Friday, March 26, 2021


At first blush, the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism does not seem very different from the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism that its framers want to replace. 

Both of them stress that their examples of antisemitism depend entirely on context.

IHRA introduces its examples by saying, "Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:..."

JDA expands on this but in no way contradicts IHRA: "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."

This is all perfectly true.

The problem with JDA is precisely its context, namely, the reasons it was written. And the deeper you look, the worse it is.

The IHRA working definition was not written as a political document. It was not written by "right wing Zionists." It was meant to be the most accurate definition of antisemitism with an eye to identify all kinds of antisemitism, no matter the source. It covers far Right antisemitism, far Left antisemitism, Arab antisemitism, Farrakhan-style antisemitism - there is nothing the least bit slanted about it, no matter what its critics claim.

JDA, on the other hand, is supremely political. As the authors wrote in The Forward, "Though we do not underestimate the perniciousness of antisemitism from the left, it is clear that the most dangerous threat to Jews today comes from the extreme right and populist groups." A definition of antisemitism should not distinguish between the sources of antisemitism. 

Context is indeed critical to determining whether a statement or action is antisemitic or not. IHRA says that "applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation" is a good indication of antisemitism, although not necessarily always. JDA says, "Criticism that some may see as excessive or contentious, or as reflecting a 'double standard,' is not, in and of itself, antisemitic." Again, they do not contradict each other - both definitions say that context is crucial to determining antisemitic intent. 

The difference is that IHRA is trying to be as inclusive as possible in its definition, and JDA is trying to be as exclusive as possible. In all other contexts - when defining racism or misogyny or any other bigotry - the Left is as inclusive as possible, and the victim group is believed when they say that they were attacked. But in the case of antisemitism the JDA authors deliberately narrow the definition to exclude anyone they cannot associate with the Right.

Let's run a couple of examples through both definitions.

If someone who has no history of antisemitic statements comes out of the blue and says that Israel is acting like Nazi Germany towards Palestinians, is this antisemitic?

IHRA says "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" is an example of antisemitism.

JDA says, " Even if contentious, it is not antisemitic, in and of itself, to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid." Nazism is a historical case and would presumably fall under this definition.

What about context? It is clear that any comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany is not meant to illuminate anything, but it is meant to hurt Jews by comparing them to their murderers. If Israel wasn't a Jewish state, the comparison wouldn't be made. Of course it is antisemitic. The fact that this example was excluded from the JDA definition, even though it is explicit in the IHRA, shows that the omission was deliberate - the JDA did not want to say that comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany is assumed to be antisemitic, which shows how far the authors would go in defending anti-Zionism as legitimate.

The "double standards" come into play with calling Israel racist or an apartheid state, or creating massive campaigns to boycott Israel when no remotely similar campaigns exist for any other state today. JDA descends into farce on this topic, saying, "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." 

Commonplace? What other states are people boycotting with the amount of publicity that BDS has? And why is Israel singled out when by any calculation, even if you believe the most insane lies about Israel, it still doesn't approach the levels of human rights violations done by most states, including Western nations?

Similarly, the Left will discuss how to dismantle the Jewish state and replace it with another Arab state (falsely called "binational.") What other state based on a national group of people is ever told to destroy itself? What other state is constantly told it has no right to exist? 

This JDA's subtext is that it is only a huge coincidence that the only nation on the planet that is boycotted, considered illegitimate, compared to South Africa, and told that its national ethos is racist, is also the only nation filled with Jews. Perhaps some people buy that argument, but most people don't - and there is a very good reason why the IHRA has been accepted or endorsed by 29 nations so far.

Anti-Zionism is obviously akin to antisemitism, simply because there is simply no comparable "anti" in the world. Plus, those two "antis" are very, very similar - the things that Jews have been accused of historically are now what the Jewish state is accused of, such as undue influence over governments.  murdering children for sport and deliberately spreading disease.  There is no difference between those who accuse Israel of poisoning Palestinian water, or of stealing Palestinian organs, and those who have historically accused Jews of poisoning the wells to cause a plague or the blood libel. 

Another point that needs to be made: Antisemitism has historically seen Jews being accused the most heinous crimes of the age. Israel is accused of the most heinous crimes of this age - racism, colonialism, indiscriminate killing and imprisonment of children, apartheid, ethnic cleansing. The parallels are obvious to anyone with a passing knowledge of history, but the JDA doesn't acknowledge this aspect of modern antisemitism. 

A definition that deliberately excludes most examples of what is claims to define is not a definition at all. It is propaganda.

Sure there might be rare outlier cases where rabid anti-Zionism is not antisemitic, but they are the exception. To exclude an entire category of antisemitism because of some theoretical exception is not fighting antisemitism, but enabling it. And notice how people who would never dream of limiting the definition of racism and finding boundary cases where racism is OK are spending so much effort finding ways to justify the irrational, deranged hatred of the Jewish state.

And when you look at the signatories of the JDA, you see someone like Richard Falk, whose antisemitic pedigree is long and varied, He likes this definition because, he believes, it takes him off the hook. And JDA proudly sought out and displays his signature, without even a hint  of fear that it discredits the entire document. 

JDA is not a serious definition. It is misdirection to ignore today's major manifestation of antisemitism. Leftist antisemitism may not be as deadly as that of the Right, but it is considered mainstream - and that makes it, in many ways, far more dangerous.








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