The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism Part 5: Opportunities and Struggles for Progressive Jews

Feb 11 2021


The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) invites you to attend 

The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism

Part 5: Opportunities and Struggles for Progressive Jews

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

FMEP is proud to host a webinar featuring progressive Jews exploring the challenges and opportunities embodied in the ongoing debate over how to define antisemitism. Join us as we host Corey Balsam, National Coordinator for Canada’s Independent Jewish Voices, writer and filmmaker Rebecca Pierce, and Dr. Barry Trachtenberg, professor and scholar of modern European and American Jewry — all in discussion with FMEP President Lara Friedman. 

To find past recordings and future webinars and resources in this series, click here

See below for the resources we shared in this webinar. 


The IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) “working definition of antisemitism” — including its examples — is on its way to being adopted and used across the globe, where it poses a serious threat to free speech. From the State Department to English Premier League soccer teams, from universities to social media platforms, concerted campaigns to label criticism of Israeli policies and challenges to Zionism as antisemitism — and to impose formal/legal consequences — continue to gain momentum.

Over the past couple of months, disagreements over the IHRA definition among organizations representing Jewish Americans have surfaced in Jewish media outlets on a weekly if not daily basis. Groups that have long been more conservative in terms of resisting criticizing Israeli policies have publicly urged the Biden Administration to adopt the IHRA definition, while more liberal organizations* have increasingly voiced their opposition, based on concerns for free speech. This battle is taking place against the backdrop of a petition campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace and supported by dozens of organizations,** urging Facebook to resist pressure to use the label of antisemitism as a pretext to silence critics of Israel; that petition has (so far) attracted more than 36,000 signers. 


Corey Balsam is the national coordinator of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and among the lead organizers of its No IHRA campaign. Previously, Corey worked for Oxfam and at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank. He has a master’s in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education from the University of Toronto, where he studied the historic appeal of Israel and Zionism for Ashkenazi Jews, and a Bachelor’s in Public Affairs and Policy Management from Carleton University. He currently lives in Montreal, Quebec, with his wife and two sons. 

Rebecca Pierce is a writer and filmmaker based in San Francisco, California. Her multimedia storytelling covers a diverse range of topics including race, religion, global conflict, and human rights. Her work as a filmmaker has taken her around the world with projects shot in the Middle East, Asia Pacific region, Europe, and the United States. Her editorial writing and public speaking on racial justice issues affecting African American and Jewish communities has been featured by The Nation, The New Republic, Jewish Currents, The Forward, and NPR’s All Things Considered. She tweets at @aptly_engineerd.

Barry Trachtenberg teaches Jewish History at Wake Forest University and is the author, most recently, of The Revolutionary Roots of Modern Yiddish, 1903-1917 (Syracuse University Press) and The United States and the Nazi Holocaust: Race, Refuge, and Remembrance (Bloomsbury). His book on the Holocaust and Yiddish intellectual culture is under contract with Rutgers University Press. In 2017, Trachtenberg testified to the House Judiciary Committee on the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.” He also writes occasional pieces and lectures on the topics of Zionism, antisemitism, and US support for Israel. These have appeared in forums such as the Forward, Tablet, Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Die Tageszeitung (German), A2larm (Czech), and La Razón (Spanish). He is member of the Academic Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace.


Lara Friedman is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) and a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a Contributing Writer at Jewish Currents and a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). She tweets at @LaraFriedmanDC.

* Including FMEP grantees Americans for Peace Now, New Israel Fund, and T’ruah.

** Including FMEP grantees 7amleh, Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now, and Palestine Legal. 


Resources shared in this webinar: 

Follow our panelists’ work: 

Lara Friedman’s Databases: 

JVP-led Facebook campaign →

Barry Trachtenberg’s 2017 testimony before Congress on the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act →

Articles by Rebecca Pierce: 

Jewish Currents has covered the controversies around Ethnic Studies in California repeatedly:

Rabbi Alissa Wise, “Facebook Might Censor Criticism of Zionists. That’s Dangerous.”  →

The Israeli government’s brand new report on hate and social media —>

Independent Jewish Voices Canada: 

Corey Balsam’s Times of Israel blog, “Who’s against adopting the IHRA antisemitism definition? →

The 2018 EKOS Poll: Jewish Canadians sharply divided on Israel-Palestine —>

The Ugandan Jews whom the Israeli government has determined are not eligible to immigrate to Israel as Jews →

Marc Lamont Hill & Mitchell Plitnick’s new book, Except for Palestine: the Limits of Progressive Politics →

FMEP podcast: Marc Lamont Hill, Mitchell Plitnick, and Peter Beinart →

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs Opposes Government Use of IHRA Definition of Antisemitism →

Progressive Israel Network Groups Oppose Codification of IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, Citing Strong Potential for Misuse →

  • Members of the Progressive Israel Network: Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair World Movement, Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, and T’ruah 

Bend the Arc Opposes Government Use of IHRA Definition of Antisemitism →

Reform Jewish Institutions Affirm IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism →

Conference of Presidents Member Organizations Adopt IHRA Definition →

  • Conference of Presidents Member Organizations that adopted the IHRA include Ameinu, AIPAC, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), HIAS, Hillel International, Jewish Federations of North America, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)