Traditionally, “antisemitism” has meant hostility and prejudice toward Jews because they are Jews—a scourge that has imperiled Jews throughout history, and is a source of resurgent threats to Jews today. In recent years there has been an energetic effort to re-define the term to mean something else. This new definition – known today as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) “working definition of antisemitism, is explicitly politicized, refocusing the term to encompass not only hatred of Jews, but also hostility toward and criticism of the modern state of Israel. For example, it labels as antisemitic “applying double standards” to Israel or requiring of Israel “behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” While it notes that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” in practice this “double standard” language has paved the way for attacking virtually all criticism of Israel as prima facie antisemitic, based on the simplistic argument that focusing criticism on Israel, when other nations are guilty of similarly bad behavior, can only reflect animus against Jews.
In the media and on social media, and in the mainstream political discourse, there are almost daily interventions in support of the IHRA definition – interventions that too often dismiss the well-established, well-fleshed-out substantive and constitutional concerns/objections to the definition and its implementation.
Yet, this new definition has been the focus of enormous controversy and myriad challenges, including from academics/experts on antisemitism and Holocaust studies in the U.S., Israel, and around the world; from prominent voices and groups that defend free speech and human rights; from progressive Jewish community organizations; from leading legal scholars; from groups defending Palestinians and Palestinian rights; and more.
In this context, I have created a new data table — a compendium of expert views and other resources laying out concerns/objections to the IHRA definition.
You can find the new database here. As always, I will be updating it regularly (if you find resources that I have omitted, please send them to me!)