The Pinsker Centre has published an analysis of IHRA-antisemitic statements by UK student unions or faculties during the recent Middle East conflict. The researchers focus on 15 universities, 13 of which are in the ‘top 40’ (as ranked by the Complete University Guide). The results make sobering reading: in 13 of the 15 there is clear evidence of antisemitism (Cambridge, Oxford, LSE, University College London, Sussex, East Anglia, SOAS, Leicester, Essex, City, Goldsmiths, Queen Mary University, King’s College London). Plus the researchers reveal antisemitic abuse of Jewish students at Bristol University. Incredibly the statement of the JCR (Junior Common Room – ie the undergraduates) at St Anne’s College, Oxford referred to ‘the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque’ – a vile conspiracy theory used by Islamists in the Middle East when they want to fuel violence against Jews.
Most of the 15 have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism which protects Jewish students. The exceptions are LSE, SOAS, City and Goldsmiths. (Pinsker follows the Union of Jewish Students and the Campaign Against Antisemitism in the mistaken assumption that LSE has adopted IHRA).
IHRA is about changing the culture. The Pinsker research shows there’s a long way to go. It’s no use adopting IHRA unless Vice Chancellors are prepared to act on it. The Miller case at Bristol is a litmus test – the University’s report is keenly awaited. Lord Mann – the government’s supposed point person on antisemitism – did the antiracism cause a profound disservice by saying that IHRA should not be used to assess the suitability of external speakers at universities.
Another public figure who does the cause a profound disservice is the lawyer and Corbyn apologist Stephen Sedley. Born Jewish (to a Communist father) but now ‘humanist’ (except when it comes to supporting Corbyn!) , he has been published twice in the London Review of books (4 May 2017 and 8 February 2018) with ignorant, invalid criticisms of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. I deconstructed his 2017 article here.
However an anti-IHRA meeting on Sunday revealed that his ill-informed opposition to IHRA continues. (NB at least one of the speakers – the unctious Saladin Meckled-Garcia of UCL – is a Miller supporter. His attempt at the meeting (20.54) to argue that Miller does not regard Bristol Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students as an “enemy” that must be “directly targeted” is risible. As was his comment that Pinsker is a ‘dodgy think-tank’ (21.54) and his sarcastic snipe at David Hirsh (21.23). His comment that IHRA ‘protects Israel from criticism’ (13:14) is simply disingenuous rubbish. Interestingly Meckled-Garcia was a signatory of the sham ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ but his signature has been removed. Possibly because (as I noted on Twitter on 28 March) he was the only Miller supporter whose name appeared and the organisers thought that their cause would suffer if they included Miller supporters.
Back to Sedley’s latest salvo against IHRA.
It is a clumsy piece of drafting distinguished by two particular features: it fails the first test of any definition by being open-ended and indefinite; and it is accompanied by examples some of which are visibly designed to protect Israel from legitimate criticism.
It’s neither clumsy, nor open-ended nor indefinite. And far from being designed to prevent legitimate criticism of Israel, look at this: ‘… criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’.
……..used as a basis for witch-hunts within institutions and organisations against bona fide critics of Israel……
Ignoring the Home Affairs Select Committee’s warning that the document, if unqualified, risked stifling free speech …
The Committee never said that. It said ‘We broadly accept the IHRA definition, but propose two additional clarifications to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism to permeate any debate.’
These were the two conditions – both are a nonsense:
#1 It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
#2 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.’
#1 is obvious – The definition says it
#2 needs to be looked at in two parts.
Of course it’s not antisemitic to hold Israel to the same standards as other democracies. IHRA says it’s antisemitic to hold Israel to a DIFFERENT standard (“requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”)
‘To take a particular interest … ‘ Singling out Israel IS by definition antisemitic (“requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”). Proof of ‘antisemitic intent’ is not necessary – it is antisemitic by definition.
Recent research, however, has established that the “definition” adopted by the IHRA’s Bucharest plenary in 2016 consisted only of the two initial sentences ..
There appears to be no evidence that the list was ever adopted by a plenary meeting of the IHRA.
… a straightforward and hard-edged definition is that it is hostility towards Jews as Jews.
Crap. Antisemitism is hostility towards Jews as ‘owners of the media’ or ‘owners of the banking system’ or ‘thieves of organs of dead Palestinians’ or ….or …..or. ‘Hostility towards Jews as Jews’ has become associated with Brian Klug. In fact Klug dismissed that formulation as ‘too simple’. It is also meaningless. Over the ages, Jews have been accused of being thieves, manipulators, child killers, controllers of the world – but none of these are hostility to Jews ‘as Jews’!