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Unterstützung für die IHRA-Arbeitsdefinition zum Antisemitismus

Inzwischen regt sich internationaler Widerstand gegen den hochtrabend als “Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism verklärten politischen Aktivismus einiger “israelkritischer” Wissenschaftler u. a. aus der Bundesrepublik. Wissenschaftliche Expertise lag ihm nicht zugrunde. Seriöse Antisemitismusforscher wissen, dass der israelbezogene Antisemitismus, sprich: der gegen den Staat Israel gerichtete Judenhass, der sich aktuell auch wieder auf den Straßen hiesiger Städte austobt, in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten stetig zunahm.

“ISGAP Scholars Support the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

MAY 12, 2021

The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) recently circulated a letter supporting the Working Definition of Antisemitism from

the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).  The letter currently has more than 300 signatures from leading scholars, intellectuals, and professionals

throughout the world.  ISGAP’s statement comes in the wake of increasing opposition to the IHRA definition, a recent example of which is the Jerusalem

Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA).  The current objections to the IHRA definition have come about despite the fact that the definition has been in existence

since 28 January 2005, when it was published on the website of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.  So why now?


As is often pointed out, the current phenomenon of Jew hatred comes from three directions: the extreme right, the extreme left, and Islamic extremism.

The antisemites on the right are easy enough to recognize: they boast about their hatred of Jews and, indeed, must be taken seriously, as history has demonstrated.

While there are no governments that openly identify themselves as white supremacists, there are governments, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, that

openly declare their desire to see the elimination of the Jewish state by any means necessary.  As for the extreme left, in many cases they deny having

any animosity toward the Jews; indeed, many of them are Jewish, particularly among the intellectuals.  The thread that runs through all three, who would

otherwise make for very strange bedfellows, is anti-Zionism.  Among many on the left, this form of antisemitism is not only acceptable, not only fashionable,

but has become morally required.


Prominent among the critics of the IHRA definition are the anti-Zionists, who look at the eleven examples in the definition but ignore the statement preceding

the examples that says, “Criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”  Ignoring this assertion,

they are quick to object that the IHRA definition undermines free speech.  Looking casually but not critically at the examples of antisemitism given in

the definition, they note that Israel is mentioned in six (nos. 5-7 and 9-11) of the eleven examples.  The implication is that the IHRA definition is nothing

more than a pro-Zionist apologetic.  A closer look, however, shows that of these, “Israel or Israelis” is the focus of only two (nos. 9 and 11); in the

other four examples the focus is on “accusing the Jews” (nos. 5 and 6), “denying the Jewish people” (no. 7), or “holding the Jews collectively responsible”

(no. 11).


The objection to the apparent (but not actual) prominence of Israel in the Working Definition is rooted in the anti-Zionist longing to be free to engage

in unfettered demonization, delegitimization, and morally outraged opposition not to the policies of the Jewish state but to the presence of the Jewish

state.  The so-called academic freedom that is championed by such opponents to the Working Definition is the freedom not to express a viewpoint but to

incite Jew hatred.  The desire for this freedom, in turn, is fueled by the desire to be admired, embraced, and held up as a courageous paragon of moral

integrity, fighting the Invisible Wirepullers for the sake of the downtrodden, disenfranchised victims of injustice everywhere.


The critique of the IHRA definition, therefore, is often steeped in the stink of self-righteousness.  This includes the smug Jewish academics and intellectuals

who desperately long to be regarded as “good Jews,” such as two hundred who signed the JDA and the four hundred-plus who in June 2020 signed the open letter

accusing Israel of being an “apartheid state” guilty of “crimes against humanity” for extending its civil authority to Jewish populations in the West Bank—a

move that that Israeli government never actually made.  Particularly troubling about the JDA is the co-opting of the word Jerusalem: if it is from Jerusalem,

it must be kosher, like “the word of God that goes forth from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).


A recurring refrain that one finds in these objections to the IHRA definition is “in and of itself”: in and of itself there is nothing antisemitic about

a call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.  But the phrase “in and of itself” is calculated to remove the Working Definition from its contexts and

thus to delegitimize and even demonize the definition by rendering it either meaningless or harmful.  It turns out that the critique itself is meaningless

and even harmful, inasmuch as it is either driven by antisemitism or plays into the hands of antisemites.


The most glaring misreading of the IHRA definition in terms of situating it within its contexts lies in overlooking its origin in the International Holocaust

Remembrance Alliance.  Holocaust remembrance is not about recollection, recall, or reporting the events surrounding the extermination of the Jews of Europe.

No, it is about engaging in a testimony to the sanctity of the other human being and our infinite responsibility to and for the other human being.  This

testimony is rooted in the millennial teaching and testimony that comes to the world through the Jewish people.  That millennial tradition is precisely

what the Nazis targeted for annihilation and what the antisemites, including the anti-Zionists, seek to obliterate.


The IHRA Working Definition is a summons to such testimony.  Inasmuch as antisemitism is, in the words of Emmanuel Levinas, “hatred of the other man,”

the IHRA definition concerns all of humanity; it concerns our fundamental understanding of what a human being is.  That is why, as Elie Wiesel famously

said, what begins with the Jews does not end with the Jews.  Wiesel also once declared that there comes a time when, in order to remain human, one must

assume the Jewish condition, which is a condition not of a victim but of a witness to the holiness of the other human being.  It is a condition fraught

with danger, a condition of extreme vulnerability, as those who pursue the study of antisemitism, particularly in the mode of anti-Zionism, can attest.


The IHRA definition provides a kind of haven for such individuals.  Those who would remove or displace that definition would eliminate that haven—this

in the name of free speech.” (https://isgap.org/)