September 4, 2018: Today, as expected, the UK’s Labour Party adopted in full the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, and rejected a clarification about free speech that had been put forward by Jeremy Corbyn.
Ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected head of the UK’s Labour Party, dire warnings of anti-Semitism have been a mainstay of the country’s daily headlines (MW articles). Prominent figures claiming to fight this wave of anti-Jewish hatred unfailingly cited one silver bullet: the so-called IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism. Only by enforcing this definition in full, the argument went, will Britain be a country in which Jews will be safe.
Now that IHRA has been adopted by all major British political parties, it is de facto British policy.
Despite all the attention given to IHRA, its core claim of fighting anti-Semitism is never challenged. Yet even a cursory examination of it demonstrates quite the opposite: it is IHRA that is anti-Semitic, institutionalizing racism against Jews.
The major media safely contained the spectrum of debate into two camps. On one side, we read that IHRA is needed to address rampant anti-Semitism; on the other, we hear (correctly) that IHRA will imperil honest debate. IHRA’s advocates managed criticism regarding free speech by branding such speech hate speech. Even as the ‘debate’ raged, IHRA achieved its goal: the fabricated hysteria vanquished Israel’s ongoing crimes from the news.
IHRA’s purpose is to help Israel continue business-as-usual without interference. Since the state claims to ‘be’ Jews, any accusation against it is an accusation against Jews, as Jews — that is, racism. With ethnic-nationalism’s sell-by date having expired even before Israel was born, this tactic of holding Jewish identity hostage is about all it has left.
To dismiss in advance the argument that most Jews support IHRA (and Zionism), and therefore, it can’t be anti-Semitic: Neither evidence nor linear reasoning are subject to anyone’s ethnicity. Why individuals, whatever their nationality or religion or political predilections or anything else, might support a document that exploits their ethnic identity to commit crimes, may be an interesting topic for sociologists, but is immaterial to the issue at hand. Nor should we forget that the media rely religiously on Zionist organizations, such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to speak for Jews.
To quote from IHRA, there is such a thing as “the Jewish people”, and this “Jewish people” have a right to “self-determination”. Lest we err in thinking that a person’s right to self-destiny is an individual matter neither dictated by ethnicity nor owned by some political project, IHRA corrects us. This “self-determination” is “the State of Israel”.
This alone should horrify us in principle, no matter which state claims to embody which ethnicity. There is no parallel to this on earth, no other political entity’s claim of ownership over people by virtue of their ethnicity. Any such claim would be universally condemned as outrageous, as abusive, and at best, laughable. But Zionism has conditioned us to believe one of the most repugnant of classic anti-Semitic tropes, that of Jews as a tribe, a ‘race’ apart, somehow distinct from the rest of humanity, and placed a pariah state in the Middle East as the tribal leader.
What IHRA’s smoke and mirrors can not do is hide the consequences of its abuse: it cannot make its organic Jews = Zionism/Israel linkage one-way only. If criticism of Israel equals criticism of Jews as Jews (anti-Semitism), then Jews, simply by virtue of being Jews, are the doers of whatever the Israeli state has done, is doing, and may in the future do. This ethnic blackmail extends beyond any abstract fig-leafs, fully to what IHRA calls “Israeli policy”. In short, when Israel is accused of crimes, it substitutes ‘Israel’ with ‘Jews’, enabling it to claim that the allegations are anti-Semitic. The original accuser is perceived as having blamed Jews, when it was Israel that framed Jews for the crime it knew it itself had committed.
The framers of IHRA were clearly aware of this fatal flaw, because IHRA also contains an antidote. This states — absolutely correctly — that it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews “collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” But since holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel is precisely IHRA’s purpose, the only antidote is to make it ‘anti-Semitic’ to say so.
Nationalism has long been used by nation-states to insure the consent of its citizenry. Dissidents are condemned as enemies of the people. But if it is traitorous to oppose a country’s behavior, then that behavior is integral to the ‘values’, the morality, of the citizenry. Zionism replaced nation-state nationalism with far more potent ethnic nationalism: Jewish ‘patriotism’ to a particular political ideology and a particular state. To allege that is traitorous to Jews to oppose Israel’s behavior, is to allege that Israel’s behavior, whatever it is or will be, is integral to the ‘values’, the morality of Jews, not as individuals, nor just citizens of that state, but Jews as Jews.
That is profound, insidious anti-Semitism.
The exploitation of the word “Holocaust” to lend moral weight to IHRA, implicit in its name, is a further betrayal. Living Jews can speak for themselves and denounce IHRA’s attempt to exploit their identity on behalf of Israel’s crimes. Hitler’s victims can’t.
Israel alone is IHRA’s winner. Its losers are Palestinians, British democracy, fact-based speech, and Jews. Now that Labour has caved to political pressure and adopted IHRA and all its “examples”, the Party is now what its critics could formerly only allege: anti-Semitic.
Relevant Mondweiss articles here