The definition of antisemitism that has become a weapon to defend Israel

The Palestinian death toll is over 28,000 and yet here I am debating words? Why? Because words, in particular the working definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA, is being used as a weapon to silence people and defend Israel. And these words are increasing being worked into laws. Lawmakers in more than half-dozen US states are pushing laws to define antisemitism

There is no place for any type of discrimination, I am not antisemitic. However many attempts to speak up against the atrocities of Israel against the Palestinian people get shut down as antisemitic and the working definition is thrown up as a shield of protection for Israel.

US attorney, Kenneth Stern, drafted the original definition. Stern has since stated that it has become a weapon. I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it. He has also submitted written evidence to the US Congress. Why the man who drafted the IHRA definition condemns its use

Stern states that the working definition was intended to be used as an aid in standardising data collection about the incidence of antisemitic hate crime across different countries. It was never meant to be used as a legal device to curb free speech.

Many countries and organisations have adopted the IHRA’s working definition, while others have resisted it. “More than 100 Israeli and international civil society organisations have asked the United Nations to reject a controversial definition of antisemitism because it is being ‘misused’ to protect Israel from legitimate criticism.”.

In the UK a group of judges condemned the education secretary for demanding universities adopt it

“The legally entrenched right to free expression is being undermined by an internally incoherent ‘non-legally binding working definition’ of antisemitism. Its promotion by public bodies is leading to the curtailment of debate”.

A paper by Susan Blackwell in 2021 examines the text through the lens of Critical Discourse Analysis to expose ideologies.

Blackwell discusses that even though the working definition states that it is non-legally binding it mimics dimensions of the law creating quasi-laws or soft laws. For example, the EU Handbook for the practical use of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism has sections titled Law Enforcement and The Judiciary.

The impact this has is described,

By mimicking normative dimensions of the law, quasi-laws … empower special interest groups to act as proxies for the state. These groups then pursue their agendas through threats of legal prosecution, borrowing from the coercive force of the law, while lacking democratic legitimacy. They target expressive content for censorship, in the absence of any precise legal mandate.
Even if governments can be persuaded not to ‘create hate speech codes’, the damage will be done by the back door: efforts to apply the definition as soft law have an overwhelming impact on freedom of expression.”

Blackwell agrees that the document is “designed for abuse.”

“Those who would characterize the use of the IHRA definition to censor free speech as a “misinterpretation” or “misuse” of this text, are failing to understand its social and political context: this is exactly what it was intended for.”

“Its authors had a political agenda, and the legal applications they had in mind for it can be described as “lawfare”: the use of the law for political ends.”

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) was written in direct response to the IHRA and offers a helpful alternative definition. It is critical of the IHRA definition in that,

“it blurs the difference between antisemitic speech and legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism. This causes confusion, while delegitimizing the voices of Palestinians and others, including Jews, who hold views that are sharply critical of Israel and Zionism. None of this helps combat antisemitism.

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism provides a helpful way to combat antisemitism.

“The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is a document meant to outline the bounds of antisemitic speech and conduct, particularly with regard to Zionism, Israel and Palestine. Its creation was motivated by a desire to confront antisemitism and by objections to the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, which critics have said stifles legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and curbs free speech.”

Kimberley Rose @kimberley_rose