I am opposed to antisemitism with every fibre of my body.
I always have been opposed to antisemitism.
I always will be opposed to antisemitism.
Why then am I and so many others who are opposed to antisemitism so deeply concerned with the definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Organizations opposed to this definition include the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs . Even the United Nations special rapporteur on racism, E. Tendayi Achiume, has reported to the UN General Assembly that this definition should not be adopted, citing its divisive effects and negative human rights impacts.
The IHRA definition of antisemitism states:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
This vague definition has appended to it a number of examples it says are antisemitic. A concerning number of these dangerously stray into equating criticism of the state of Israel with prejudice against Jewish people or the Jewish religion.
Let me give you just three of those mistaken examples:
- “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”
- “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”
- “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
The first example falsely claims that criticizing the Israeli state as racist is the same as denying self-determination for Jewish people – and therefore is antisemitic. This is nonsense. The fact is that Israel is believed by many right-thinking and well-informed people and organizations such as Amnesty International to be not just racist but an apartheid state. My June 25, 2021 Blog discusses ethnic cleansing in Israel in some detail.
Surely all people who believe in the fundamental right to criticize the state of Israel should be free of the fear that they will be accused of antisemitism as a result.
It gets worse.
The second questionable example would label an individual as antisemitic if they failed to include criticism of other nations in the same breath as criticizing the state of Israel.
Let me give you just one instance. In May 2010, unarmed passive volunteers on six ships aptly named the Gaza Freedom Flotilla attempted to bring much-needed medical supplies to Gaza. In the middle of the night on May 31st Israeli commandos raided the Flotilla, severely injuring many of the volunteers. There was a very justifiable international outcry.
The IHRA definition of antisemitism would have labled this criticism as antisemitic unless the individuals and nations voicing the criticism had simultaneously criticized other countries engaging in similarly atrocious behaviour to that of the Israeli state.
It gets even worse.
The third IHRA example above states that it is antisemitic to equate any behaviours of the state of Israel with the actions of the Nazis in Germany which were clearly antisemitic, atrocious, and unacceptable on any grounds.
Most people are unaware of the Israeli full air, sea, and land blockade of the tiny Gaza Strip with its borders hermetically sealed by the Israeli military – economic warfare against all Gaza residents in violation of international law. Israeli policy even controls the amount of food permitted into Gaza, a policy designed by the Israeli government “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Israeli authorities have even calculated the caloric intake needed to limit food available while avoiding outright starvation. Gaza has been described by many, including Human Rights Watch, as the world’s largest open-air prison.
I have absolutely no hesitation in saying Israel’s behaviour there is equivalent to some of the acts committed by Nazi Germany, such as isolating and starving up to 460,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. The IHRA’s definition of antisemitism would label me antisemitic for holding this view.
As can be seen from the above, the real objective of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is to force those critical of the state of Israel to engage in self-censorship.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada is strongly organizing against the IHRA campaign and for a truly unambiguous recognition and definition of antisemitism, including by posting a very compelling video on YouTube, 4 Reasons Why You Should Oppose the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism. I urge you to check out this short video.
On Tuesday, November 15th, Vancouver City Council will consider adopting the misleading IHRA definition of antisemitism. If you are as concerned as I am about maintaining the right to engage in legitimate criticism of Israel, I would urge you to immediately sign up to speak to Council against this proposal. You can sign up to speak by clicking this link.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (Nov 13, 2022): 416.83ppm
One year ago (Nov 13, 2021): 414.67ppm
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