IHRA - Who Gets to Define Anti-Semitism? - Maccabee Task Force

There’s a basic premise behind most conversations about hate and racism these days. We’re supposed to listen to the victims. You might not think a certain word or claim is offensive. But if a member of a targeted group believes otherwise, we’re supposed to listen and we’re expected to defer.

There are certainly limits to this logic. But as a general proposition, listening to the victims is a wise and compassionate starting point.

Unfortunately, this deference to victims evaporates when it comes to defining anti-Semitism.

In fact, the exact opposite is happening on campus. The people most guilty of spreading anti-Semitism are now demanding the right to define it. And, quite conveniently, their proposed definition would leave their preferred form of Jew hatred — anti-Zionism — out of the definition.

SJP, JVP and their allies are happy to condemn the discredited anti-Semitism of the past. But they’re intent upon spreading the most pernicious form of modern anti-Semitism. They will stand in solidarity with us if a swastika is drawn on the Chabad House. But they will fight us when we try to define anti-Semitism in a way that includes their demonization of Israel.

This is why the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is so important. It’s the only definition which includes anti-Zionism within it. It’s therefore the only definition which is relevant to modern times. And it’s the only definition that our community — from left to right — has overwhelmingly embraced. As we empower pro-Israel students to build broad campus coalitions to defeat BDS, we’re urging them to activate these coalitions to pass the IHRA definition. As far as we’re concerned, these are two sides of the same coin.

In the academic year recently ended, our partners sought to pass the IHRA definition on 16 of our 100 campuses. They were successful in 15 of these efforts. Now we’re gearing up to support many more such efforts in the new academic year fast approaching.

Sure, Jews will continue to debate what constitutes anti-Semitism — along with everything else. But we need to agree to tell outsiders to keep out. Those who hate us don’t get to deny us our right to self-determination. They don’t get to ignore our profound physical, historical and spiritual connection to Israel.  And they certainly don’t get to define for us what Jew hatred is. I’m sorry. We’ve had more than enough experience with this subject to define it for ourselves.

David Brog
Executive Director