Some discussion about IHRA and the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ – David Hirsh

Dear xxxx,

let me take up two points that you’ve made. First in relation to what the text does, and does not do. And in relation to the claim that its real threat lies not in what it says but in what it “could be used to do”.

You’re absolutely right that the text is “innocent”. I think it’s more than innocent, I think it’s quite good.

Nobody is suggesting that IHRA be used for prosecution. Well, how could it be? Antisemitism is not a crime. Not in the USA, not in Britain. I don’t think anywhere.

IHRA could be used in a court or in a disciplinary process, for sure, but it could never do the whole job of proving anything.

What IHRA does, as you’ve said, is provide examples of the kinds of things which we know are often antisemitic. That’s it. It says that if you see a case like this, look again, look carefully, and then make a judgment. IHRA does not, and cannot possibly, substitute for judgment.

So as part of a process, IHRA gives a framework. You could say to the decision maker: IHRA says that cases like this are often antisemitic and this case is antisemitic because x, y and z reasons.

In Britain you could also use the Equality Act, the Macpherson Principle, the EHRC report in similar ways. But none of these are automatic. They are part of a case.

And related to this, the point about Ken Stern and the true authentic meaning and purpose of IHRA: So, Ken is angry, he doesn’t like the way that Ken Marcus and others have interpreted the text. Fine.

First, have a look at this letter written by the people who were more concerned in the drafting process than he was.…/ken-stern-isnt…/

But more important, there is of course no authentic and unchanging meaning of a text. It’s true that IHRA was drafted by Jewish NGOs, at the request of the EU, to help with monitoring – in particular in newly democratic states, emerging from authoritarian rule (and antisemitic rule) in Eastern Europe. In fact, the indeterminacy of IHRA also applies in this context. It also required monitors to use judgment, as it requires institutions today to use judgment. There is no automatic machine which can tell a person what is antisemitic. It requires judgment.

But here’s the point: of course the use of this text has, over 20 years, developed, been used in new ways, has taken on a different significance.

Yes, Jews on campus, Jewish institutions, Governments, Football clubs, city councils – yes they have adopted it as an affirmation that they recognise and take seriously the kind of antisemitism which comes in hostility to Israel.

IHRA has developed into what it is today. That’s OK. For more on the genealogy of IHRA, see this:

The other point I want to make is about your claim that IHRA talks too much about Israel, and that gives rise to the appearance that its real function is to silence criticism of Israel under the guise of opposing antisemitism.

You have got this upside down.

Start with the phenomenon, not the definition.

It is antisemitism which more and more appears as hostility to Israel.

It is not the definition of antisemitism which links antisemitism to Israel, it’s the thing itself.

The definition keeps up with the phenomenon.

So adopting IHRA is an affirmation that an institution takes this kind of antisemitism seriously.

Often people on the right deny antisemitism on the right and they point at the left and the Islamists and they scream that the real problem is over there.

And often people on the left deny left antisemitism and they point at the right and they scream that the real problem is over there.

Both disavowals are equally dangerous.

IHRA is not a right wing attack on the left. IHRA is an attack on antisemitism and it specifies a kind of antisemitism that is often seen on the left. Why? Because it’s often not recognised by people who think they oppose antisemitism.

Here’s a text I’ve written about this. It’s not IHRA that puts Israel into the definition of antisemitism, it’s antisemites who put Israel into antisemitism itself.…/

One more thing xxx.

I’m really concerned about how many serious people have joined in denouncing IHRA and in defending efforts like the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ to prevent the adoption of IHRA.

Some of us have been working on this for years, doing scholarly work, doing political work, trying to defend ourselves and our students from antisemitism.

It’s not cool that so many big names, in Jewish Studies in particular, are intervening in this, on the wrong side, and, I assume, because they haven’t really thought things through and they haven’t really read the literature.

The attempt to disqualify us as scholars, and to disqualify our work, by branding us as Trumpists seems to be working. But serious people should know how to deal with that.

David Hirsh

“Israel is Autistic” – Neve Gordon and Mark Levine displaying their ignorance about both autism and antisemitism – David Hirsh

Is it demonizing to say that autistic people are like Israel, or is it demonizing to say that Israel is autistic? Or, do the two lies cancel each other out, since to characterise either as being like the other is in reality not insulting?

Neve Gordon and Mark LeVine write a stupid, dishonest, but standard hatchet job on the IHRA definition of antisemitism. It’s dishonest because it claims that IHRA says and does things which it absolutely does, and can not do.

Shamefully it is published on a mainstream website, Inside Higher Ed.

Gordon and LeVine say that IHRA “could very well” label Einstein and Arendt as antisemites. It’s a lie. IHRA doesn’t label anything as antisemitic, it draws attention to things that might be, and which merit further examination and political judgment.

But then they say that IHRA could label Tony Judt antisemitic. Well, some of Judt’s writing was certainly antisemitic, and I spent quite a lot of space in my book showing how. I also spent quite a lot of space in my book telling the story of how Neve Gordon developed from a sharp and scholarly thinker into a supporter of BDS and a pusher of the apartheid smear. Here’s something on Neve Gordon. Here’s a bit more on Neve Gordon.

The evidence Gordon and LeVine offer to show just how not-antisemitic Tony Judt really is, is the following:

‘Tony Judt described Israel as “autistic” after it had put Gaza “under a punishment regime comparable to nothing else in the world.”’

And they proudly link to an interview where Judt explained his understanding of of what it means to characterise Israel as “autistic”.

“Israel,” says Judt, in an interview proudly linked to by Gordon and LeVine, “behaved in a way that suggests it is no longer fully able to estimate, assess or understand the way other people think about it. Even if you supported the blockade (I don’t) this would be an almost exemplary case of shooting oneself in a painful part of the anatomy.”

This is both an ignorant and demonizing description of what it means to be autistic, and an antisemitic, pathologizing way to describe Israel.

Judt, Gordon and LeVine understand as little about autism as they do about antisemitism. Commentary about antisemitism is completely dominated by people who are out of their field. I guess once you get used to talking about things you know nothing about, a few prejudices about neurodiversity are nothing special.

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The Meaning of David Miller – David Hirsh

This piece is published in Fathom Journal here.

This is a long read about the David Miller crisis and its significance in the context of antisemitism on the left and on campus. It has a UK focus but is relevant to phenomena across the world.

According to Bristol University Professor David Miller, ‘Britain is in the grip of an assault on its public sphere by the state of Israel and its advocates’. He believes ‘Bristol’s JSoc [Jewish Society. Ed], like all JSocs, operates under the auspices of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), an Israel lobby group’ and is part of ‘a campaign of censorship and manufactured hysteria’ that is ‘directed by the State of Israel. The campaign involves false claims of antisemitism designed ‘to give cover to Zionist activists’. His outburst has led to outraged calls for his removal but also fulsome messages of support from the academic left, open letters that do not simply argue he has free speech rights but which endorse his world view. David Hirsh, author of Contemporary Left Antisemitism, explores the wider meanings and deeper roots of the controversy.…”

This piece is published in Fathom Journal here.