Capitol Hill webinar 10/19/22 – Antisemitism/IHRA Policy Lab


Recorded Wednesday, October 19, 2022
(if video doesn’t load you can access it directly on YouTube)

Featuring (bios below):

  • Kenneth Stern (Bard College/lead drafter of the IHRA definition)
  • Carinne Luck (Diaspora Alliance)
  • Simone Zimmerman (Diaspora Alliance)
  • Moderator/discussant: Lara Friedman (Foundation for Middle East Peace)

At a time of surging antisemitism in the U.S. and worldwide, most efforts to tackle this serious problem center on the IHRA definition of antisemitism. This definition is often framed as apolitical, non-partisan, commonsense, and above not only reproach but any critical examination and debate.

This framing conceals a critical truth: the IHRA definition of antisemitism is the focus of deep controversy, strenuous debate, and serious criticism. This includes criticism from scholars and experts on antisemitism, Jewish history, the Holocaust, and other related areas of study. And it includes criticism from experts on and defenders of Americans’ First Amendment free speech rights.

At the root of the controversy is the concern that the IHRA definition’s examples about Israel and Zionism have been abused and weaponized to chill and suppress pro-Palestinian speech. This concern is not merely hypothetical: the experience of recent years demonstrates the ease with which the IHRA definition can be exploited to attack free speech and activism critical of Israel/Zionism or in support of Palestinian rights, or even free speech articulating Palestinians’ lived experience and historical narrative.

Given strong — and growing — pressures on Congress to endorse or even adopt/impose the IHRA definition as a matter of law, we presented this policy lab to help congressional staff understand the debate amongst experts, and the degree to which experts on antisemitism have concerns about the IHRA definition, and know about the work experts have undertaken to clarify the problems and offer concrete solutions.

Resources cited/mentioned during the discussion

Expert bios

Kenneth S. Stern is the director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate and an attorney and award-winning author. For twenty-five years, he was the American Jewish Committee’s expert on antisemitism, and he was also the lead drafter of the “Working Definition of Antisemitism.” He has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States and testified before Congress. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Forward. He also has written books on antisemitism and on Holocaust denial. His most recent book is The Conflict Over the Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate (New Jewish Press, 2020).

Carinne Luck is the Founding International Director of Diaspora Alliance, following on two years of focusing much of her time supporting progressive Jewish and non-Jewish leaders in Europe and the US to pushback against antisemitism and its instrumentalization. She has been working as an organizer, trainer, and strategist for two decades, including with Mijente, Hand in Hand, IfNotNow, MoveOn, and CTZN WELL. In 2008 she was a founding staff member of J Street, where she served as Vice President for Field and Campaigns.

Simone Zimmerman is the Director of Strategic Communications & Outreach at Diaspora Alliance. Simone is an organizer and strategist who has been working at the intersection of the progressive movement and the politics of the American Jewish community for over a decade. She was the Executive Director of B’Tselem USA and a co-founder of IfNotNow, a grassroots movement of young American Jews working to end the American Jewish community’s support for Israel’s military occupation. She lived in Israel-Palestine between 2016 and 2018, where she was a Dorot Fellow and worked at Gisha — Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.

Lara Friedman is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). She is a leading authority on the Middle East, with particular expertise on U.S. foreign policy in the region, on Israel/Palestine, and on the way Middle East and Israel/Palestine-related issues play out in Congress and in U.S. domestic politics, policies, and legislation. She has been tracking and researching developments related to the IHRA definition of antisemitism for more than a decade (see the FMEP website for her research and related resources). Lara is a former officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, with diplomatic postings in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut.