right-wing, Christian evangelical American Center for Law and Justice after a student group successfully appealed a punishment they faced for refusing to allow a Hillel employee to disrupt their event on Palestine.

    In January 2021, the Hillel employee agrees to drop the case in exchange for Georgia Tech recognizing that under Trump’s executive order, the Department of Education considers the IHRA definition of antisemitism when evaluating intent in cases of discriminatory harassment.

  • Bills incorporating the distorted definition are introduced in Arizona, Illinois, and several other states. All of these bills fail to become law. The bills call for adopting the distorted definition, including the examples encompassing criticism of Israel, for use in hate crimes reporting and sentencing (Arizona), by state entities investigating acts of discrimination (Iowa), or by public schools and universities (Illinois, Tennessee, South Carolina). Some of these bills describe investigating Israel’s human rights abuses as an example of antisemitism.

  • Republican members of Congress cite Trump’s executive order when urging the Department of Education to investigate and potentially cut funding to Middle Eastern studies departments at the University of Arizona, University of California, Berkeley, and Yale because students and faculty at these universities support boycotts for Palestinian rights. Another Republican congressman had made a similar demand for investigation of Middle Eastern studies at Georgetown University in late 2019.

  • The student government at Florida State University adopts the IHRA definition following a state-wide
    political witch-hunt
    against FSU Student Senate President Ahmad Daraldik over social media posts Ahmad, a Palestinian-American, made as a child criticizing Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. The IHRA resolution comes after a failed attempt to remove Ahmad from office through a vote of no confidence.

    Following the IHRA resolution, pro-Israel students seek to remove Ahmad from office yet again, claiming his past posts constitute antisemitism under IHRA.

    Another student government leader is accused
    of antisemitism
    after arguing against the adoption of IHRA and explaining that Palestinians talking about their oppression is not antisemitism.

    FSU president John Thrasher later announces that the university would “recognize” the IHRA definition, including its contemporary examples.

  • Over 120 pro-Israel groups lobby Facebook to label criticism of Israel as hate speech under the IHRA definition. The Zachor Legal Institute, a pro-Israel group that engages in legal bullying, also lobbies Twitter and YouTube to use the IHRA definition and remove content critical of Israel.

  • The Department of Education closes an investigation at New York University (NYU) that was launched after the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) received a school award for their on-campus organizing and coalition building. As part of a resolution agreement, NYU commits to prohibiting antisemitism in its policies and anti-discrimination trainings. The agreement refers to the IHRA definition in Trump’s 2019 executive order but excludes the IHRA contemporary examples, including those regarding Israel.

  • The Zionist Organization of America and StopAntisemitism.org file a federal civil rights complaint against CUNY after the latter organization targeted a Palestinian law student and activist with a cyberbullying campaign based on misinformation and false accusations.

    The student was subject to attacks by Zionist groups after she posted an old video of herself waving a lighter as a joke while criticizing a friend for wearing a T-shirt promoting the Israeli military.

    Act.il, an app with deep ties to Israeli intelligence and military, falsely claimed that the video depicted a violent threat against a fellow student on the basis of apparent nationality and provided a script for hundreds of people to call for CUNY to discipline the student.

    The student’s friend was neither Jewish, Israeli, nor a CUNY student and was filmed years before the student enrolled in law school. There was no violent threat involved.

    StopAntisemitism.org later named the student its ‘antisemite of the year’ based on these false and distorted accusations.

  • A spate of IHRA resolutions pass in local governments, including at least five across Florida and at least three in Long Island outside of New York City between 2020 and 2021. The New York measures and some of the Florida measures are driven by the American Jewish Committee, which helped craft the Israel-centric definition in 2004.

  • The State Department reportedly plans to designate three prominent advocacy groups as antisemitic due to their criticism of Israel’s violations of international law, claiming that the human rights activities of Amnesty
    International
    , Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam International meet the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The plan does not materialize before the Trump administration leaves office.

  • Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo releases graphics on social media stating that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism” and announces plans to identify and target organizations that support BDS. The department does not announce a list prior to the end of the administration.

  • Following Donald Trump’s electoral defeat, pro-Israel groups lobby the Biden administration to continue Trump’s policy of using the IHRA definition. Progressive and liberal Jewish organizations come out against Biden maintaining the policy.

  • Having failed to pass a similar bill in 2020, Illinois lawmakers
    reintroduce a bill to amend the state’s Human Rights Act to adopt the IHRA definition for use in investigating acts of discrimination in public schools and universities. This bill describes investigating Israel’s human rights abuse as an example of antisemitism.

  • Student governments, including at Brooklyn College, Syracuse University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Texas, Austin adopt the IHRA definition.

  • In June, Texas joins Florida and South Carolina in adopting the distorted definition. Texas is the first state to explicitly say it is adopting IHRA, compared to FL and SC which used text similar to IHRA.

    Meanwhile in Arizona, lawmakers actually removed the IHRA definition from a bill on Holocaust education in the state’s public schools, recognizing that it’s possible to educate people on antisemitism without it.

  • Liberal and progressive democrats urge the Biden administration not to use the IHRA definition, including a coalition letter led by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to Secretary of State Blinken encouraging use of alternative definitions.

    Responding to the Schakowsky letter in June, a Biden admin rep calls IHRA a “gold standard” and indicates the State Department will continue to use IHRA.

  • Member of Congress Lee Zeldin (R-NY) urges the New York City Department of Education to enforce Trump’s IHRA executive order for the purpose of suppressing growing support for Palestinian rights and freedom following Israel’s May 2021 attacks on the Gaza Strip.

  • An Israeli consul pressures the University of North Carolina to remove a graduate student lecturer from teaching a history course on Israel/Palestine after claiming the instructor’s criticism of Israel was antisemitic under the IHRA definition.

  • Critically acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney faces false accusations using the distorted definition of antisemitism after she declines to sell translation rights to a publishing house with ties to the Israeli government and announces that she is open to partnering with a Hebrew translator that is compliant with the institutional boycott principles established by Palestinian civil society.

  • Rightwing pro-Israel group StandWithUs accuses Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever of “corporate antisemitism” under the IHRA definition after the ice cream company announced it will no longer sell its products in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements starting in 2023.

  • Pro-Israel groups launch a campaign to push state governors to adopt and promote the distorted IHRA definition as part of Hanukkah celebrations.

    Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine writes a letter to the state’s 111 college and university presidents urging them to create a culture…that does not tolerate “anti-Israel sentiments.”



2019 – 2021

The Movement Pushes Back Against the Definition

Advocates from North America, Europe and Palestine/Israel begin more coordinated work to pushback against the redefinition as a censorship tool targeting Palestinian freedom.

The definition faces pushback on campuses and defeat by student governments across the country due to the definition’s use as a tool of political suppression.

At Butler University, the IHRA definition is defeated after the only two Palestinians in student government were initially excluded from participating in discussions about the measure.

Fifty thousand people join a global campaign demanding that Facebook stop labeling Palestine advocacy as hate speech.

An explosive Oxford University report reveals that the leadership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance knowingly misled and neglected to correct the public perception about the scope of the IHRA definition’s adoption in the EU.

  • Independent Jewish Voices in Canada launches a transnational NoIHRA Campaign in 2019 and publishes a report on IHRA’s impact on colleges and universities in 2020.

  • Hundreds of academics in Canada sign an open letter opposing the redefinition.

    Over 150 Jewish Candian scholars issue an additional statement opposed to IHRA.

  • Students at Santa Monica College successfully push to remove Israel-related content from an antisemitism resolution proposed in student government.

  • Dozens of scholars urge Facebook not to adopt the IHRA definition, after the social media company is lobbied by pro-Israel groups.

  • Students at Butler University succeed in defeating a student government measure to adopt the definition as a way of silencing Palestinians and their allies on campus.

    During the initial debate, members of student government exclude the only two Palestinians in student government from participating in discussions.

    The student leaders, both Palestinian women, are unable to share the direct impact the resolutions would have on Palestinians and Palestine activism on campus.

    Butler student groups, Indianapolis community organizers, and Palestine Legal push back against the campaign to vilify and silence student activism.

    After hearing from students and community advocates about the harmful impact these anti-Palestinian measures would have, the student sponsors withdraw the resolution.

  • A coalition of organizers hold an educational panel titled “Israel as a Racist Endeavour: Unpacking IHRA” to directly challenge the redefinition.

  • Over one hundred Palestinian and Arab scholars and intellectuals issue an open letter challenging the legitimacy of the definition.

  • Hundreds of British students sign an open letter opposing efforts by UK Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to force UK universities to adopt the definition.

  • The academic board at the University College London
    rejects the IHRA definition adopted by UCL in 2019, calling on the university to “retract and replace [the] IHRA working definition with a more precise definition of antisemitism.”

  • A coalition of civil and human rights groups launches a
    campaign against Facebook labeling Palestine advocacy as hate speech. The tech giant is considering a policy that would treat criticism of “Zionists” as attacks against Jewish people, and therefore subject to censorship under their hate speech policies. The campaign’s petition amasses over 50,000 signatures.

  • Several alternatives to IHRA are proposed within the span of one month, further undermining claims that IHRA represents a consensus definition.

    The Jerusalem Declaration rebuts IHRA’s conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, but reinforces the structural problem of policing what Palestinians can say about their oppression.

  • Multiple student governments reject the IHRA definition in the span of a few weeks, including Michigan State University, Foothill College and Santa Clara University in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    At the City University of New York (CUNY), the Student Senate voted down IHRA following a vocal campaign from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Jewish Law Students Association (JSLA).

    The CUNY JSLA is the first explicitly anti-Zionist Jewish law students group in the country and issued an open letter calling IHRA “useless,” “overbroad,” “imprecise,” and “an attempt to silence Palestine-solidarity efforts by equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.”

  • An explosive Oxford University report reveals that the leadership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance knowingly misled and neglected to correct the public perception about the scope of the IHRA definition’s adoption in the EU.

    At a May 2016 plenary, IHRA’s decision-making body adopted a two-sentence working definition of antisemitism while excluding contemporary examples of antisemitism, including seven which focused on criticism of Israel, because multiple member states objected to the examples.

    The report finds that “Senior IHRA officials and pro-Israel groups have misrepresented the IHRA Plenary’s decision in order to smuggle into the Working Definition examples that can be used to protect Israel from criticism.”

    Israel and its allies, including US politicians, used the presumed adoption of IHRA’s Israel examples in Europe to promote their usage in the United States.

  • The Canadian Association of University Teachers votes against adopting the IHRA definition.

    The association, which represents 72,000 members, recognizes the “need to safeguard the rights of scholars to critique all states, including Israel.”

 

California cancels Palestinians

Weaponizing Anti-Semitism
to Silence Criticism of Israel

 

Israeli lobby groups redefine antisemitism to include criticisms of Israel as a means of stifling speech

A baseball cap with the words: Make Israel Palestine Again
Activists warn that the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism will stifle speech on Palestine. (Justin L. Stewart, ZUMA Press)

In September, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.

The council was following a global trend. Institutions around the world are increasingly adopting the IHRA definition which purports to be a tool for identifying and combating anti-Semitism.

In reality, it is merely the latest attempt to criminalize support for Palestinian liberation. Indeed, the West Hollywood City Council’s vote – and the public outcry it generated – provides valuable insight into the growing threat the adoption of this flawed definition poses to political activism and education.

The council’s actions were foreshadowed by the West Hollywood Public Safety Commission which, on 8 August, voted to recommend that the City Council adopt the IHRA definition. During that meeting, Public Safety Commissioner Tony Berger asked fellow commissioner Robert B. Oliver, who brought the proposal, what the purpose of a safety commission making such a recommendation would be.

“It’s not in our purview to do anything like this,” Berger said. “Aren’t we trying just to protect everybody?”

Oliver, who is currently running for West Hollywood City Council, said his proposal was to recommend to the City Council that the city adopt the IHRA definition as a “non-legally binding working definition to inform the different agencies of our city what anti-Semitism is.”

The West Hollywood move came after both Manhattan Beach and Beverly Hills city councils voted to adopt the IHRA definition. Oliver cited the latter as a reason for West Hollywood to follow suit.

During public comment on 19 September – when the West Hollywood City Counci eventually voted to pass the IHRA definition in accordance with the public safety commission’s recommendation – Palestinian West Hollywood resident Rami Kabalawi said he felt the IHRA definition silenced Palestinians and was concerned with prohibiting criticisms of Israel rather than authentically challenging anti-Semitism.

Kabalawi told the council: “If it’s codified, it will position Palestinian freedom of speech as explicitly anti-Jewish and create a situation of divisiveness that is fueled not about ending bigotry, but classifying our right to speak out as a form of it.”

Recycled language

Many fear that Kabalawi is right.

What is the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, and why is its passage by the West Hollywood City Council such a troubling development?

The story behind the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism begins with a working definition of anti-Semitism conceived of by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenobophia – a European Union agency – in the early noughties.

While the EUMC working definition is uncontroversial, it features several alleged examples of “anti-Semitism” that are simply criticisms of the Israeli state. This working definition was never formally endorsed by the EUMC.

However in 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organization formed in the late 1990s, adopted the EUMC’s definition of anti-Semitism as its own.

Despite its relatively unofficial status, the EUMC definition went on to form the basis for other non-binding definitions of anti-Semitism, such as that initially displayed by the US State Department on its website. The State Department now lists the IHRA definition on its website.

Recycled language conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism culled from this definition continues to be used in updated attempts to censor speech in support of Palestinian liberation. Just as Zionist organizations pushed for the University of California to adopt the so-called State Department definition of anti-Semitism in 2015, today there is a concerted push by Zionist organizations and individuals to ensure that governments and local councils adopt the IHRA definition.

The IHRA definition gives 11 examples of alleged anti-Semitism but seven of these are about criticism of Israel:

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • 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 Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

As the rights organization Palestine Legal puts it on its website, Israeli lobby groups have consistently used the strategy of redefining anti-Semitism to include criticisms of Israel as a means of stifling speech, and each version of these redefinitions is “fundamentally the same.”

Rowan Gaudet writes that the IHRA definition, which has repeatedly been used as a cudgel to silence and stigmatize international activism for Palestine since its adoption in 2016, is a “dangerous weapon” and “a grave threat to the Palestinian solidarity movement the world over.”

Voicing dissent

Small wonder that organizers felt compelled to voice their dissent.

A member of the local chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), who has requested anonymity, said that upon hearing of the effort to adopt the IHRA definition, PYM immediately forged a coalition with SoCal Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine at University of California – Los Angeles, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, and Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA to take action.

Akhil Gopal from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition told The Electronic Intifada that opposing the adoption of the IHRA definition was in line with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s work around opposing racist and discriminatory surveillance practices being implemented by government and police bodies throughout Los Angeles.

“The adoption of the IHRA definition is connected for us to the LAPD’s Providing Alternatives to Hinder Violent Extremism (PATHE) program or the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, because with the adoption of IHRA, the state is trying to weaponize existing bureaucracy and infrastructure used for civil rights or to maintain a ‘multicultural’ set of liberal values to stigmatize Palestinian resistance as a form of bigotry,” Gopal said.

According to the anonymous PYM organizer, the organization co-created a call to action along with the aforementioned organizations and reached out to the community to encourage individuals to call into the Public Safety Commission meeting to ask the commission to reconsider their recommendation and to explicitly denounce the IHRA definition.

On 11 September, JVP UCLA tweeted a message urging followers to oppose the West Hollywood City Council’s adoption of the IHRA definition. The tweet included a link to a digital toolkit explaining how individuals could express their criticisms to the council.

The Public Safety Commission moved forward with its decision, regardless and despite the fact that a majority of community members spoke out against the council’s potential implementation of IHRA during public comment.

Strikingly familiar

In doing research to prepare for the city council meeting, members of PYM discovered that the West Hollywood City Council seemed close with the Israeli American Civil Action Network (ICAN), a connection suggesting that anti-Palestinian groups wield an undue influence over the West Hollywood City Council

ICAN had endorsed councilmember Lindsey Horvath for LA county supervisor.

In its statement of endorsement, the organization said it had worked with Horvath to “oppose the discriminatory boycott movement targeting Israel, Israelis, and the Jewish community” and “urging the state of California to rewrite the ethnic studies curriculum to remove anti-Semitic content,” among other causes.

Since 2019, Zionist organizations have opposed the potential inclusion of material related to Palestine, boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), and Arab American studies in an ethnic studies model curriculum for the state of California as anti-Semitic.

In 2021, material about Palestine and Arab American studies was excised from the curriculum at the behest of these organizations.

ICAN chair Dillan Hosier also notably opposed the candidacy of Chelsea Byers for a seat on West Hollywood City Council due to “a long history of fringe and radical activism that, in our view, is anchored in anti-Semitic belief.”

Yet the examples listed by Hosier include opposing US funding for Israel and participating in a protest where “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” was chanted. The chant is a protest standard about the inevitable liberation of all of Palestine from Zionist settler-colonialism.

On 1 August, West Hollywood mayor Lauren Meister introduced an item for the city council to co-sponsor ICAN’s “combating anti-semitism summit” later that month. Once funding was duly secured, council member Lindsey Horvath announced her intention to call on the city council to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism during that “summit.”

Other notable event co-sponsors included the Los Angeles branch of the anti-Palestinian Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

The latter had previously criticized the United Teachers of Los Angeles’s potential endorsement of a BDS resolution. The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, the federation wrote in a statement, “is regarded by many as unjust and anti-Semitic because it denies Israel’s right to exist, demonizes and dehumanizes Zionists, Jews and Israelis, and it holds Israel to a moral and political double standard.”

The language used was strikingly familiar to that featured in the IHRA definition.

Organizing against vagueness

Learning about the West Hollywood City Council’s seemingly cozy relationship with Zionist organizations showed organizers that “we were up for a fight,” according to one PYM organizer.

And the council seemed more than willing to play dirty. Organizers said the council arbitrarily changed the terms for participating in public comment when it became clear that the majority of those in attendance were there to speak out against the adoption of the IHRA definition.

Benjamin Kersten from JVP UCLA told The Electronic Intifada that, “council members knew what they were going to say and really didn’t consider the voices of those of us speaking out against the IHRA definition.”

Kersten said comments from council members suggested the council was more intent on framing anti-Semitism “as a Jewish vs. Palestinian issue” rather than engaging with Jewish voices opposed to the adoption of IHRA.

The West Hollywood City Council eventually passed the IHRA definition but organizers are not discouraged.

However, the push to promote the IHRA definition elsewhere continues. On 1 November, the Los Angeles City Council also adopted the definition.

As the SoCal SJP organizer explained, “IHRA’s power comes from vagueness – the way we can beat it is by continuing to out-organize it, build relationships with the community and expose it.”

Omar Zahzah is a writer, poet and organizer.

 

Department of Education to investigate Berkeley Law School

Complaint from Israeli lawfare group prompts investigation over student group challenging Zionism

MICHAEL ARRIA, MONDOWEISS, DECEMBER 16, 2022

An open letter to UW-Madison regarding anti-Zionist chalking

In keeping with the Jewish practice of tokhehah, which could be translated as “calling-in,” we are asking you to recognize and redress the damage that these responses have caused.

This letter also appeared in The Cap Times on November 29, 2022 as Memo to UW: Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same thing.

Bascom.jpg
Photo by Taylor Wolfram | The Daily Cardinal

Stepha Velednitsky , Ri J. Turner , Joshua Garoon , Tsela Barr and Annie Sommer KaufmanThe Daily Cardinal, November 28, 2022

Dear Chancellor Mnookin, Vice Chancellor Reesor, and Chief Diversity Officer Charleston,

We are writing as Jewish members of the UW-Madison community in response to the recent anti-Zionist chalkings on our campus, and especially to the reactions from your offices, UW-Madison Hillel and other campus organizations, and media on and off campus.

As Jews, we care deeply, both about our own experience of “inclusion and belonging” (as Chancellor Mnookin has put it) in the UW-Madison community, and about the well-being of Palestinians on and off campus. The responses in question — including, but not limited, to the blame Chancellor Mnookin and Vice-Chancellor Reesor inappropriately placed on the UW-Madison chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — were harmful to both. In keeping with the Jewish practice of tokhehah, which could be translated as “calling-in,” we are asking you to recognize and redress the damage that these responses have caused.

We understand that past experiences may have inclined you to seek those responsible for this incident among UW student groups. In the recent past, Jews on campus have been upset, justifiably, when members of UW-Madison student groups — including leaders of the undergraduate student government — have not acted with respect for Jewish religious practice when it comes to campus actions on Israel and Palestine.

We agree that “education and accountability” are critical in such situations. The statements from your offices, however, provided neither. Instead, they impatiently and inaptly condemned the small and only recently reconstituted UW-Madison chapter of SJP for actions its members deny conducting — contributing to their scapegoating in the media. Those students deserved more from you.

We agree that it is antisemitic to hold all Jews accountable for the acts of the Israeli government, regardless of their connection or lack thereof to Israel. That treats Jews as a monolith and conflates Jewish identity with blanket support for Israel. But here we must ask: who in this situation truly conflated Jewishness with the political ideology of Zionism?

Two of the organizations called out in the chalkings, the UW-Madison chapters of Hillel and Chabad, are indeed Jewish organizations. The primary function of both is to support the religious life of Jewish students on campus. Simply attending the religious services at those two organizations — the only ones that offer them on campus — does not justify attacking Jewish students, and we urge those carrying out pro-Palestinian actions to respect such religious events and spaces.

At the same time, both the Hillel and Chabad chapters have identified themselves as explicitly pro-Israel. This combination of Zionist politics with Jewish religious practice has become the norm for Jews on campus and across the country. Yet many Jews do not consider support for Israel to be essential to their Jewish identity. On the contrary, for some Jewish students, the perception of being “required” to espouse pro-Israel positions as a precondition for participating in Jewish life on campus dissuades them from participating at all. In fact, Hillel has so constrained Jewish student speech and organizing on Israel and Palestine that Jewish students who felt alienated from Jewish life on campus as a result formed an “Open Hillel” movement, and in particular Open Hillel’s Judaism on Our Own Terms initiative, to try to create more space on campus for diverse Jewish viewpoints.

When organizations explicitly prohibit participation of organizations, groups, or speakers — including Jewish ones — on the basis of their political stance, they can no longer claim that they are apolitical, “big tent” Jewish organizations that define themselves primarily around Jewish identity.  To insist that their critics strictly separate the religious and the political, then, is disingenuous and hypocritical.

What’s more, three of the organizations the chalkings criticized (J Street U at Wisconsin, TAMID, and Badgers for Israel) do not self-describe as Jewish organizations. (In fact, the last of the trio explicitly describes itself as “nonreligious.”) Their primary function is to support Israel. And while criticizing such organizations for being Zionist might be controversial, it is not antisemitic. Nor is it antisemitic to claim that Zionist organizations should be held accountable for Zionism’s ills, or that racist and genocidal acts have been committed in the name of Zionism.

So we must reject UW Hillel’s charges that the chalkings were antisemitic because they were “targeting student organizations because of their connection to Israel” and thus constituted “an attack on the identity of Jewish students.” Similarly, we must reject your offices’ claims that the chalkings were antisemitic because they “attribute broad actions or beliefs to Jewish student groups.” In both cases, it was Hillel’s and the university administration’s statements, not the original chalkings, which conflated Jewish identity and practice with support for Zionism within and beyond Jewish communities.

We call on you to apologize to the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine for scapegoating them for this incident without evidence that they were responsible for it.  We call on you to refrain from conflating Zionist viewpoints with Jewish identity — a move that exacerbates the exclusion of non-Zionist Jews from Jewish life on campus, and normalizes the suppression of free speech about Israel and Palestine within campus or campus-adjacent organizations, including Hillel.  We also ask you to educate yourselves about the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism more generally. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which was signed by about 200 scholars of antisemitism and related studies from around the world, including Israel, is a good place to start.

Finally, we call on Jewish individuals and organizations on and off campus who share our perspective to express support by signing on to this letter. 

Sincerely,

Ri J. Turner, graduate student, History
Joshua Garoon, Assistant Professor, Community and Environmental Sociology
Tsela Barr, staff, International Division
Annie Sommer Kaufman, alumna, ’01
Stepha Velednitsky, graduate student, Geography

Additional Signatories, UW-Madison-affiliated:
Susan Nossal, UW-Madison academic staff
Zayne Chrysanthemum, student
Cora Segal, graduate student, Gender & Women’s Studies 
Jacqueline Krass, graduate student, English
Daniel Levitin, graduate student
Melissa Marver, PhD Candidate and alumna, Population Health
Heather Rosenfeld, Smith College (PhD from UW, 2019)
Asher Bruskin, alum, ’08
Jeffrey Schiffman, former employee
Esty Dinur, retiree
Elizabeth Conn, alumna, ’07
Ace Lynn-Miller, alum ’08
Paul Cotton, graduate school alum ’73
Lynne Kavin, alum ’89, member of JVP Chicago
Lynne Joyrich, former professor in the UW System
Elaine J. Cohen, daughter of alum
Judith Laitman, alum
Betsy Buczakowski, alum ’19
Liza DiPrima, alum (BS in Elementary Education)
Marc Rosenthal, UW alum, BS in Nursing 

Additional Signatories, Organizations:
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA
Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles
Jewish Voice for Peace-Milwaukee
Ithaca Committee for Justice in  Palestine/Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA
Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago

Additional Signatories, Individuals:
Rabbi Salem Pearce
Elizabeth Bolton, Reconstructionist Rabbi (RRC ’96)
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, JVP Rabbinic Council
Rabbi Noam Lerman, UW-Milwaukee alum
Rabbi Ariana Katz 
Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg
Rabbi Brant Rosen   
Dr. Benay Blend, retired professor (PhD University of New Mexico)
Sarah Combellick-Bidney, Augsburg University
Elsa Auerbach, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Merry Maisel, UC San Diego
Daniel Segal, Professor at Pitzer College
Alice Rothchild, MD, Harvard University
Mark LeVine, UC Irvine, Dept of History, Global Middle East Studies
Benjamin Kersten, graduate student, UCLA Department of Art History
Charles Manekin, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland
Ivan Huber, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ, Madison, NJ
Emmaia Gelman, Sarah Lawrence College
Hassan Melehy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jodi melamex, Marquette University
freygl gertsovski, Jewish cultural worker
Ari Pollack, Madison native
Benjamin Ben-Baruch,  Retired Jewish educator
Alan Levien, civil rights lawyer
Elizabeth Ingenthron, Jewish scholar and activist
Judith Utevsky, Jewish resident of Madison 
Barbara Parmet, JVP member
Eve Hershcopf, Member of JVP – Bay Area
Rick Chetoff, JVP Los Angeles member
Bob Herbst, JVP member
Beth Harris, member of Ithaca JVP
Burton Steck, UVP
Rachel Rubin, JVP, Health Advisory Council
Jena doolas, member of JVP Chicago
Carol Muskin, member of JVP Chicago
Jon Moscow, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Cinda Rubinstein, member of JVP
Shelley Cohen Fudge, member of JVP-DC Metro Chapter
Nicole Cohen, member of JVP NYC
Munk Munk, member of JVP
Alice Golin, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Harry Soloway, member of JVP Westchester
Rachel Ida Buff, UWM/Milwaukee JVP
Martin Levine, member of JVP – Chicago
Mara Horowitz, member of JVP Westchester 
Lawrence R. Wolf, member of JVP Westchester
Laura Myerson, Educator, member of JVP
Steve Golin, member of JVP
Wendy Fisher, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Lesley Williams, JVP member
Trude Bennett, JVP member
Sue Saunders, member of JVP – Sacramento, CA
Elizabeth G. Lent, Episcopal Peace & Justice
Sandra Castillo
Mary Fox
David H Slavin, PhD
Oren Maximov
Alan Meyers
Andy Stitt
Sam Friedman 
Seth Morrison 
Estee Chandler
Nina Stoller 
Cindy Shamban
Andrew Courtney
Steve Siegelbaum 
Joe Sokolinsky
Bobbi Siegelbaum
Priscilla Read
Zackary Sholem Berger
Ed Oltman
Stephen R. Shalom 
Lex Rofeberg
Sophia Sobko

ACLU Challenges Cancellation of Palestine Mural


A mural that was conceived and painted by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and Art Forces. The mural was censored by the SFPL and the ACLU claims there are First Amendment concerns with the censorship. Courtesy Megan Wilson/Clarion Alley Mural Project

Sarah Wright, The San Francisco Standard, July 14, 2022

A new letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California raises First Amendment concerns after the San Francisco Public Library decided to omit a line it called antisemitic from a Palestine-focused mural in an exhibit that was supposed to appear this summer. 

The exhibition, which was canceled in March as a result of the controversy, was focused on racism and xenophobia against marginalized groups, including Palestinians. The mural in question featured a sign with the phrase “Zionism is racism.”

The library raised concerns about the phrase and discussed removing it with the curators, according to an SFPL statement sent to The Standard. The group declined to make changes to the exhibition, said Christopher Statton, co-director of Clarion Alley Mural Project, the Mission District-based group that organized the mural exhibition. 

“It may create discussions that are difficult and messy, but it’s harmful not to have these discussions,” Statton said. 

In her letter, ACLU Staff Attorney Hannah Kieschnick agrees, arguing that the library, as a public space that often promotes and displays speech that doesn’t represent its views, cannot discriminate that speech by its viewpoint or concerns it is controversial. 

“Instead of cancelling what the library perceives to be a controversial exhibition, I urge you to use the exhibition as an opportunity, consistent with the library’s role as a center for information and learning, to welcome diverse perspectives and foster open dialogue about the viewpoint expressed in the Arab Liberation Mural,” Kieschnick wrote in the letter.

The SFPL declined to comment on the ACLU letter specifically, but its statement to The Standard reaffirms its decision to ask the artists to edit their work before its presentation in service to their mission to “provide a safe and welcoming space for our entire community.

“Presenting expressions, such as ‘Zionism is Racism,’ which are widely viewed as antisemitic are counter to that mission and would set a precedent that would justify the exhibition of other viewpoints harming minority communities and identities based on race, gender, national origin, sexuality, or religion,” the library’s statement reads. “The Library presents a panoply of viewpoints on a wide range of topics, but we draw the line at a public display of speech that negatively targets any specific race, ethnic or religious community.”

According to Statton, several alternative venues that he declined to name have reached out to the group offering to display the exhibition in its entirety.

“The library’s decision to censor our mural without connecting with the community—it was disrespectful,” said Sharif Zakout, an organizer at the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “Our community was left out of it completely.”

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism

 

Introduction

We agree with the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) of March 25, 2021, “a tool to identify, confront and raise awareness about antisemitism as it manifests in countries around the world today.” The Declaration holds 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.”

Defining antisemitism as “discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish)”, the JDA gives clear examples of what is, and what is not, antisemitism, paying particular attention to why criticism of Israel or Zionism is NOT inherently antisemitic.

We urge you to read the entire Declaration.

 

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

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 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.

Preamble | Definition | Guidelines | Signatories | FAQ | About JDA | Videos

 

Preamble

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.

 

Definition

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

 

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

6. Applying the symbols, images and negative stereotypes of classical antisemitism (see guidelines 2 and 3) to the State of Israel.
7. Holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct or treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel.
8. Requiring people, because they are Jewish, publicly to condemn Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).
9. Assuming that non-Israeli Jews, simply because they are Jews, are necessarily more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.
10. 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)

11. Supporting the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights, as encapsulated in international law.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.

 

Signatories

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
Lila Corwin Berman, Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History, Temple University
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
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, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
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, Directrice d’etudes, EHESS Paris and Van Leer Institute, Fellow
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 University
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
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

 

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Why “Jerusalem”?
Originally, the JDA was convened in Jerusalem by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Why now?
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.

 

About JDA

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.

Coordinating group

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

 

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Jewish Voice for Peace Statement, April 5, 2021

We believe in a world where we are all safe and cherished—a world without racism, without antisemitism, and without Islamophobia. As fascist, racist, and authoritarian governments and political parties increasingly amass power around the world, we are more committed than ever to the work of building a world where justice, equality, and dignity are accorded to all people without exception.

We write this statement with urgent concern about the ongoing attempts of the Israeli government to evade accountability for its human rights abuses and violations of international law by levying accusations of antisemitism at Palestinians and those who advocate for Palestinian rights. Not only does this silence Palestinians and their advocates, but it also jeopardizes Jewish safety and the struggle to dismantle antisemitism.

The most prominent example of this dangerous campaign is the attempt to impose the flawed and widely discredited International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism on governments, public institutions, universities, and civil society. The IHRA definition is not designed to protect Jewish communities from the rising bigotry and racist attacks we face, predominantly carried out by white supremacists. Instead, it has been employed in many countries as a bludgeon to suppress advocacy and academic freedom. Scores of Palestinian, Israeli, civil society, and human rights organizations from across the globe, as well as academics, writers, and activists—including one of the IHRA’s original authors—have condemned its anti-democratic and repressive impact.

In this context, we welcome the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) as a useful corrective to the dangerously flawed IHRA definition. If an institution believes it needs a definition, the Jerusalem Declaration is a vastly improved replacement for the IHRA. Drafted and endorsed by many of the world’s most preeminent Jewish studies scholars, it opens space for debate, champions freedom of speech, and refutes the most misleading aspects of the IHRA definition. However, in attempting to remedy the deceptive claims of the IHRA definition, the JDA falls into the trap of situating Israel-Palestine at the centre of conversations about antisemitism. If the drafters required this special scrutiny to respond fully to IHRA, then they should have included representative Palestinian perspectives and analyses in shaping the document, without which the JDA remains incomplete. This disproportionate focus risks contributing to the intense policing of discourse on Israel-Palestine, and distracting from the real dangers we face as Jews today from white supremacists and the far-right.

Most importantly, we are acutely aware that defining antisemitism does not actually do the work of dismantling antisemitism. Legislating a static definition for any particular form of bigotry weakens our society’s efforts to combat discrimination across different contexts and over time. Instead of trying to codify definitions of antisemitism, we call on progressives around the world to commit to dismantling it alongside all forms of oppression and bigotry. To create safety and freedom for all people, including Jewish people, we offer these principles and practical steps:

  1. Do not isolate antisemitism from other forms of oppression.
    Situate your work to dismantle antisemitism within the broader struggle against all forms of racism and oppression. Antisemitism is embedded in white supremacy, and is part of the machinery of division and fear used to keep us isolated and vulnerable—the same machinery that is used to target Black people and other people of color, people who are Muslim, immigrants, Indigenous communities, and others. Isolating antisemitism ignores the central threats faced by these communities under white supremacy, erases the lived experiences of Black Jews and other Jews of color, and atomizes a struggle that must be united to succeed. Act from the principles that oppression is intersectional and that justice is indivisible.
  2. Challenge political ideologies that foment racism, hate, and fear.
    Refuse and challenge fascist, white nationalist, and far-right ideologies leading to murderous violence. These conspiratorial and dangerous beliefs are wielded to divide and sow fear across communities, and to reinforce and maintain white supremacy. Cede no ground to the leaders, institutions, and politicians who promote these ideologies and gain power by breeding violent antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.
  3. Create environments that affirm and celebrate all expressions of cultural and religious life.
    Institute policies and practices that actively embrace, not just tolerate, cultural and religious diversity. White Christian hegemony structures many of our societies, lives, relationships, and institutions. By framing all communities that are not white and Christian as the “other,” this feeds exploitation, hatred, and discrimination. Push back on this harmful reality by assessing your community or organization’s policies and building affirming, inclusive spaces where Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and all other faith communities can thrive and belong.
  4. Make undoing all forms of racism and bigotry both policy and daily practice.
    Establish racial justice, religious inclusion, and social equity as central pillars for setting policy and making decisions—in organizations, institutions, and legislation. Until our entire society is transformed to the point where racism and antisemitism are truly eradicated, it is up to all of us to create open spaces, rooted in the fabric of daily practice, for anti-racist educational initiatives, curriculums, and frameworks. If we do not make undoing white supremacy, including anti-Black racism, antisemitism and islamophobia, a part of our daily lives, we will never achieve the just future we want.
  5. Practice safety through solidarity, not law enforcement.
    Resist calls to respond to violence against Jewish people by increasing police presence. Increased policing will harm some of the most vulnerable members of our communities, including Jewish people of color. Instead, invest in strategies, practices, and plans that build protection and safety for all our communities, without increasing the power and presence of increasingly militarized law enforcement. Our history shows that freedom and safety for any of us depends on freedom and safety for all of us.

Signed by:

Jewish Voice for Peace (US)
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)
Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine (UK)
Jewish Liberation Theology Institute (Canada)
Sh’ma Koleinu – Alternative Jewish Voices (New Zealand)
Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)
Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East (Germany)
Jews against the Occupation (Australia)
French Jewish Peace Union (Union Juive Française pour la Paix) (France)
Jews Say No! (USA)
Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine (France)
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Een Andere Joodse Stem – Another Jewish Voice (Flanders, Belgium)
Scottish Jews Against Zionism (Scotland)
As the Spirit Moves Us (a Jewish Justice organization)
Tikkun Olam Chavurah