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.

To begin with, there is widespread confusion about what the IHRA Working Definition even is. This is something that has complicated the political battle in the UK.  I shall spell out what happened a bit more, as there might be an object lesson for activists in other national contexts.

In summer 2018, a firestorm broke out when the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party proposed a new Code of Conduct for Antisemitism.1 It was dismissed out of hand by many pundits on the grounds that Labour had written its own definition rather than adopting the IHRA’s. “Labour,” said Nick Cohen (for example), “has taken it upon itself to reject the [IHRA’s] definition of antisemitism.”2 Stephen Kinnock, himself a Labour MP, remarked: “The IHRA definition of anti-semitism is the only globally accepted one, and it truly beggars belief that the Labour Party thinks it can or should try to cook up its own.”3 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’.”

Even if plainly wrong, Maxine Peake’s statement would not constitute an instance of antisemitic “conspiracy theory” unless the meaning of these words is completely devalued. The statement refers to the well-known and indisputable fact that the Israeli state has been providing training to US police forces, as shown by this comment published by the US branch of Amnesty International.

The sad truth is that your decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey was not a reaction to her retweeting of that interview, but a further instance of bowing to the pressure of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This is unacceptable and gives this institution unwarranted power over the internal affairs of our party. After the Ten Pledges that the Board of Deputies got candidates to the latest leadership contest in the Labour Party to sign, including Rebecca Long-Bailey herself, here it is interfering again in internal party affairs, not contenting itself with blaming Rebecca but questioning her “suitability” to the role of Shadow Education Secretary as if the board were part of the Labour Party leading bodies.

This is utterly unjust and unacceptable. The Board of Deputies cannot be both judge and jury in matters related to the Israeli state of which it has always been an unconditional backer. Accepting its judgement on issues related to Israel and acting within the party upon this judgement severely compromises the Labour Party’s stance on Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. It amounts to granting the Board of Deputies a censorship prerogative over all pronouncements criticising the ultra-right government of Israel made by members of the party and, by way of this prerogative, a direct say on the party’s internal life and its outside representation and action.

We believe that it is highly important to repair this serious misstep by immediately reinstating Rebecca Long-Bailey in her position in the shadow cabinet.

Signatories:   

Gilbert Achcar, Kingston & Surbiton CLP
Rosemary Addington, Kingston and Surbiton CLP
Avril Alexander, Oxford East CLP
Jo Alexander, Tottenham CLP
Jenny Almeida, Streatham CLP
Omar Al-Qattan, Kensington CLP
Ziad Al-Qattan, Kensington CLP
Gus Alvarez, Kingston & Surbiton CLP
Veronica Alvarez, North Durham CLP
Nadia Amara, Chingford & Woodford Green CLP
Karen Ankers, Ynys Mon CLP
Steven Antoniou, Oxford CLP
Rita Appleby, Chelmsford CLP
Margaret Archer, South Shields CLP
Mandy Baker, Walthamstow CLP
Ray Barkley, Windsor CLP
Terry Barrow, Penistone and Stocksbridge CLP
Graham Bash, South Thanet CLP
Labina Basit, Uxbridge & South Ruislip CLP
Melanie L Baynes, Sheffield Central CLP
Ian Bell, Walthamstow CLP
Catherine Belsey, Cambridge CLP
Anne Benkins, Lower Wye Valley CLP
John Beresford, Leeds Central CLP
Phil Bevin, Kingston & Surbiton CLP
Bhasker Bhadresha, Ilford North CLP
Laurence Biggie, Pontypridd CLP
Rica Bird, Wirral South CLP
Angie Birtill, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Katharine Bligh, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Nushi Bnazemi, Brent North CLP
Patrick Bonner, Brent North CLP
Kim Boome, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Tony Booth, Cambridge City CLP
Keith Bradbury, Cannock Chase CLP
Anne-Marie Brody, Wealden CLP
Tarin Brokenshire, Cambridge CLP
Jacqui Brown, Forest of Dean CLP
Susan Buckingham, Cambridge CLP
Erica Burman, Manchester Withington CLP
Suzanne Burns, Somerton & Frome CLP
Carole Buxton, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
Johnnie Byrne, Kingston & Surbiton CLP
Ben Byrne, North Durham CLP
Chantal Cameron, Suffolk Coastal CLP
Peter Cann, Oxford East CLP
David Cannon, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Seamus Carey, Tottenham CLP
Phil Cawston, Brighton Pavilion CLP
Rita Chamber, Dulwich & West Norwood CLP
John Chatham, Ynys Mon CLP
Sahail Chohan, Sheffield Heeley CLP
Nigel Clark, Penistone & Stocksbridge CLP
Ruth Clarke, Islington North CLP
Shaun Cohen, Leeds Central CLP
Ron Cohen, Finchley & Golders Green CLP
Sylvia Cohen, Finchley & Golders Green CLP
Andy Colwell, Labour International CLP
Dee Combes, Liverpool Riverside CLP
Jane Connor, Walthamstow CLP
Terry Conway, Islington North CLP
David Cottington, Kingston & Surbiton CLP
Valerie Coultas, Streatham CLP
Lisa Crane, Tamworth CLP
Ian Crawford, Cambridge CLP
Sandra Crawford, Cambridge CLP
Dane Cross, Chingford and Woodford Green CLP
Gill Crozier, Bristol South CLP
Brendan Curran, Walthamstow CLP
Mike Cushman, Streatham CLP
Selma Dabbagh, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Rada Daniell, Leyton & Wanstead CLP
Clive Darling, Warwick & Leamington CLP
Izzat Darwazeh, Islington South CLP
Rachel Darwazeh, Ynys Mon CLP
Diane Datson, Bromley & Chislehurst CLP
John Davidson, Bristol West CLP
Mary Davies, Brighton Pavilion CLP
John Davies, South Norfolk CLP
Adrienne Davis, Worthing West CLP
Suzanne de Emmony, Streatham CLP
Terry Deans, Plymouth Moor View CLP
Simon Dewsbury, Birmingham Hall Green CLP
Helen Dickson, Liverpool Wavertree CLP
Esmé Dobson, Camberwell and Peckham CLP
Colin Doherty, Finchley & Golders Green CLP
Pippa Dowswell, Chingford & Woodford Green CLP
Michael Duffy, Bootle CLP
Bridget Dunne, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Kevin Ederle, Ynys Môn CLP
Mike Eggboro, South Warringron CLP
Elaine Ellen, Ynys Môn CLP
James Elsey, Camberwell and Peckham CLP
Barry Errington, Crewe & Nantwich CLP
Bronwen Evans, Tottenham CLP
Harriet Evans, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Andrew Feinstein, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Mark Findlay, Brighton Pavilion CLP
Arye Finkle, Chipping Barmet CLP
Lesley Finlayson, Walthamstow CLP
Pete Firmin, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Tom Fisher, Walthamstow CLP
Tony Foley, Warley CLP
Nicolas Franklin-Woolley, Penistone & Stocksbridge CLP
Tania Funston, North of Ireland CLP
Gloria George, Cities of London & Westminster CLP
Phil Gilbert, Gillingham & Rainham CLP
Mick Gilgunn, Islington North CLP
Ruth Gillett, Glasgow Kelvin CLP
Pascale Gillett, Somerton & Frome CLP
Helen Glazier, Sheffield Hallam CLP
Angela Gliddon, Ynys Mon CLP
Eluned Gold, Arfon CLP
Jonathan Golding, Cardiff North CLP
Darren Gomes, Croydon Central CLP
Martin Goodsell, Walthamstow CLP
Stephanie Grant, Tottenham CLP
Elizabeth Greener, North Durham CLP
Gary Griffiths, Woking CLP
Steve Hadden, Warrington South CLP
Geoff Haigh, Preston CLP
Betty Hales, Chingford & Woodford Green CLP
James Hall, South Cambs CLP
Ann Hallam, Hove & Portslade CLP
Kathleen Hamilton, Cambridge CLP
Jo Hammond, Ludlow CLP
Fran Hanlon, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Dave Hansell, Penistone & Stocksbridge CLP
Brian Hanson, Horsham CLP
Terry Harper, Cities of London & Westminster CLP
Alan Harrison, Walsall North CLP
Ruth Heilbronn, North Westminster CLP
Alex Heslop, Bethnal Green & Bow CLP
Ranil Hewavisenti, Hornsey & Wood Green CLP
Derrick Hibbett, Chingford & Woodford Green CLP
Dave Hill, Brighton Pavilion CLP
Simon Hinds, Islington North CLP
Paul Hine, Cities of London & Westminster CLP
Gary Holder, Banbury CLP
Dawn Holder, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Dominic Holland, Sheffield Central CLP
Doug Holton, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
Richard Hopper, Cambridge CLP
Melanie Horridge, Southport CLP
Margaret Houston, Cities of London & Westminster CLP
Eamonn Hughes, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Amy Humphreys, Lewisham Deptford CLP
Dave Hunt, Ynys Môn CLP
John Hurlston, Northfield CLP
Riva Joffe, Holborn and St Pancras CLP
Reba Johnson, Tottenham CLP
Graham Jones, Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough CLP
Carolyn Jordin, Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough CLP
Jenny Kassman, Islington North CLP
David Kellaway, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
Gerard Shimokawa Kelly, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Juliet Kent, Penistone & Stocksbridge CLP
Monash Kessler, Battersea CLP
Tareq Khamis, Luton North CLP
Thea Khamis, North Durham CLP
Chris Khamis, Labour International CLP
Hanna Khamis, Leamington & Warwick CLP
Steve Kind, Leeds West CLP
Tom King, Walthamstow CLP
Peter King, Cannock Chase CLP
Sarah King, Labour International CLP
Richard Kuper, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Jane Lambe, Leeds West CLP
Charli Langford, Bethnal Green & Bow CLP
Patrick Langridge, Hove & Portslade CLP
Alan Larman, CLP
Stasha Lauria, Reading East CLP
David Lawrence, Brecon & Radnorshire CLP
Haroun Lazim, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Ann Lazim, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Zubaida Lazim, Westminster North CLP
Anne-Marie Le Gall, Ynys Môn CLP
Christine Leadbeater, Bolton South East CLP
Alex Lee, Eastbourne CLP
Joanna Lee, Leyton & Wanstead CLP
Ana Lekaj, Walthamstow CLP
Leah Levane, Hastings & Rye CLP
Dave Lewis, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Catriona Lischka, Vauxhall CLP
Elizabeth Lock, Oxford East CLP
Ann Logan, Stockton North CLP
Rhodri Lowis, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Peta Lunberg, Kingston and Surbiton CLP
Vera Lustig, Esher & Walton CLP
Anne Lyons, Oxford East CLP
Dorothy Macedo, Worthing West CLP
Bill MacKeith, Oxford West & Abingdon CLP
Duncan Macpherson, Twickenham CLP
Alan Maddison, Houghton & Sunderland South CLP
John Maher, Birkenhead CLP
Alpesh Maisuria, Stroud CLP
Jenny Manson, Finchley & Golders Green CLP
Stephen Marks, Oxford East CLP
Helen Marks, Liverpool Riverside CLP
Robin Marsden, Kingston & Surbiton CLP
Rob Marsden, Tamworth CLP
Samantha Mason, Walthamstow CLP
Juliet McCaffery, Brighton Pavilion CLP
Pat McGuirk, Bootle CLP
Chris Meacock, Norwich South CLP
John Metson, Durham City CLP
Angie Mindel, Nottingham East CLP
Siobhan Cawson Mooney, Vauxhall CLP
Geoff Moore, Henley CLP
Miranda Moore, Walthamstow CLP
Philip Mountain, North Tyneside CLP
Robert Moutrey, Walthamstow CLP
Nicola Moxham, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
John Moxham, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Raleigh Muir, Colchester CLP
Anisa Mustafa, Sheffield CLP CLP
Bala Nair, Durham North CLP
Nushi Nazemi, Brent North CLP
Suzy Nelson, Lewes CLP
Diana Neslen, Ilford South CLP
Clive Niall, Camberwell and Peckham CLP
Ian Nicol, Horsham CLP
Fiona Norman, Welwyn Hatfield CLP
David Norris, Beaconsfield CLP
Seamus O’Connell, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Margaret Oliver, Rayleigh & Wickford CLP
Dennis O’Malley, Cambridge CLP
Ozlem Onaran, Kingston & Surbiton CLP
Gary Ostrolenk, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
William Owen, City of York CLP
Pam Page, Brighton Pavilion CLP
John Palmer, Greenwich & Woolwich CLP
Ian Parker, Manchester Withington CLP
Susan Pashkoff, Leyton and Wanstead CLP
Tony Peacham, Walthamstow CLP
Diane Pearson, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Liz Peretz, Oxford CLP
Clive Perrett, Chelmsford CLP
David Plank, Cambridge CLP
Stefan Povolotsky, Wantage CLP
Alan Power, Kingston CLP
Brian Precious, East Ham CLP
Claire Preston, Cambridge CLP
Kim Pugh, Cardiff CLP
Caroline Raine, Oxford East CLP
Anandi Ramamurthy, Gorton CLP
Gerry Ramsden, Richmond CLP
Roland Rance, Walthamstow CLP
Colin Read, Walthamstow CLP
Nicola Redwood, Walthamstow CLP
Peter Reed, Henley CLP
Francis Richens, North Cornwall CLP
James Ritchie, Feltham & Heston CLP
Marion Roberts, Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Lee Rock, Sheffield Hallam CLP
Charlotte Peters Rock, Tatton CLP
Polly Rodwell, Ipswich CLP
David Roger, Brighton Kemptown CLP
Barbara Rosenbaum, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Carolyn Roth, Brent Central CLP
Jennifer Runham, Cambridge CLP
Paul Russell, Shipley CLP
Geoff Ryan, Carmarthen East and Dynefwr CLP
Alfredo Saad-Filho, Dulwich & West Norwood CLP
Paul Scott, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Sheila Scoular, Ilford North CLP
Glyn Secker, Dulwich & West Norwood CLP
Shareefa Shah, Watford CLP
Sue Shaw, Henley CLP
Nigel Shaw, Norwich North CLP
Kumiko Shimizu, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Joe Simpson, Sheffield Hallam CLP
Neil Singh, Staffordshire Moorlands CLP
Margaret Sketchley, Penistone & Stocksbridge CLP
Peter Smith, South Basildon & East Thurrock CLP
Dawn Smith, Labour International CLP
Nahid Soltanzadeh, North Ealing CLP
Dave Statham, Forest of Dean CLP
Brendan Stebbings, Bradford South CLP
Alan Stowell, Reading East CLP
Paul Stygal, Rochford & Southend East CLP
Inbar Tamari, Walthamstow CLP
Richard Tamplin, Oxford West & Abingdon CLP
Ebrahim Tavasoli, Ilford North CLP
Wendy Taylor, Ilford South CLP
Ann Thomas, Bristol West CLP
Wisty Thomas, Wimbledon CLP
Alan Thornett, Camberwell and Peckham CLP
Sue Thornley, Cannock Chase CLP
Jonathan Tibbo, Ilford South CLP
Stephen Tiller, Hackney South & Shoreditch CLP
Norman Traub, Southend West CLP
Janet Tully, Morecambe & Lunesdale CLP
Eveline van der Steen, Dwyfor Meironnydd CLP
Jackie Walker, Henley CLP
Bob Walker, Bexhill & Battle CLP
Philip Ward, Sheffield Central CLP
Judith Wardle, Witney CLP
Colin Watson, Peterborough CLP
Tim Watson, Wirral West CLP
Sam Karl Weinstein, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Roger Welch, Portsmouth CLP
Elizabeth Welch, Stafford CLP
Jennifer Whilby, Walthamstow CLP
Chris Wilkinson, Bristol West CLP
Neil Wilkinson, Derby North CLP
Clare Williams, Swansea West CLP
Geoff Williams, Chelmsford CLP
Evan Williams, Eddisbury CLP
Ian Williams, Labour International CLP
Eileen Williamson, North Durham CLP
Joe Williamson, North Durham CLP
Carole Williamson, North Durham CLP
Keith Willmott, East Devon CLP
Thomas Wilson, Hexham CLP
John Wilton, Sutton & Cheam CLP
Tess Wood, Weaver Vale CLP
Leslie Wray, Sheffield Heeley CLP

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?

Just as with earlier major turning points of Jewish history – the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 or the expulsion from Spain in 1492 – the Holocaust changed everything. A third of our people were destroyed along with their culture and heritage. But none of us were left untouched whether we were alive then or born since. Or are yet to be born.

As Jews we have every reason to be sensitive about how the Holocaust is spoken about. What happened should be remembered. It should be taught. Mourning is necessary and reverence is needed, if only to help us to heal.

In remembering the Holocaust, we understandably focus on the past. What happened. And why. We raise up the voices of the remaining survivors so they can give their personal testimony one more time before they become too frail. We ask the leaders of nations to recommit to fighting antisemitism. We engage with our neighbours at a community level and work to create a shared acceptance of the need to remember, and for some, atone.

But there are dangers in how we remember too.

Trauma and narrative

The greatest danger I see is the passing on of unprocessed trauma from one generation of Jews to the next. Living in constant fear of existential threats is not living, it is only surviving. No group of people can thrive if trapped in such a mental condition. We have become sophisticated at teaching the facts of the Holocaust. But poor at recognising the deep emotional impact such learning may cause us and our children.

The other danger is that we try to police the narrative of the Holocaust and set boundaries on its interpretation. There are many reasons why this happens. Some are about emotional and psychological needs linked to the passing on of trauma. But most of the time it’s mixed up with politics. Usually the politics of Israel. And all of this can take place in both conscious and unconscious ways. The results are the same though. We fail to see the full consequences of the tragedy as it continues to work its way through Jewish history and human history too.

Orla Guerin

Orla Guerin
Orla Guerin

All of which brings me to the BBC’s International Correspondent, Orla Guerin.

One short TV news report this week seems to illustrate what takes place when unprocessed collective trauma comes together with a desire to set boundaries on the narrative of the Holocaust.


The BBC had commissioned Orla Guerin’s report as part of its coverage of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

As I watched the report broadcast on the News at Ten on Wednesday evening I knew all hell was about to break out for Guerin and the BBC.

The following morning, Board of Deputies Vice President, Amanda Bowman, made a formal complaint to the BBC for allowing Guerin to make a link from the Holocaust to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“In an otherwise moving report on the experiences of a Holocaust survivor, Orla Guerin’s attempt to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the horrors of the Holocaust was crass and offensive. Her lack of impartiality on the Israel-Palestine conflict has long been a matter of concern and it is questionable why the BBC would even use her for this sensitive assignment. As we approach Holocaust Memorial Day, the Jewish community is within its rights to expect an apology.”

Meanwhile, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, wrote an Op Ed in his paper that surpassed even his own impressive track record for hyperbolic prose:

“I cannot recall a more foul – sickening, indeed – report by any journalist, either in print or broadcast.”

Later, the former BBC chairman Michael Grade and Danny Cohen, its former director of television, added to the criticism. Cohen was quoted by the Guardian:

“The attempt to link the horrors of the Holocaust to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply offensive and upsetting. It was unnecessary, insensitive and particularly ugly in the days before Holocaust Memorial Day. Adding insult to injury, the report uses pictures of Holocaust victims in Yad Veshem during the sequence in which this link is made. This is inexplicably and unjustifiably offensive.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism also submitted a formal complaint from its Chief Executive Gideon Falter:

“Few could imagine perverting what is supposed to be an educational piece about the Holocaust to instead fuel the very antisemitism that such education is supposed to prevent, but that is what the BBC has done. It was utterly appalling to watch Orla Guerin hijack a segment dedicated to remembering six million murdered Jews, and instead use it as a vehicle to desecrate the memory of the Holocaust with her hatred of the Jewish state.”

The criticism Orla Guerin has received has been truly ferocious. So what did she actually say that has caused such offence?

Auschwitz and the Palestinians

Most of Guerin’s the report was taken up with a sensitive and compassionate interview with a Holocaust survivor, Rena Quint, filmed in Jerusalem. It ended with Rena Quint at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial/museum with footage of her looking at the exhibits. The final seconds of the film showed Israeli soldiers visiting the museum. It was over these pictures that Guerin made her concluding commentary:

“In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names – images of the dead. Young soldiers troop in to share the binding tragedy of the Jewish people. The State of Israel is now a regional power. For decades it has occupied Palestinian Territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.”

Outrage

For the Board, Pollard and the other objectors to this news report, mentioning the Palestinians in the same breath as the Holocaust is an outrage.

The objection is that it minimises Jewish suffering, or creates an equivalence with Palestinian suffering, or suggests that Israeli persecution of Palestinians is akin to the Nazi treatment of the Jews. Or it does all three.

I would agree that there needs to be a great deal of care and sensitivity in drawing any similarities between Israel and the Holocaust. More often than not, Holocaust comparisons to Israel are used as crude sloganising designed to be provocative and deliberately hurtful to Jews while shedding little light on Palestinian suffering.

However, Orla Guerin was doing none of this in way she ended her report.

Intimately connected

You cannot understand the creation of the State of Israel (where half the world’s Jewish population now live) nor the attitudes and outlook of its political leaders or Jewish citizens without taking account of the Holocaust and the previous 2,000 years of European Jewish history.

The Holocaust and Israel are intimately connected – emotionally, politically, theologically. They cannot be separated in any kind of analysis of Jewish experience since 1945.

And if Israel chooses to make Jerusalem the focal point of the commemorations (when previously Auschwitz itself has been) then why is it so unreasonable to link them in a news report? After all, generations of Jewish and Israel leaders have presented the creation of the State of Israel as a form of redemption for the Jewish people following the Holocaust and an act of atonement on the part of the international community which did so little to protect Jews or give them a safe haven when they could have done.

But there’s much more to justify Guerin’s commentary. And this is where the dangers of unprocessed Jewish trauma and the desire to control the narrative comes into view.

The undeniable truth is that Palestinians are part of the post Holocaust story too. Their history and current situation cannot be separated from Auschwitz any more than the Jewish story can. In fact, they have become the same story because the Palestinians paid the price for Europe’s failures and the rest of the world’s indifference.

What’s really offensive is the attempt to disconnect the relationship between these two peoples. Whether we like it or not, we are now bound together in our post Holocaust experience.

Without wanting to draw any historical equivalence of suffering, one can legitimately argue that the Palestinian people are also Hitler’s posthumous victims. All that Guerin has done is point out this relevant information.

Of course, the project of Zionism, of a settler colonial ‘return’ to the Promised Land, began decades before the Holocaust. But I strongly doubt the creation of a Jewish State in 1948 would have happened in the way it did if the Holocaust had not taken place. The international community’s relationship to Israel over the decades would have been entirely different too.

It’s not hard to understand why all those who are protesting about Guerin are so vexed by the whole affair. If the Palestinians are allowed into the Holocaust narrative, then the Jewish presentation of the creation of the State of Israel as an entirely righteous and innocent endeavour starts to break down. We can’t afford to allow the Palestinians to be anything other than obstacles and irritants to our own project of post Holocaust salvation.

And underpinning this state of mind is that perpetuation of intergenerational trauma. Trauma generates fear and fear leads to suspicion. It certainly leaves no room for empathy when it comes to the Palestinians.

This is the unbalanced, asymmetric tragedy of Israel/Palestine. It is the Holocaust continuing to wash through history.

‘Deal of the century’

In the coming days we’re likely to see a further marginalisation of the Palestinian people as President Trump finally announces the details of his grossly misnamed “deal of the century”. Benjamin Netanyahu certainly hopes it will “make history”, by which he means it will soon facilitate the annexation of the main Settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley into sovereign Israeli territory.

So the Holocaust continues to play itself out creating new generations of victims. And it’s still too soon to understand what it all means or when it will truly end.

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.

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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”