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 ’