Unprecedented initiative by over 30 Jewish groups worldwide opposes equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel
- Jewish groups issue joint statement against misleading definition of antisemitism used to stifle criticism of Israel and undermine free speech
- Coalition of 36 groups from 15 countries defends right to criticise and boycott Israel
- IHRA definition undermines both Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and global struggle against antisemitism
New York, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv (July 17, 2018) – From South Africa to Sweden, New Zealand to Germany to Brazil, for the first time ever over thirty Jewish organisations across the globe have come together in a statement opposing attempts to use a distorted definition of antisemitism to stifle criticism of Israel. The statement, spearheaded by the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace and supported by six UK Jewish groups, condemns a growing trend of legislative campaigns to target organisations that support Palestinian rights, especially the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“From our own histories we are all too aware of the dangers of increasingly fascistic and openly racist governments and political parties,” the global letter states. “The rise in antisemitic discourse and attacks worldwide is part of that broader trend. At times like this, it is more important than ever to distinguish between the hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate critiques of Israeli policies and system of injustice on the other.”
The western world has witnessed increasing legislative efforts to quash the growing global movement in solidarity with Palestinians. Central to the pro-Israel effort has been use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, worded in a way that equates legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.
In the United States, two bills currently under discussion in US Congress seek to criminalise the boycott of illegal Israeli settlements and repress advocacy for Palestinian human rights by defining such acts as antisemitic.
In the UK the government and pro-Israel groups have sought to prevent local councils from boycotting goods from Israeli settlements. Pro-Israel groups are also demanding legislation to outlaw “Israeli apartheid week” events on UK campuses, citing the IHRA definition as justification.
The IHRA document has never had unanimous support from British Jews. Its adoption by the Conservative Government in December 2016 was swiftly followed by the publication of a Legal Opinion which made clear that pro-Palestinian campaigners who accuse Israel of enacting a policy of apartheid and call for BDS in response, cannot properly be characterised as antisemitic.
“It is vital that Jewish organizations across the globe stand united against harmful definitions of antisemitism and together for human rights and the freedom to protest. We at JVP are proud to have initiated this historic effort,” stated Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director.
Jewish Palestine solidarity activist Leah Levane, from the UK’s Antisemitism Consortium, said: “We are supporting this global Jewish statement because we understand the need for clarity about what antisemitism is and what it is not. There is no room for hate speech, but equally there must be no suppression of legitimate political protest, nor chilling of critical discussion, as is happening to pro-Palestinian activists in the UK and elsewhere.”
Notes for editors
As social justice organizations from around the world, we write this letter with growing alarm regarding the targeting of organizations that support Palestinian rights in general and the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in particular. These attacks too often take the form of cynical and false accusations of antisemitism that dangerously conflate anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid.
We live in a frightening era, with growing numbers of authoritarian and xenophobic regimes worldwide, foremost among them the Trump administration, allying themselves with Israel’s far right government while making common cause with deeply antisemitic and racist white supremacist groups and parties.
From our own histories we are all too aware of the dangers of increasingly fascistic and openly racist governments and political parties. The rise in antisemitic discourse and attacks worldwide is part of that broader trend.
At times like this, it is more important than ever to distinguish between the hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate critiques of Israeli policies and system of injustice on the other.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is increasingly being adopted or considered by western governments, is worded in such a way as to be easily adopted or considered by western governments to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.
This conflation undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law.
We urge our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition and instead take effective measures to defeat white supremacist nationalist hate and violence and to end complicity in Israel’s human rights violations. Israel does not represent us and cannot speak for us when committing crimes against Palestinians and denying their UN-stipulated rights.
The Nobel Peace Prize-nominated, Palestinian civil society-led BDS movement for Palestinian rights has demonstrated an ongoing proven commitment to fighting antisemitism and all forms of racism and bigotry, consistent with its dedication to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Some of the undersigned organizations support BDS in full, others in part, and others have no formal position on BDS. We all affirm the current call for BDS as a set of tools and tactics that should not be defined as antisemitic.
|Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)|
|Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel)|
|Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine (Strasbourg, France)|
|Dayenu: New Zealand Jews Against Occupation (New Zealand)|
|Een Ander Joods Geluid (A Different Jewish Voice) (The Netherlands)|
|Een Andere Joodse Stem – Another Jewish Voice (Flanders, Belgium)|
|European Jews for a Just Peace|
|Free Speech on Israel (UK)|
|Gate48 – critical Israelis in the Netherlands|
|Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)|
|Independent Jewish Voices (UK)|
|International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network|
|Italian Network of Jews Against the Occupation|
|Jewish Anti-Fascist Action Berlin (Germany)|
|Jewish Voice For Labour (UK)|
|Jewish Voice for Peace (USA)|
|Jewish Voice for Peace members in London (UK)|
|Jews Against Fascism (Melbourne, Australia)|
|Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK)|
|Jews for Palestinian Right of Return (USA)|
|Jews of Color & Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in Solidarity w/ Palestine (USA)|
|Jews Say No! (USA)|
|JIPF – Judar för Israelisk Palestinsk Fred (Sweden)|
|Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden im Nahost e.V. (Germany)|
|Junts, Associació Catalana de Jueus i Palestins (Catalonia, Spain)|
|Los Otros Judíos (Argentina)|
|Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine (UK)|
|Quebrando Muros – Judeus Brasileiros Pela Descolonização da Palestina (Brazil)|
|SEDQ Network- A Global Jewish Network for Justice|
|South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (South Africa)|
|South African Jews for a Free Palestine (South Africa)|
|Union des progressistes juifs de Belgique (Saint-Gilles, Belgium)|
|United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO)-Canada|
|Union Juive Française pour la Paix (France)|
|Workman’s Circle, Boston (USA)|
The Global Jewish Statement is an initiative of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national, grassroots US organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters, over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.