Arab academics, activists express concerns over IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in letter

Arab academics, activists express concerns over IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in letter
Palestinian and other Arab academics, artists and activists said the current IHRA definition of anti-Semitism conflates Judaism with Zionism.
2 min read
30 November, 2020
The controversial IHRA definition is adopted by 29 countries. [Getty]
A group of 122 Arab academics, filmmakers, and intellectuals, including Palestinians, expressed concerns over the examples listed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) when defining anti-Semitism.

In a letter published in full by The Guardian on Sunday, the signatories said the current definition, because of the examples it provides, "conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists".

The IHRA's definition has been applied, interpreted and deployed in several Europe countries and North America.

The examples also assume the state of Israel, in its existing form, embodies the self-determination envisioned by all Jewish people, the group argued.

According to the IHRA's 'working definition' of anti-Semitism: "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."

The signatories, who advocates for Palestinian rights, said that while the fight against anti-Semitism is legitimate and the definition itself non-problematic, IHRA's working definition and examples it lists are being used to discredit the Palestinian struggle.

"In recent years, the fight against antisemitism has been increasingly instrumentalised by the Israeli government and its supporters in an effort to delegitimise the Palestinian cause and silence defenders of Palestinian rights," the group said.

One definition example the IHRA lists is "denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour".

The group expressed strong disagreement to the example, claiming it purposefully excludes Israel's current status as an 'occupying power'.

"It does not bother to recognise that under international law, the current state of Israel has been an occupying power for over half a century," the letter said. "We believe that no right to self-determination should include the right to uproot another people and prevent them from returning to their land."

Read also: Trump takes leaf out of Netanyahu's book to label rights groups 'anti-Semitic'

Half a century of illegal occupation

Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since a war with neighbouring Arab countries in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem.

The Israeli occupation routinely uses barriers and checkpoints to restrict Palestinian freedom of movement, as it expands its occupation through new settlement built built in the West Bank.

Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank are classed as illegal under international law - particularly Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention - which asserts that "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies".

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