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Three Definitions of Antisemitism, Part 2

By TTN Blog

Just prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day, our TTN colleague, David Schraub (pictured here), has continued to analyze definitions of antisemitism in a number of venues.  Part I of his discussion centered around his chart comparing three distinct frameworks on antisemitism: the increasingly prevalent “working definition” from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which triggered the new “Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism” (JDA) as a counter perspective, and the “Nexus” analytical statement (for which Schraub was a co-author) emanating from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.     

Prof. Schraub followed up in his March 26th blogpost, noting that: 

the JDA seems to have been very invested in coming up with a definition that could get non- or anti-Zionists onboard alongside at least liberal Zionists (getting a document signed by Susannah Heschel and Richard Falk is no mean feat!). In doing so, the JDA gives the non-Zionist contingent a few very big wins: it expressly declares BDS not antisemitic, and it more or less declares calls for the dissolution of Israel to be not antisemitic (the constraint is that any alternative polity that is envisioned must be one that protects “the right of Jews in the State of Israel … to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews”).

Critics of the JDA, including most who have discussed this in TTN’s email google group, have noted its endorsement by vociferous anti-Zionists.  In a new opinion piece in Haaretz, Prof. Schraub has again pronounced himself on this matter:

. . . in practice, the JDA is being interpreted almost solely as a tool for denying things are antisemitic. It scarcely ever is cited to actually declare something antisemitic . . . . 

Consequently, the JDA has garnered enthusiastic reception from individuals whose main take on antisemitism is that we hear too much about it.

One could already see glimmers of this in the original list of signatories, which included people such as 9/11 truther Richard Falk whose own records on antisemitism were decidedly unsavory and could fairly be indicted even by the JDA’s own language.

. . .  the eminent scholar of antisemitism David Hirsh has … a colorable claim when he alleges that endeavors like the JDA “are not about fighting antisemitism; they’re about fighting efforts to fight antisemitism. They’re not about standing with Jews against antisemitism, they’re about standing with antisemites against accusations of antisemitism.” . . .

The JDA’s basic definition of antisemitism is “Discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews.”  In his typically calm and fair-minded way, Schraub challenges supporters of the JDA to condemn specific instances of antisemitism.  He cites the views of British sociologist David Miller, whose conspiracy charges against Jewish student organizations precisely exemplifies antisemitism as cited by the JDA: “treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel.”

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