The IHRA definition is a material social fact – David Hirsh

I don’t think the importance of IHRA is that it is perfect, or beyond criticism, it’s neither.

But it exists in the material world. It has a specific and rather interesting genealogy, related to Durban and related to antisemitism itself which showed itself so baldly there, which has had a tendency to drive Jews off into the realms of ‘whiteness’. That tendency has been organisationally manifested in the Jewish NGOs turning to the OSCE and the EU after Durban.

Its material existence is also interesting beyond that actual conception and roots; it has been adopted and campaigned for by Jewish institutions with some success; and it has been adopted by many states, NGOs, local governments and universities. That also defines what it is, what it is now.

The struggle about IHRA is not about scholarly criticism of what exists. We can’t change the reality of IHRA by proposing amendments to improve it.

IHRA is an instrument which signals that anyone who adopts it is going to look at that kind of antisemitism which comes in the form of “Israelcriticism”. It is going to check the context; it is not going to confuse it with “criticism of Israel”. But it is signalling its willingness to check for this kind of antisemitism.

The examples set off alarm bells about certain kinds of discourse which we know are often antisemitic. If you hear the alarm bells, make a judgment. That’s why there are the caveats and the warning, and the injunction to check for context.

Opposing IHRA means opposing the willingness to take this kind of antisemitism seriously.

Opposing IHRA implies that antisemites are victims of the Jews.

IHRA has become the front line. We can’t just invent reality out of our noses, we can’t just invent a new IHRA definition. It is a material, social, fact. And we don’t support those who want to change the material reality that states and institutions have signalled their willingness to take this kind of antisemitism seriously.

David Hirsh

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