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Anti-Semitism must not be elevated over other racism

Monday 27 December 2021, by siawi3


Anti-Semitism must not be elevated over other racism

Thursday 16 December 2021,

by Sue PENTEL , Jacob WOOLF J

Israel is an apartheid state that curtails, diminishes and denies Palestinians’ rights

JVL Introduction

Tue 21 Dec 2021

The authors of this article, Sue Pentel and Jacob Woolf, are members of Jewish Voice for Just Peace-Ireland

Recent calls have been made for Ireland to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Here they argue strongly against such a move both because of inherent weaknesses in the IHRA definition and in the face of growing realities on the ground in Israel-Palestine.

They advocate the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism as a constructive alternative, stressing the need to place antisemitism in the context of racism in general.

And they point to the increasing cost in terms of human rights of maintaining Israel as a Jewish – apartheid – state

This article was originally published by The Irish Times on Thu 16 Dec 2021.

Photo: A school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Al-Shati refugee camp, in western Gaza city, August 2020.


Anti-Semitism must not be elevated over other racism

Israel is an apartheid state that curtails, diminishes and denies Palestinians’ rights

by Sue Pentel, Jacob Woolf,
The Irish Times

There is no doubt that anti-Semitism is real and must be opposed and it is important to document any rise in incidents of it in Ireland and globally.

However, as two Jewish people living in Ireland, we are concerned with recent discussion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism and whether or not Ireland – which is a member of the IHRA – should adopt it.

It has already been adopted by 34 countries and Ireland’s position according the Minister for Children, Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, is that while Ireland was “supportive of the definition”, it “did not consider the illustrative examples that followed to be an integral part of the definition”.

The actual IHRA working definition is 38 words long and reads as follows: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

It is at best vague and at worst meaningless, failing to identify anti-Semitism as a form of racism or identifying the actual dangers to Jewish and other racialised groups.

It includes 11 examples which serve to limit discussion of Israel’s violations of human rights, and regards naming Israel a “racist endeavour” and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as anti-Semitic.

Crucially, the working definition has been widely criticised by over 40 Jewish organisations globally, by Israeli academics and by the definition’s author, Kenneth Stern.

Jerusalem Declaration

Indeed, a group of Jewish and Israeli scholars developed the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism to respond to the IHRA definition, which they deemed to have “caused confusion . . . generated controversy, hence weakening the fight against anti-Semitism”. The Jerusalem Declaration links anti-Semitism and racism, and argues for freedom of expression. It has more than 200 signatories.

The IHRA definition elevates anti-Semitism over other forms of racism, thus isolating victims of anti-Semitism and precluding solidarity between racialised population groups.

In contrast, the Jerusalem Declaration suggests that “Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states . . . and are not . . . anti-Semitism.”

It argues it is not anti-Semitism to criticise Israel, “even if contentious” or “to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid”.

This controversy comes in the wake of two substantial reports by Human Rights Watch and by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, both of which detail Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses. The Human Rights Watch report, Apartheid and Persecution, accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity and it calls for international sanctions.

Are these reports anti-Semitism in calling Israeli state policies racist?

The two reports claim that contrary to the way it depicts itself, Israel is not a liberal democracy but rather an apartheid state that curtails, diminishes and denies the rights of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom and self-determination.

‘Demographic threat’

The reports dismiss Israel’s “security” justification for its actions towards Palestinians as untenable. They argue that Palestinians’ rights are violated not because they pose a security risk to Israel but simply because they are Palestinians, who are not viewed as deserving equality in their own country. Their very existence is seen by Israel as a “demographic threat” to be managed and controlled, inter alia by “Judaising” large tracts of land under the principle of “maximum land with minimum Palestinians”.

According to another B’Tselem report, State Business, the state of Israel is in fact enabling settler violence. The Human Rights Watch report conclusion is stark – Israel is wilfully and systematically implementing a system of governance that instrumentalises gross violations of human rights in the service of racial domination and supremacy.

That Israel is concerned by criticism is evidenced by the minister for defence recently labelling six Palestinian human rights groups, including Defence for Children International Palestine, as “terrorist organisations”.

Israel’s action is preventing these groups from highlighting violence, arrests, house demolitions and the inhuman treatment of the occupied Palestinian population.

Solidarity with Palestinians

The six groups, which support Palestinian prisoners, farmers, women and children, and which advocate for scientific research and human rights, are now facing loss of funding and their staff may face detention and lose their livelihoods. All this is certainly not the workings of a democratic state.

It is no surprise that thousands of Jewish people across the world – including in Israel – are shocked by the price Palestinians are made to pay to enable Israel to exist as a Jewish state and are taking a stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Many of them are young – such as Sahar Vardi from the Refuser Solidarity Network Mesarvot who has served three prison sentences for refusing to enlist in the Israeli military. Sahar is one of a growing number of young Israelis “not willing to take part in Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid in the Palestinian Territories”.

It is important that the growing number of Jewish people who are determined to stand against apartheid and racism and support Palestine are heard.

Sue Pentel and Jacob Woolf are members of Jewish voice for Just Peace-Ireland