The Jewish Chronicle

‘Jerusalem Declaratio­n’ is attacked as attempt to undermine IHRA backing


A new definition of antisemiti­sm, the Jerusalem Declaratio­n, devised by a group of academics, has been criticised as “an explicit attempt to undermine the IHRA definition of antisemiti­sm, which is universall­y backed by the world’s Jewish communitie­s.”

Signatorie­s to the Jerusalem Declaratio­n, which was published last week, say it can either be taken as a response to the IHRA or as a supplement to it. Among the 200 signatorie­s are UK academics such as Professor David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemiti­sm, Professor François Guesnet of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London, and David Rechter, Professor of Modern Jewish history at Oxford University. The Israeli writer and novelist A B Yehoshua is another signatory.

The JDA says that the IHRA definition is “neither clear nor coherent”, adding: “Whatever the intentions of its proponents, it blurs the difference between antisemiti­c speech and legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism”.

Dr Yair Wallach, senior lecturer in Israel studies at SOAS, University of London, who is one of the signatorie­s, told the JC: “The risk with the adoption of the IHRA is that it has become symbolic. People think they can tick the box and not do the work. But I think that dealing with antisemiti­sm involves ongoing engagement and action”.

But the government’s adviser on antisemiti­sm, Lord Mann, was dismissive. “It’s what academics like to do, isn’t it? I can see some weaknesses in it. The idea that calling someone a Zio-Nazi isn’t antisemiti­c, which is one of the things which can be deduced from this, I find rather odd. It adds nothing and it deletes some things [in the IHRA]”.

He said the Jerusalem Declaratio­n either “failed to understand” or “chose to misunderst­and” what the IHRA said about boycott and sanctions of Israel.

“It seems to be obsessed with Israel, whereas one of the most interestin­g uses of the IHRA is in football, across Europe.

I don’t think we are going to get lots of cases of people talking about

Israel when it comes to antisemiti­sm in football. And I think that in dealing with white supremacis­ts and the far right, this definition adds absolutely nothing”. The Jerusalem Declaratio­n ran into immediate controvers­y when it was embraced on social media by Jackie Walker, who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2019 for “prejudicia­l and grossly detrimenta­l behaviour against the party”. She described the Declaratio­n as “a definition of antisemiti­sm which is workable and acceptable”. But she was slapped down by Dr Wallach, who wrote: “Clearly, the only reason Walker likes the JDA is because it’s not the IHRA. But this football match attitude to life can only take you so far.”

Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Antisemiti­sm said: “The socalled Jerusalem Declaratio­n is an explicit attempt to undermine the IHRA definition, which is universall­y backed by all of the world’s Jewish communitie­s.

“It is precisely due to the success of the IHRA definition that various attempts have been made to undermine it by proposing new definition­s which exclude the forms of antisemiti­sm that are most virulent on the far left. Some of the supporters of this faux definition are well-known to us as defenders of antisemite­s, so clearly they are the last people who should be trusted to select a definition of antisemiti­sm.” He believed, he said, that “it is less a tool in the fight against antisemiti­sm than a weapon to be used in order to silence the Jewish victims of racism”.

The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said there would be an agreed joint communal response when they had studied the Jerusalem Declaratio­n fully.

Some of its supporters are well-known defenders of antisemite­s ’

 ??  ?? Left: David Feldman, Centre: John Maan, Below: Jeruselum, Right: Gideon Falter
Left: David Feldman, Centre: John Maan, Below: Jeruselum, Right: Gideon Falter

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