Guardian appears to reject IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism

The Guardian today published a letter by Dave Rich, head of policy at The CST, responding to an earlier letter by British academics (and others) who, whilst suggesting a new antisemitism definition of their own, “ignore[d] the existence of a perfectly good definition of antisemitism”.  Rich is referring to the definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016 which has been “adopted or endorsed by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments, over 120 local authorities, several governments overseas and by the European parliament.”

Here’s the bulk of Rich’s letter:

The IHRA definition of antisemitism allows everything that your correspondents want to say in relation to Israel. It states unambiguously that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. It allows for specific Israeli policies and practices to be described as racist and makes no mention of boycotts. It insists that all cases of alleged antisemitism must be judged in context. But it also reflects the fact…that much contemporary antisemitism occurs in anti-Israel spaces, where old antisemitic myths and tropes are recycled and updated to ascribe the same conspiratorial power and malevolent intent to “Zionists” that antisemites have long ascribed to Jews. It acknowledges that the vile comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany is a modern antisemitic slur. Any definition of antisemitism that does not capture this evolving language is not fit for purpose.

In a search of any Guardian commentary on the IHRA Working Definition, we came across a column by the paper’s Readers’ Editor Paul Chadwick.  The column, published on April 8th, “Context always matters when reporting on antisemitism”, examined 15 days of Guardian coverage on revelations that Corbyn had spoken out in 2012 in defense of an antisemitic mural.  Whilst Chadwick agreed that the mural was antisemitic, he further explored the broader issue of what constitutes antisemitism.

Chadwick writes:

Context matters always, and warnings can help. The UK parliamentary committee that reported on antisemitism in 2016 acted similarly. Defining antisemitism is challenging. The same committee proposed a long definition that the UK government adopted with amendments, as policy not law. The jurist Stephen Sedley has made powerful criticisms of that definition. 

The definition Chadwick refers to, which he notes that the UK government adopted it with minor caveats, is the IHRA Working Definition which Rich references in his letter.  

Chadwick continues:

At core, antisemitism is the hatred of Jewish people because they are Jewish. Factors to consider in assessing whether any given words, images or actions fit that definition include: content, form, user, intent, context, extent/intensity, and the persistence of the user in the face of clear indications that his or her words, images or actions are being understood as an expression of hatred of Jewish people because they are Jewish people.

Individual Jewish people are not responsible for the action or inaction of any government of Israel, and should not be presumed to be in agreement with them simply because the individual is Jewish.

Note that Chadwick leaves out what the IHRA definition describes as “manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity”.  

In fact, in narrowly defining antisemitism as the expression of hatred towards Jews as Jews, Chadwick implicitly rejects most IHRA examples of antisemitism as it relates to Israel, including these:

  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews
    worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing
    Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Since Chadwick didn’t specifically address these Israel related tropes regarding by the IHRA as manifestations of antisemitism, we can’t tell with certainty what his views are regarding, for instance, accusations of dual loyalty, the Israel-Nazi analogy, denying Israel’s right to exist and claiming that Zionism is racism.

But, the omission itself is quite telling. 

Chadwick – and, by extension, the Guardian – is evidently not prepared to categorically reject the widely accepted understanding of what constitutes the New Antisemitism – manifestations of Jew-hatred disguised as ‘mere’ Israel-hatred that reflects, as Rich put it, the “evolving language” of antisemitism.

As the Labour antisemitism scandal has demonstrated, those who demonise Israel in ways which mirror the historic demonisation of Jews yet insist they are merely “anti-Zionist”, not antisemitic, are usually being dishonest.  A comprehensive study, released last year by CST and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), revealed “robust empirical documentation” demonstrating a strong correlation between antisemitic and anti-Israel attitudes.  The study showed that those who hold strong anti-Israel views (such as calling Israel an apartheid state, accusing it of genocide and denying its right to exist, etc.) are dramatically more likely to hold antisemitic views than the general population.  

This of course contradicts the dominant Guardian Left view – articulated recently by Chadwick – that hatred of Jews qua Jews should be seen as distinct and separate from hatred of Israel.  The ideological similarity between tropes concluding that “Zionists are our misfortune” and tropes concludingJews are our misfortuneis simply impossible to deny.

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42 replies »

  1. Can Chadwick name any other minority for whom the majority defines what constitutes hate speech against them? The common fallacies against antisemitism, such as the Livingstone formulation and other suggestions of closing down free speech etc, appear to be projections of the newly minted concept of “islamophobia” which does is in fact tar people with either fact-based observations or who subject the Islamic faith to the same intellectual scrutiny and debate as the other two Abrahamic faiths.
    In other words, antisemitism is used as a diversion for those who cannot fathom how an ancient people such as the Jewish people have not only survived millenia of hostility by the majority population but, through perseverance and hard work, have largely overcome such opposition to prosper and contribute significantly to mankind. Rather than being held up as an example of what can be achieved, the Jews find themselves the target of hatred. Envy perhaps, but always with deadly and self-defeating results.

  2. Hatred of an ethnic group as having a specific ethnicity seems to be sufficient for all examples of racism but antisemitism.
    There are good reasons why the IHRA definition is problematic, for example:
    – while it is clearly silly to say all Jews owe stronger affiliation to Israel than to their own country it must be possible to say this of individuals, as in the recent case of British citizens colluding with Israeli embassy staff to compromise MPs with Palestinian sympathies;
    – no ethnic or religious group has a ‘right’ to self-determination – not Kurds, Catalans, Scots or even Jews. Where self-determination exists it has often been acquired by force and is accepted de facto, not as a right.

    • sencrap,

      Muslims have a stronger affiliation to Islam than their own country, UK or France or the US..

      THAT results in British Muslims committing terrorist attacks in the UK as on London’s 7/7 attacks, Manchester attack, beheading of Lee Rigby, Roterham rape gangs, ISIS beheading videos by a savage with a British accent, London and Westminster bridge car attacks, and more…

        • When are Socialists going to march, demonstrate, demand that Muslims Stop Murdering People ALL OVER THE WORLD – or would doing so be “counter-revolutionary”?

          When are YOU sencar going to protest Islamofascism?

    • In that very obvious case Sencar, Palestinians do not have a right to self-determination.

  3. “Individual Jewish people are not responsible for the action or inaction of any government of Israel, and should not be presumed to be in agreement with them simply because the individual is Jewish.”
    Well, a lot of palestinians and other Arabs, as well as others who support them, are responsible for many of the actions which have been required by the government of Israel to protect its citizens and its sovereignty.

    Mr. Chadwick, tell us what we should call hatred of a small Jewish state on the grounds of its purported human rights policies that just happen to far exceed the human rights policies and records of surrounding states and entities that wish it detrimental harm? Give us a clue.