The University of Edinburgh has excluded Palestinian staff and scholars of Palestine from a task group set up to discuss the “vicious repercussions” of the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Details of the marginalisation of Palestinian voices at the Scottish university was reported by senior lecturer in international relations Nicola Perugini.
“The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is weaponised to silence critical conversations on Palestine,” tweeted Perugini. “Guess who my university has excluded from the ‘task and finish group’ that will discuss the vicious repercussions of the definition? Palestinian staff and scholars of Palestine.”
The IHRA definition of antisemitism is weaponised to silence critical conversations on Palestine. Guess who my university has excluded from the “task and finish group” that will discuss the vicious repercussions of the definition? Palestinian staff and scholars of Palestine 🤦♂️
— Nicola Perugini (@PeruginiNic) November 15, 2022
Perugini also expressed concern over the IHRA definition’s adoption by British universities without consultation. “The majority of UK universities adopted the definition without consultation with their staff and under the pressure of Gavin Williamson Tory Secretary of State for Education,” said the co-author of the 2020 book Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire.
According to the senior lecturer, Williamson, who recently resigned from a government position for the third time, had “blackmailed” universities “and threatened to cut state funding if they did not adopt” the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
Opposition to the definition has grown over the years due to concerns about its chilling effect on free speech. Jewish academics are among the many individuals, groups and institutions to take a stand against it. The Jewish Faculty Network (JFN) warned against the IHRA saying that the definition has been used to “intimidate and silence the work of unions, student groups, academic departments and faculty associations that are committed to freedom, equality and justice for Palestinians.”
Critics insist that the IHRA definition is problematic because seven of the eleven examples of anti-Semitism cited conflate legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism. As a result, its widespread adoption will not only open critics of the apartheid state to allegations of anti-Semitism, but will also deny Palestinians the freedom and right to speak about the oppression to which they are subjected by Israel’s brutal military occupation.