Wed 15 May 2024 3:23 pm - Jerusalem Time

1,200 Jewish professors demand that the Senate reject the definition of anti-Semitism

About 1,200 American Jewish university professors signed a strongly worded statement rejecting the controversial definition of anti-Semitism that the US Senate is considering codifying into federal law.

The Concerned Jewish Faculty Statement Against Antisemitism was delivered to key congressional leaders on Tuesday (May 14), including Senate Democrats, members of the House Education and Workforce Committee, as well as the White House liaison to the American Jewish community.

The Jewish professors' statement opposes any effort to enshrine "the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism into federal law, which they say confuses anti-Semitism with criticism of the State of Israel." Signatories include Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe, journalist and professor Peter Beinart, a professor of law and history at the University of Texas. Yale Samuel Moyn.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition has been widely criticized at the academic and professional association levels because it states that manifestations of anti-Semitism “may include targeting the State of Israel, which is viewed as a Jewish group.” The definition against which the document was presented says: “Depriving the Jewish people of their right to self-determination, for example, by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” with the aim of criminalizing criticism of Israel.

The professors’ statement, which was published on several websites, said: “Criticism of the State of Israel, the Israeli government, the policies of the Israeli government, or Zionist ideology is not in itself anti-Semitism.”

It is noteworthy that earlier this month, in an attempt to eliminate pro-Palestinian discourse on American universities, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the “Antisemitism Awareness” law, which uses the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition. Senate leaders from both parties are now considering whether he has enough support for a vote in their chamber. Meanwhile, as many as 40 states have either included the controversial definition in state law or adopted it by resolution. Most recently, the Republican-dominated North Carolina House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly approved the Shalom Act using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, sending it to the state Senate. The definition formulated by the pro-Israel lobbies and the Zionist movement was also adopted by 35 countries.

The professors say that, in an attempt to silence criticism of Israel, this law would violate freedom of expression, trample on academic freedom and undermine Jewish integrity.

The signatories said: “Our united opposition to this bill helps demonstrate what may in fact be a silent majority of Jewish faculty and students on campus who have been fairly quiet over the past six months, but are now taking a coordinated stand against this bill on the In particular.” According to Jonathan Feingold, a law professor at Boston University School of Law and one of the leaders behind the statement, “anti-Semitism is also being weaponized more broadly” with the aim of covering up Israeli violations.

Feingold, who has been tracking laws passed by Republican-dominated state governments that make it illegal to discuss racism, sexual orientation, or the entire history of the United States, believes that the “Antisemitism Awareness” law adopted by Congress is only part of a larger attack on Academic freedom, and the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

“The same right-wing politicians and activists who rhetorically focus on anti-Semitism as a reasonable concern are simultaneously working to undermine the civil rights infrastructure on our campuses,” Feingold said.

These attacks on civil society and freedom of expression include the violent police crackdown on campus camps demanding a ceasefire, an end to the massacre committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians in Gaza since April 17, the arrest and detention of Jewish students and other activists, and the cancellation of graduation ceremonies.

“I don't know of a single case where this idea has been used against white supremacists who make racist allegations against Jews,” said Barry Trachtenberg, a professor of Jewish history at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Rules. “But it has been used almost exclusively as a means to prevent Palestinians from speaking about their experiences under Israeli rule and to prevent Palestinian allies from speaking about Israeli human rights violations.”

Trachtenberg was part of a group of scholars who drafted an alternative definition of anti-Semitism introduced in 2021 called the Jerusalem Declaration. This declaration recognizes that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are “categorically different.”

It further states that "it is not anti-Semitism to support arrangements which grant full equality to all inhabitants 'between river and sea', whether in two states, a bi-national state, a unitary democratic state, a federal state, or in any other form."

In their statement, the 1,200 Jewish professors clearly point to this definition and another definition, as better alternatives. “By stifling criticism of Israel, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition reinforces the dangerous idea that Jewish identity is inextricably linked to every decision made by the government of Israel,” the professors’ statement said. “Far from combating anti-Semitism, this dynamic promises to amplify the very real threats American Jews already face.”


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1,200 Jewish professors demand that the Senate reject the definition of anti-Semitism