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More Than 350 Academics Sign Open Letter in Support of IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Part of an exhibit on the Holocaust supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association. Photo: courtesy of IHRA.

A group of more than 350 academics from institutions around the world have signed a new letter in support of the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, to help meet the “urgent need” in fighting prejudice against Jews and to “speak up” when Israelis and Jews worldwide are threatened.

The letter — signed by academics, diplomats and intellectuals from the US, Europe, Australia, Israel and United Arab Emirates — acknowledged the IHRA definition of antisemitism as an “an invaluable tool that recognizes the various manifestations and garbs of contemporary antisemitism.”

The undersigned include historian Prof. Jan Grabowski, who is at the center of a precedent-setting, Holocaust-related libel case in Poland; UCLA Computer Science Professor Judea Pearl; Israeli diplomat and former Israel Ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor; as well as numerous scholars from leading universities including Oxford University, Cambridge University, Columbia University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“Contemporary antisemitism focuses obsessively on the alleged misdoings of ‘Zionism,’ the letter contends, “seeking to separate Zionism from its Jewish context. The ‘Zionism’ which these antisemites seek to malign and oppose has little in common with actual Zionism.”

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According to the IHRA definition, which has been adopted by 31 governments around the world, “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 document elaborates that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” while acknowledging that manifestations of antisemitism “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”

“We would never suggest that criticism of Israel is antisemitic,” the open letter said. “This argument is simply a strawman. However, when Israel’s very existence is delegitimized and threatened, when Israelis and Jews are excluded because of their association with the Jewish state, and when antisemitic conspiracies and tropes flourish under the guise of anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism, we recognize that this is antisemitism.”

“We are incredulous at the suggestion that the adoption of the IHRA definition and the commitment to rooting out antisemitism is somehow opposed to the wider struggle against racism and oppression,” it continued.

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