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”

UCL attack on Academic Freedom

Mike Cushman analyses the unreasonable and unprecedented restrictions UCL have placed on what may be said at the launch of a new book on Chomsky’s work. They have extended the range of examples that they define as antisemitic even beyond the wide ranging and frequently criticised examples attached to the IHRA definition.

LATEST – ‘GUIDELINES’ HAVE GONE

We wrote to the head of UCL and received this response:

Thank you for taking the time to set our your concerns. The Provost has asked me to respond to you to let you know that, following discussions here and with the independent chair of the event, we have now agreed a way for the event to proceed without asking the speakers to sign up to the guidelines.

We have also heard that the requirement to submit the text of talks in advance has also been dropped.

_______________

The Responsibility of Intellectuals: coverUniversity College London (UCL) has resisted pressure on them to cancel their hosting of the launch of a book their press is publishing The Responsibility of Intellectuals: Reflections by Noam Chomsky and others after 50 years . However, they have conceded ground to the unwarranted allegations that the event will provide a platform for antisemitism by asking for prior sight of presentations and describing a list of items they presume to be antisemitic. Their banned topics go beyond even the IHRA’s possible examples of antisemitism. They represent a gross breach of academic freedom and legally protected free speech. Continue reading “UCL attack on Academic Freedom”

Antisemitic ‘jokes’ are no problem – when a Zionist giggles

Jonathan Ofir asks, “Why does Bill Maher get to run antisemitic ‘jokes’ with Bari Weiss, when Ilhan Omar can’t say a word about Israel?”

This article is republished from Mondoweiss by permission of the author

New York Times staff editor Bari Weiss is on a hell of a roll these days, having just published a book called “How to Fight anti-Semitism”. Weiss’s own paper, the New York Times, judges the book to be “a brave book”, because Weiss is ostensibly walking into perilous intellectual territory:

Continue reading “Antisemitic ‘jokes’ are no problem – when a Zionist giggles”

Lib Dem members: party line on Labour anti-Semitism is ‘ill-judged and uncritical’

We are a group of Liberal Democrats proud of the recent growth in support for our party, but seriously concerned that our leaders’ repeated utterances about alleged antisemitism have not been based on sound evidence. We have tried to raise this issue with them and get it discussed within the party, but much to our disappointment, have encountered a total refusal, as if the topic were taboo. The experience has led us to publish this article.

Reprinted from Open Democracy by permission of he authors

There exists prejudice against Jews and other minorities in all corners of British society, but we have found no hard evidence behind repeated assertions (echoed by the Lib Dem leadership) that it is exceptional or rampant on the Labour left. Since 2017, some of us have been trying to get the leadership to discuss the issue properly, but without success. The experience motivated us to form this group, and write them an open letter in May, asking them to “tell the truth about alleged antisemitism”.
Continue reading “Lib Dem members: party line on Labour anti-Semitism is ‘ill-judged and uncritical’”

David Miller rebuts Daily Telegraph smears

Professor David Miller

Professor David Miller has written a twitter thread rebutting the false and malicious claims about him made by Daily Telegraph journalists. This was a flagrant attempt to undermine academic freedom in the context of discussing Palestine and Israel.

Reprinted by permission of the author
The Sunday Telegraph has published a hit piece on me by @camillahmturner and @ImogenHorton98
Let’s review the inaccuracies and weasel words used to insinuate antisemitism even while explicitly denying they are making such an allegation. Continue reading “David Miller rebuts Daily Telegraph smears”

The witch hunt against Chris Williamson and WitchHunt

Mike Cushman looks at how the witch hunt against Chris Williamson is linked to WitchHunt. The film shows how slurs against principled supporters of Palestinian rights become solidified into ‘common sense’

Chris Williamson is an outspoken socialist and supporter of the Corbyn project, so it is no great surprise to find him the subject of a witch hunt. A campaign that has now led to threats of violence to prevent him speaking. Continue reading “The witch hunt against Chris Williamson and WitchHunt”