The issue of antisemitism has in recent years become entangled with the right to criticise Israel. This arose because, since 2016, the big, communal Jewish organisations in the Israel lobby have been actively promoting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA WD). The WD is worded in such a way as to create confusion between criticism of Israel and antisemitism, and is used by its proponents to claim that much fundamental criticism of Israel is antisemitic.
In May 2021,after a year of intensive consultations. the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism was created as a response to the faulty IHRA Working Definition. Its purposes are to strengthen the fight against antisemitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested, and to protect the space for open debate about Israel and Palestine that has been constricted by the faulty IHRA WS.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians supports the Jerusalem Declaration and opposes the IHRA Working Definition.
The framers of the Declaration are an international group of eminent academics in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, Middle East studies and philosophy. The Declaration is endorsed by more than 200 scholars from several countries. The framers and endorsers do not all share the same political views and are not seeking to promote a partisan political agenda.
The JDA consists of the preamble, the definition, general guidelines, examples of comment on Israel and Palestine that, on the face of it, are antisemitic, and examples of comment on Israel and Palestine that, on the face of it, are not antisemitic.
While JJP would disagree with one or two of its formulations, the JDA is a sound and fair-minded document. It is consistent with the right to free speech, which is protected by Article 10(2) of the Convention on Human Rights, under which public authorities are under “a positive obligation to create a favourable environment for participation in public debates for all concerned, allowing them to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public” (Tomlinson Para 16).
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism
The Working definition consists of a two-sentence statement (the basic definition), a linking paragraph, and ‘eleven examples.
There are serious problems with the IHRA WD which can be summarised as:
In Britain the IHRA WD has been adopted by the Conservative Government, and by many local authorities and universities,albeit sometimes with caveats. The Labour and Liberal Democrat political parties have adopted it with caveats.
In practice, applying the IHRA WD has meant that criticism of Zionism, fundamental criticism of Israeli policy, or advocacy of BDS have routinely been deemed as antisemitic. Action has sometimes been taken against individuals or against specific activities, despite the fact that courts have often ruled that such comments and advocacy are legal and not antisemitic. The IHRA WD thereby undermines the right to free speech protected by Article 10(2) of the Convention on Human Rights.
Together with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel, JJP commissioned Hugh Tomlinson QC to produce a legal opinion on the IHRA WD which concluded among other things that a public authority would be acting unlawfully if it applied the IHRA WD to prevent or sanction such activities as describing Israel as an apartheid state or supporting policies such as BDS. The Court rulings mentioned above bear out his judgment.
We participate in the international No IHRA Group which campaigns against the adoption of the definition and its use to silence pro-Palestinian activity.
Work for adoption of the JDA.
Continue opposition to the adoption of the IHRA WD.
Where the IHRA WD has already been adopted:
oppose attempts to use it in a way that prevents supporting the struggle for Palestinian rights;.
where there are internal enforcement mechanisms, seek to join those mechanisms if appropriate in order to mitigate deleterious use of the WD;
advocate replacing the IHRA WD with the JDA.