IHRA: Government grasps the academic nettle at long last ……

British Universities are incubators of antisemitism. Time and again we have seen Islamist and leftist extremists radicalised at university. Remember Abdullmatallab, the so-called ‘underpants bomber’ who tried to bring down a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009? He was head of the Islamic Society at University College London.  At that time I noted that three of the last four heads of this society had been indicted for terrorism offences.  And just yesterday outside Elbit’s office in London, there were many in the anti-Israel contingent of student age or slightly older.

So it’s vital that universities adopt the full IHRA definition of antisemitism in order to combat demonising lies about Zionists and Zionism on campus.

But the Union of Jewish Students recently noted that – disappointingly – out of 133 UK universities, only 29 have adopted the IHRA definition (the page includes a link to the data, gleaned from a combination of FOIs and J Soc enquiries). But even this might be an overestimate. For example UJS’s data table suggests that LSE adopted IHRA in December 2017.  After the antisemitic Falk meeting at LSE earlier that year I was in protracted correspondence with the university (I hold a Master’s degree from LSE). As of November 2017 they had NOT adopted IHRA – and were showing no signs whatsoever of doing so.

And my information from a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Education some months ago was that only six universities had adopted IHRA (Kings London, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Liverpool, Essex and Bristol). It would be surprising if a further 23 had adopted since then. And ‘adopted’ means the FULL definition including the examples which are an integral part of it, see below. Sometimes it is wrongly asserted that the opening 38 words constitute the IHRA definition (‘Antisemitism may be expressed as hatred toward Jews’). But they are simply an operationally useless tautology – which hasn’t stopped some local authorities adopting them and claiming that they have adopted the definition eg Liverpool and Manchester :

Email to me from Manchester Council

Has UJS checked that the 29 have adopted the FULL definition, including the examples? For example Essex University’s Harassment and Bullying Policy suggests that only the meaningless first 38 words have been adopted. The same holds true of Lincoln University (Press Notice 5 June 2019). And of Liverpool University:

Minutes of Liverpool University Senate meeting

And UCL’s Press Notice announcing adoption sets out this caveat:

It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

But that effectively rejects one of the IHRA examples: ‘Applying double standards [of Israel] by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’ It is antisemitic, by definition – no ‘additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent’ is necessary!

Incidentally the response regarding Oxford is bizarre. It states

‘The University has not formally adopted the IHRA Definition and there are currently no plans to change this. The University follows the government’s definition of antisemitism which, since 2016, has been informed by the IHRA Definition.’

The government’s definition is NOT ‘informed by’ the IHRA Definition. It *IS* the IHRA Definition!

Perhaps as a result of UJS’s research, the Secretary of State for Education emailed all University Vice Chancellors on Friday, threatening action:


Professor Geoffrey Alderman promptly went into print opposing the letter and the definition.

Professor Alderman (a historian) acts as an adviser to Shraga Stern. (I have asked him if he is paid – no response). Stern is a member of the Satmar sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish majority State (because they believe there can be no such State until the coming of the Messiah). Like Neturei Karta, this (possibly inter alia) leads Stern to be a supporter of Corbyn (indeed a recently published book ‘Left Out’ revealed that Corbyn’s wife Laura Alvarez and Stern formed an unlikely friendship).

It’s hardly surprising that Professor Alderman has published an ill-informed attack on the IHRA Definition of Antisemism.

Alderman writes ‘there is some confusion as to whether these “examples” actually form part of the definition.’

There is no confusion whatsoever. As he knew, because I had drawn to his attention to two documents which confirm this.

The first document is this statement from seven members of the UK Delegation to the IHRA. 

The second is this email to me from two IHRA Chairpersons, one of whom was the Chair at the time of the Bucharest Plenary which adopted the definition:

Alderman questions how it can be antisemitic to compare Israeli policy to that of the Nazis if it is not antisemitic to compare China’s treatment of the Uighurs to that of the Nazis?

The answer is simple. It is wrong to compare ANY country’s policies to those of the Nazis, so horrific were the latter’s crimes. But the Rohingya and the Uighurs were not the victims of the Nazis. Unlike six million Jews.

Another of the examples says that it is antisemitic to accuse Jewish citizens ‘of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.’

Alderman suggests that some Jews have ‘acted in the interests of Israel rather than the UK’- and so, he asks, how can it be antisemitic to point that out?

It obviously is.  For example, had I been present at Hampden Park on Thursday, I would have cheered for the Israeli soccer team who played against Scotland.  But that does NOT mean I am ‘more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of [my] own nation[s].”

A third example says it’s antisemitic to make “stereotypical allegations about . . . the power of Jews as a collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about Jews controlling the media.”

Alderman says that he has pointed out that in the early 20th century ‘there was a case to be made in support of the view that Jews controlled large parts of the British film industry. But of course they had no Jewish “agenda” in mind.’

First note that Jews didn’t control ‘large parts’ of the British film industry pre-WW2. As  Andrew Spicer has written:

Thus although Jewish entrepreneurs did not control the pre-war British film industry, they did much to help shape it, providing the energy, ambition, financial acumen, willingness to take risks and vision essential in building a modern industry that was, despite severe difficulties, sufficiently robust to survive ferocious American competition.

And this is hardly the same as suggesting that ‘Jews control the media’ since the British media even in the early 20th century comprised far more than simply the film industry! And when antisemites suggest ‘Jews control the media’ they don’t just mean in the UK!

The fourth example criticised by Alderman says that it is antisemitic to use ‘the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.’

Alderman protests that it’s antisemitic to make such claims of ANY Jew, not just one who lives in Israel – and (risibly) that the framers of the IHRA definition have ‘not yet found the courage to say so’.  But the definition SAYS it’s antisemitic to accuse ANY Jew of killing Christ or to repeat the blood libel about ANY Jew, describing these tropes as ‘classic antisemitism’.  Presumably the reason why the IHRA authors thought that ‘Israel and Israelis’ needed spelling out was that antisemites so often suggest that the IDF sells body parts of Palestinians who die as a result of its necessary actions. The trope is so common that a member of the House of Lords even suggested there should be an Inquiry into the allegation!

As I noted at the outset, many British Universities are incubators of antisemitism. For far too long Vice Chancellors have used ‘academic freedom’ as an excuse for inaction.

At long last the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, has grasped the nettle. He is to be warmly congratulated.

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