The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism and free expression

Rob Ferguson presents the third of our series of posts on the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) He demonstrates its importance in the  fight for free expression on Palestine and Israel and defending the left and opposing the use of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) is a highly welcome development. Its key significance lies in its potential for mobilising significantly wider opposition to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition” of antisemitism, and attempts to de-legitimise free expression on Israel and solidarity with Palestine. Continue reading “The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism and free expression”

Turning the Tables

David Rosenberg writes the second of our responses to the JDA, the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism. David points to the importance of the JDA in dislodging the IHRA definition from its status of being THE definition and opening the space for debate and challenge. David Rosenberg is a member of the Jewish Socialists Group

This article first appeared in the Morning Star and is reproduced by permission of the author.

David RosenbergI once heard Tony Benn giving a speech at Conway Hall in which he revealed the “most dangerous word in the English language”. Only three letters long, but it had the power to elevate one perspective, and dismiss, reject, and encourage vilification of all others on the subject being discussed. The word was “THE”. Nowhere, in recent years, has Benn’s claim been so powerfully illustrated than In the controversies surrounding definitions of antisemitism.

A poorly-worded “working definition” of antisemitism, plus examples of what 21st century antisemitism might look like, were first developed for the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in 2005, by the American Jewish Committee’s researcher, Kenneth Stern. According to Tony Lerman, former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, Stern’s document was signed off by just five people, one of whom was Mike Whine, long associated with the Board of Deputies and the Community Security Trust. Continue reading “Turning the Tables”

The JDA is to be welcomed but also debated

Mike Cushman discusses the strengths of the recently issued Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism and also the areas for further debate. FSOI regards the production of the JDA as an important step in the constant endeavour to understand how antisemitism manifests itself in order to combat it most effectively. It is the result of intense intellectual debate among scholars who have spent their lives enquiring into antisemitism. We regret that its publication has been almost entirely ignored by the national media, the Government, political parties and mainstream Jewish organisations. Their reluctance to engage with a serious and carefully crafted document casts doubts on their motives in raising issues of antisemitism so strongly in the recent past.

This article is the first in a series of pieces we will be publishing to advance the debate on the JDA which is taking place with intelligence and passion among thoughtful Jews and anti-racists.

Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA)I find the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) statement a valuable stating point for any consideration of the recently published Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (the JDA) as it identifies many of the main issues even though I differ with them on some of their analyses. Continue reading “The JDA is to be welcomed but also debated”

Academic freedom and the harassment of David Miller

Free Speech on Israel have written to Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of

David Miller
David Miller

the University of Bristol.  We sought to bring the considerable threat to academic freedom from acceding to the campaign to dismiss Professor David Miller to his attention Continue reading “Academic freedom and the harassment of David Miller”

Oxford students set themselves up as censors

Mike Cushman

St Peter’s College, Oxford Student Committee (their JCR) agreed a hostile and inaccurate motion about a College invitation to Ken Loach to lecture on film-making . It attempts to use the IHRA working definition of antisemitism to justify censorship of one of Britain’s leading artistic figures.

Most belligerently, the students take the wide circulation of allegations that Loach’s statements in support of Palestinian Rights are antisemitic as proof of their accuracy. It is striking that they do not bother to quote anything they believe is offensive and argue for their belief; in their eyes Loach is guilty because his detractors claim he is. Continue reading “Oxford students set themselves up as censors”

Tackling the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism

Brian Klug introduced the session of the International Gathering of Jews Supporting Justice in Palestine on ‘Responding to the Misuse and Abuse of Antisemitism Definition’, held by Zoom on 3 October 2020. His presentation honed in on the ambiguities, internal contradictions and inadequacies of the widely proclaimed IHRA ‘definition’ of antisemitism. His address centred on five modest proposals for escaping for the quagmire created by the definition’s proponents.

His text is reproduced by his kind permission

Brian KlugMy brief is to address two questions: Why has the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism been so successful and what can be done about it? I am a little diffident about tackling these questions. You are the activists with experience in the field, and a strategy that works in one national context might not in another. I am merely an armchair philosopher. All I shall do, therefore, is offer a few modest suggestions that I hope will be helpful as you deliberate about action later today and after we have dispersed. So, here are five modest suggestions from the clouds. Continue reading “Tackling the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism”

Open Letter to Keir Starmer on the Dismissal of Rebecca Long-Bailey

This letter was sent to Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer on 27 June 2020. No response was received.

If you wish to support the letter, please send your name and CLP to starmerletter@gmail.com

Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey

Dear Keir,

As members of the Labour Party, we have been shocked by your abrupt and authoritarian decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet.

The reason given for this action is specious indeed. It is not and cannot be Rebecca’s retweeting of Maxine Peake’s interview. The allegedly antisemitic section of that interview is one sentence only, stating that: “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.” This allegation is rebutted right away in the same interview, with the interviewer commenting between brackets: “A spokesperson for the Israeli police has denied this, stating that ‘there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway’.” Continue reading “Open Letter to Keir Starmer on the Dismissal of Rebecca Long-Bailey”

BDS campaigning is a right in Europe (and the UK)

John Spencer highlights the implication of the overturning of a French anti-BDS judgement by the European Court of Human Rights in Baldassi v France. Despite Brexit the UK is still party to the European Charter of Human Rights which is adjudicated by the ECtHR which is entirely separate from the EU. So, this judgement limits the ability of Johnson to press forward on his threats to legally limit BDS activity in Britain in support of Palestinian rights.

French president Macron’s attempt to outlaw Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel seems to have been holed below the waterline by a decision handed down in Strasbourg on Thursday by the European Court of Human Rights.  The court held that French legislation criminalising BDS, which was strongly backed by pro-Israel groups, violated the right to freedom of expression. It overturned a decision of France’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation, which had endorsed the anti-BDS campaign.

ECtHR logo

The decision in the case of Baldassi v France has repercussions right across Europe, including the UK, which despite Brexit remains a member of the Council of Europe and thus subject to the ECHR.   It poses immediate problems for the German government which has waged a strident campaign against pro-Palestinian campaigners. Continue reading “BDS campaigning is a right in Europe (and the UK)”

Orla Guerin’s report shows what’s wrong with Holocaust remembrance

Robert Cohen discusses the manufactured outrage over Orla Guerin’s brief reminder on BBC News that Jewish victimhood has translated into Israeli supremacism over the last 75 years. Such incessant patrolling of how the Holocaust is to be understood is an insult to all those whom were murdered. The fact of mass murder is not in question but how we are to interpret it and learn from it, like all significant historical events,  is and must be an area of controversy. To seek to preserve it in aspic, with only one script sanctioned, prevents the learning that the self-appointed arbiters claim they wish to promote. Thinking about the Holocaust is neither revisionism nor denial, it is a duty.

This article first appeared on Patheos.com and is reproduced by permission of the author

As I become older I realise that the Holocaust is not over. The gas chambers and incinerators are gone but the consequences of the horror will continue to play out in the decades and even centuries to come. Our understanding of who we are as Jews, our place in the world, our politics, how others view us, even our theology, continues to be shaped, indeed defined, by the Holocaust.

Why would it be otherwise? Continue reading “Orla Guerin’s report shows what’s wrong with Holocaust remembrance”

Expert Opinion on the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” of the IHRA

Peter Ullrich has prepared a detailed analysis of the IHRA working definition on antisemitism. It is a dense read but takes the discussion of the shortcomings of the definition further than previous critiques. Ullrich shows that what is regarded as an unamendable text by its UK protagonists has been adapted significantly elewhere. He carefully explores not just the history and language of the document but also the necessity of seeing it as a text to be interpreted and not a simple set unambiguous categories.

Executive Summary

The “Working Definition of Antisemitism” recognized by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016 is an instrument for collecting required data on and fighting antisemitism that has achieved wide dissemination. In a field of action characterized by a high degree of conceptual insecurity, the definition promises conceptual orientation by providing a basis for practical work. Indeed, with its concrete language devoid of technical jargon and its tangible examples that illustrate the concept of antisemitism using typical, recurring phenomena, the “Working Definition” has become the basis for the work of various groups of users. Moreover, the adoption of hitherto rarely examined aspects of antisemitism related to Israel provided an update for the discussion that was necessary at the time the definition was formulated (in the early 2000s). Continue reading “Expert Opinion on the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” of the IHRA”