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In sharp disagreement with IHRA, new definition insists BDS is not anti-Semitic

March 26, 2021 at 1:28 pm

Protest against the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in London, UK on 4 September 2018 [Jack Taylor/Getty Images]

In the latest opposition to the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, favoured by staunch advocates of the state of Israel, a group of over 200 academics and experts have created a new anti-Semitism definition which excludes the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and several other examples included in the IHRA that conflates criticism of Israel with hatred towards Jewish people.

Signatories of the “Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism” include international scholars working in anti-Semitism studies and related fields, including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine and Middle East Studies. The group said that the text issued by them has benefited from consultation with legal scholars and members of civil society.

More significantly, the Jerusalem Declaration criticises IHRA for what it described as “weakening the fight against antisemitism” because it “is unclear in key respects and widely open to different interpretations.”

In sharp contrast to the IHRA, the Jerusalem Declaration does not consider BDS as anti-Sematic. “Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states,” the group said. “In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.”

It also dismissed a number of other examples included by the IHRA as expressions of anti-Semitism. The IHRA Definition includes 11 “examples” of anti-Semitism, seven of which focus on the State of Israel.

Criticism of Zionism as a form of nationalism or arguing for a variety of constitutional arrangements for Jews and Palestinians in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, is not considered anti-Sematic. Likewise it is not anti-Sematic to criticise Israel, “even if contentious” or to “to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid”.

READ: Controversial ‘anti-Semitism code’ being ‘weaponised’ by pro-Israel groups, warns drafter

The Jerusalem Declaration goes further than an earlier declaration by the Nexus Task Force. The group comprising of liberal US Jewish scholars, issued a definition of anti-Semitism earlier this month that allowed more freedom to criticise Israel. The Nexus Task Force, was formed in 2019 to address what it describes as a “disturbing trend to politicize and exploit antisemitism and Israel [that] is growing in conservative and right-wing political circles.”

Of the examples dismissed by the Nexus Task Force as anti-Sematic was the IHRA’s claim that “applying double standards” was a form of anti-Semitism. “Paying disproportionate attention to Israel and treating Israel differently than other countries is not prima facie proof of anti-Semitism,” the Nexus definition says. “There are numerous reasons for devoting special attention to Israel and treating Israel differently, e.g., some people care about Israel more; others may pay more attention because Israel has a special relationship with the United States and receives $4 billion in American aid.”