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Activists, scholars call to end weaponising anti-Semitism ahead of Holocaust Remembrance event in Sweden

October 12, 2021 at 1:32 pm

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

Several Palestine activist groups and academics working in the field of anti-Semitism studies have issued separate statements raising their concerns on instrumentalising anti-Semitism ahead of tomorrow’s International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism held in Malmo, Sweden.

According to a statement issued today by the Palestinian Action Group in Southern Sweden, which is composed of Swedes of Palestinian origin, along with other Palestinian unions and institutions in Europe, concerns have been raised that the outcome of the event could be used “to prosecute or repress those who criticize the Israeli occupation and the Zionist movement with false allegations of anti-Semitism”

Such concerns, the signatories argue are based on the fact that the sponsor of the forum, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has linked its widely contested definition of anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism, which can include criticism of the Israeli occupation.

“The Israeli occupation state, with the participation of the Zionist movement internationally, is simultaneously pressuring countries around the world to boycott international conferences that differentiate between anti-Semitism and opposition to the Zionist movement,” the statement reads.

OPINION: By endorsing the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, Europe stifles academic freedom

Instead, the statement demands the global forum to use this year’s “Remember and react” title to also remember the suffering of the Palestinian people that began in the early 20th century as a result of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the ensuing Nakba in 1948 perpetrated by the Zionist movement.

In a statement released yesterday signed by 54 scholars working in anti-Semitism studies and related fields, a “stark warning” was also made to EU leaders and the UN “against the political instrumentalisation of the fight against antisemitism.”

Concerns surrounding the so-called working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the IHRA was highlighted, which include 11 contemporary examples of anti-Semitism, “seven of which relate to Israel”

“These examples are being weaponised against human rights organisations and solidarity activists who denounce Israel’s occupation and human-rights violations,” the statement stressed.

“They legitimise wrongful accusations of antisemitism, which serve as a warning for anyone voicing criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This has a chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom and compromises the fight against antisemitism.”

Signatories included Moshe Behar, Programme Director of Arabic & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Manchester, Naomi Chazan, Professor Emerita of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Moshe Zuckermann, Professor Emeritus of History and Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.

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