The City of Vancouver, Canada might seem to be an odd place for a battle over the IHRA definition of antisemitism. But that is exactly what happened in the last week, and it all concluded with a temporary victory for free speech, human rights, and common sense.
The British Labour Party adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which states that criticism of Israel is criticism of the Jewish people. Thus Israel frames Jews everywhere for the crime it knows that it has committed. But that’s anti-Semitic!
Pete Gregson on the fallout in the UK Labour Party after the vote adopting the full IHRA definition of antisemitism: “What we are seeing is a Party in fear of the media, allowing Zionists to undermine freedom of speech. What we need to do is show those in fear of bad press that the NEC cannot pay lip service to a thing that it does not believe in. For who can argue that Israel is not a racist state? It’s as if we’re allowing Theresa May and Netanyahu to write our rule book here.”
Last week an unprecedented intervention occurred into the debate in the UK over the definition of antisemitism. Over 80 community, professional and rights-based organisations representing black, minority ethnic and diaspora peoples decried what they say is the framing of antisemitism in a way to ‘silence’ Palestinians, and other migrant groups, from speaking about their history.
Next week the UK Labour Party’s governing body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), will be voting on whether to adopt examples of antisemitism put forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in its definition of antisemitism. Pete Gregson wrote to all 26 NEC candidates to seek their views on the vote. Of the 12 responses that came back, 5 were for adopting the full IHRA definition and examples, 6 were for no change, and 1 was unsure. Of those in favor, he posed the question “If it’s passed and I said Israel is a racist state, would I get expelled?”
Trump’s Executive Order empowering the federal government to crack down on campus organizing for Palestinian rights under the guise of combating antisemitism was not issued on a whim but as the culmination of a deliberate strategy to stifle pro-Palestinian solidarity. On the campaign trail, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman menacingly pledged that “the Trump administration will ask the Justice Department to investigate coordinated attempts on college campuses to intimidate students who support Israel.”
Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine writes, “We call on everyone to see that creating a largely-mythical anti-Semitism ‘crisis’ in the Labour Party is one of the few tools left to ailing and desperate establishment hacks wanting to smear Corbyn and maintain UK support for Israel, no matter how many Palestinians the Israeli army slaughters, or how many houses, schools, and hospitals Israeli jets destroy in Gaza. In the face of this, Zionist groups with a history of uncritical support for Israel claim that Corbyn presents an existential threat to British Jews? This is obscene, hypocritical scaremongering.”
“If denying Jews the ‘right of self-determination’ is evidence of anti-Semitism, then what should we call denying the same right to those indigenes who have lived in Palestine for centuries?” Joel Doerfler on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK is formally adopting a definition of anti-Semitism agreed to earlier this year by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Many of the definitions would bar criticisms of Israel that even Jewish Israeli critics have made, like likening Israeli conduct to that of Nazis.