The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism: A webinar series examining how a problematic definition of antisemitism is being used to quash criticism of Israel and threaten freedom of speech
Part 1: Views on IHRA from Around the Globe
Recorded Monday, December 14, 2020
Featuring Seth Anziska, Associate Professor of Jewish-Muslim Relations at University College London; Ryvka Barnard, Head of Civic Space at UK-based anti-poverty and human rights charity War on Want; and Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch; in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman.
Resources shared/mentioned during this webinar include:
- Twitter handles for our panelists:
Lara Friedman – https://twitter.com/LaraFriedmanDC
Seth Anziska – https://twitter.com/SethAnziska
Ryvka Barnard – https://twitter.com/WarOnWant
Omar Shakir – https://twitter.com/OmarSShakir
- “With this flawed antisemitism definition, Britain is closing down academic freedom” by Sai Englert- https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/uk-antisemitism-ihra-definition-latest-attack-academic-freedom
- “Weaponizing Anti-Semitism, State Department Delegitimizes Human Rights Groups” by Lara Friedman – https://fmep.org/resource/weaponizing-anti-semitism-state-department-delegitimizes-human-rights-groups/
- “Pompeo’s Attack on BDS is About Protecting Settlements—Not Defending Jews” by Yair Wallach https://www.newsweek.com/pompeo-bds-antisemitism-israel-jews-1553910
- “The government should not impose a faulty definition of antisemitism on universities” by David Feldman – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/02/the-government-should-not-impose-a-faulty-definition-of-antisemitism-on-universities
- For more on what’s happening in Germany, read this in Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.HIGHLIGHT.MAGAZINE-in-germany-a-witch-hunt-rages-against-israel-critics-many-have-had-enough-1.9362662
- In Jewish Currents, Natasha Roth-Rowland wrote a great overview of “lawfare,” including the IHRA definition: https://jewishcurrents.org/waging-lawfare/
- Here’s more on how Facebook is interacting with this issue: “Israel-Advocacy Groups Urge Facebook to Label Criticism of Israel as Hate Speech”, by Lara Friedman https://fmep.org/resource/lara-friedman-at-jewish-currents-israel-advocacy-groups-urge-facebook-to-label-criticism-of-israel-as-hate-speech/
- For more on the Palestinian experience in the UK, see: “Palestinians in the UK speak out for the right to freedom of speech” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/31/palestinians-in-the-uk-speak-out-for-the-right-to-freedom-of-speech
- And this which references a letter from 80+ migrant and BAME community groups: https://novaramedia.com/2018/08/17/why-migrant-and-bame-groups-are-protesting-the-ihras-definition-of-anti-semitism/
- Lara tracks anti-BDS legislation in the U.S. which includes language treating the settlements as Israel.
- In States – https://fmep.org/resource/stealth-campaign-use-u-s-law-support-settlements-taking-battle-states-updatedexpanded-table/
- In Congress – https://fmep.org/resource/stealth-campaign-use-u-s-law-support-settlements-congress/ Palestine Legal also tracks this legislation: https://legislation.palestinelegal.org/#federal
- APN’s letter on the IHRA definition: https://peacenow.org/entry.php?id=37124#.X9e8MelKjVd
The IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) working definition of antisemitism — and its examples — is on its way to being adopted and used across the globe to restrict 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. In state legislatures and Congress in the United States, across Europe and in Latin America, the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and its examples is being used to quash criticism of Israel, to delegitimize advocates for Palestinian rights, and to undermine civil society organizations — including human rights and humanitarian groups — for their work with or support for Palestinians. This politicization and weaponization of the fight against antisemitism has grave implications, not just for Israel-Palestine activism but for free speech and civil society writ large, as well as for the battle against real and rising antisemitism around the world.
FMEP is proud to announce an ongoing series exploring these efforts to redefine antisemitism in this problematic manner, as well as arguments and efforts to oppose it.
Seth Anziska is the Mohamed S. Farsi-Polonsky Associate Professor of Jewish-Muslim Relations at University College London. His research and teaching focuses on Israeli and Palestinian society and culture, modern Middle Eastern history, and contemporary Arab and Jewish politics. He is the author of Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo (Princeton University Press, 2018), which was awarded the British Association for Jewish Studies Book Prize in 2019. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and Foreign Policy. Seth received his PhD in International and Global History from Columbia University, his M. Phil. in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and his BA in history from Columbia University.
Ryvka Barnard is the Head of Civic Space at UK-based anti-poverty and human rights charity War on Want. She campaigns against human rights abuses associated with the growing power of the military and security industry, with a special focus on the UK-Israel arms trade. She writes frequently on the topic in the Independent, Middle East Eye and has appeared on the BBC and other broadcast channels discussing these issues. Ryvka has a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from New York University where she specialized in the politics of tourism development in the occupied West Bank.
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, investigates human rights abuses in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Prior to his current role, he was a Bertha Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he focused on US counterterrorism policies, including legal representation of Guantanamo detainees. As the 2013-14 Arthur R. and Barbara D. Finberg Fellow at Human Rights Watch, he investigated human rights violations in Egypt, including the Rab’a massacre, one of the largest killings of protesters in a single day. A former Fulbright Scholar in Syria, Omar holds a JD from Stanford Law School, where he co-authored a report on the civilian consequences of US drone strikes in Pakistan as a part of the International Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Clinic, an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Affairs, and a BA in International Relations from Stanford.
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).