Anglo-Jewry adopts IHRA definition of antisemitsim
While we were all busy last week worrying about Brexit and our new Prime Minister, it seems that Anglo Jewry has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of contemporary antisemitism. Chief Rabbi Mirvis told the Parliamentary Home Affairs committee, who are investigating the rise of antisemitism in Britain, that:
‘I would love it if this group referred to the European Union Monitoring Centre definition, linked to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition, as the guideline: This is what we would like everybody to follow. This is how we want authorities to apply the rules for anyone who steps out of line.’
When the Chief Rabbi says ‘we’ is he speaking on behalf of the 300,000 Jews who live in the UK. He was not acting alone in endorsing this definition because Sir Mick Davis, in his written submission to the Home affairs Committee stated:
‘It is my position, as well as that of the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust, the British Jewish community’s authoritative voice on antisemitsim and community security, that this committee uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism as its guide as well.’
Would the Chief Rabbi, Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust all recommend that the Home affairs Committee use the IHRA definition unless they intended to use it themselves in future?
If so, they should all be congratulated in making this decision because it now allows us to say to the Universities, politicians and trade unions, this is our community’s definition and if you cross the line, especially when discussing Israel, we will not have a problem calling you an antisemite.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an intergovernmental body comprising of thirty-one countries, including the United Kingdom. Although the Community Security Trust recommends that we no longer use the European Monitoring Centre (EUMC) working definition of antisemitism as that organisation no longer exists, the IHRA’s definition of antisemitsim is just a refined version of the EUMC definition.
Chief Rabbi Mirvis also explained to the committee why anti-Zionism was antisemitic saying:
'Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith. The very first imperative given to the founders of our faith, Abraham and Sarah, by God, as recorded in the book of Genesis, was to uproot themselves from Mesopotamia and go to live in Canaan. Ever since that time, that part of the world has been the centre of our spiritual universal. We have prayed towards Israel. Open any prayer book and you will find Israel jumping out at you. It is the centre of what we are.
As a result—further to a political development in the latter part of the 19th century through which Zionism gained an added dimension, spelling out the right of the Jewish people to live within secure borders with self-determination in their own country, which they had been absent from for 2,000 years—that is what Zionism is. If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything I have just mentioned. If you want to criticise a Government, that’s fine.'
Anglo Jewry have been reluctant in the past to adopt a definition and only two years ago, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism reported that:
‘There is little if any pressure from the established representative bodies in the Jewish community to pursue the adoption of a definition of antisemitism.’
However when you read what the Chief Rabbi Mirvis told the committee as to why we why need a definition, you wonder why it has taken so long for Anglo-Jewry to adopt one. He said:
‘A definition is so crucial because, if not for a definition, you could have a person who is guilty of antisemitic comments and who goes on to say that in his 47 years of being a member of a party he has never seen any antisemitism. If you don’t have a clear definition, anybody can say anything about what is or is not, which is why it is so important for there to be that clear definition.’
There are some groups who will oppose the adoption of a definition. In their submission to the Chakrabarti inquiry into antisemitsim in the Labour party, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) wrote that they consider:
‘Antisemitism hatred of or discrimination against Jewish people on the basis of their religion or identity’,
and that criticism of the Israeli Government’s policies and actions or Zionism is not antisemitic. They also stated that Zionism is a political ideology rather than:
‘the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years.’
The PSC along with other anti-Israel submissions condemned the use of the EUMC definition of antisemitsim saying it denied their right to challenge ‘the racism of the Israeli state’.
It is of some comfort to me personally that five years after I lost my legal action against my trade union, the UCU, the community now has an agreed definition of antisemitism to refer to. If there had been a definition in place then, would the outcome have been different?
Academic Friends of Israel