The Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism

Blanca Alaníz, Quadrados series, digital photography and photomontage based on the work Planos em Superficie Modulada by Lygia Clark (1957), Brasilia, 2016.
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Letter-Manifesto of Activists and Intellectuals Gathered by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Preamble

We, the undersigned, present the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism, the product of an initiative that originated in Jerusalem. We include in our group international scholars working in Anti-Semitism Studies and related fields, including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine and Middle East Studies. The text of the Declaration benefited from consultations with legal experts and members of civil society.

Inspired by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1969 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the 2000 Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, and the 2005 United Nations Resolution on the Remembrance of the Holocaust , we argue that, while anti-Semitism has certain distinguishing features, the fight against it is inseparable from the general fight against all forms of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and gender discrimination.

Aware of the historic persecution of Jews throughout history and the universal lessons of the Holocaust, and seeing with alarm the reassertion of anti-Semitism by groups that mobilize hatred and violence in politics, society and the internet, we seek to provide a fundamental, usable definition , concise and historically informed anti-Semitism with a set of guidelines.

The Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism responds to the “IHRA Definition”, the document that was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. As the IHRA definition is unclear in key respects and largely open to different interpretations, it caused confusion and controversy, weakening the fight against anti-Semitism. Noting that it calls itself “a working definition”, we seek to improve it by providing (a) a clearer basic definition and (b) a coherent set of guidelines. We hope this will be useful for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, as well as using it for educational purposes. We propose our statement as an alternative to the IHRA Definition, without legally binding effects. Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a tool to interpret it.

The IHRA definition includes 11 “examples” of anti-Semitism, 7 of which focus on the State of Israel. While this places undue emphasis on one arena, there is a widely felt need for clarity about the limits of legitimate political speech and action in relation to Zionism, Israel and Palestine. Our objective is twofold:

(1) to strengthen the fight against antisemitism, clarifying what it is and how it manifests itself, (2) to protect a space for an open debate on the problematic issue of the future of Israel / Palestine. We all do not share the same political views and are not seeking to promote a partisan political agenda. Determining that a controversial view or action is not anti-Semitic does not imply that we endorse it or that we do not endorse it.

The guidelines that focus on Israel-Palestine (numbers 6 to 15) must be taken together. In general, when applying the guidelines, each one should be read in light of the others and always with the aim of taking into account the context. This can include the intention behind an utterance, or a pattern of speech over time, or even the identity of the speaker, especially when the subject is Israel or Zionism. So, for example, hostility to Israel could be an expression of a animus antisemitic, or it could be a reaction to a violation of human rights, or it could be the emotion a Palestinian feels because of their experience at the hands of the state. In short, judgment and sensitivity are required in applying these guidelines to concrete situations.

Definition

Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility, or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jews).

Guidelines

A) Generally

1- It is racist to essentialize (treat a character trait as inherent) or make sweeping negative generalizations about a given population. What is true of racism in general is true of antisemitism in particular.

2 – What is particular about classical anti-Semitism is the idea that Jews are linked to the forces of evil. This is at the heart of many anti-Jewish fantasies, such as the idea of ​​a Jewish conspiracy in which “the Jews” possess hidden power which they use to further their own collective agenda at the expense of others. This connection between Jews and evil continues into the present: in the fantasy that "the Jews" control governments with a "hidden hand", that they own the banks, control the media, act as "a state within a state". , and are responsible for spreading disease (such as Covid-19). All these characteristics can be instrumentalized by different (and even antagonistic) political causes.

3 – Anti-Semitism can manifest itself in words, visual images and acts. Examples of anti-Semitic words include the idea that all Jews are rich, inherently mean, or unpatriotic. In anti-Semitic cartoons, Jews are often depicted as grotesque, with big noses and associated with wealth. Examples of anti-Semitic actions are: assaulting someone because he or she is of Jewish origin, attacking a synagogue, painting swastikas on Jewish graves, or refusing to hire or promote people because they are Jewish.

4 – Anti-Semitism can be direct or indirect, explicit or codified. For example, “The Rothschilds rule the world” is a coded statement about the alleged power of “Jews” over international banking and finance. Likewise, portraying Israel as the ultimate evil or grossly exaggerating its real influence can be a coded way of racializing and stigmatizing Jews. In many cases, identifying coded speech is a matter of context and judgment given these guidelines.

5 – Denying or downplaying the Holocaust by claiming that deliberate Nazi genocide of the Jews did not take place, or that there were no death camps or gas chambers, or that the number of victims was a fraction of the actual total, is anti-Semitic.

B) Israel and Palestine: examples that are apparently anti-Semitic.

6 – Apply the negative symbols, images and stereotypes of classical anti-Semitism (see guidelines 2 and 3) to the State of Israel.

7 – Holding Jews collectively responsible for the conduct of Israel or treating Jews, simply because they are Jews, as agents of Israel.

8 – Demanding that people, because they are Jews, publicly condemn Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).

9 – Assuming that non-Israeli Jews, simply because they are Jews, are necessarily more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.

10 – To deny the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.

C) Israel and Palestine: examples that apparently are not anti-Semitic

(whether or not someone approves of the vision or action)

11 – Support the Palestinian demand for justice and the full granting of their political, national, civil and human rights as encapsulated in international law.

12 – Criticize or oppose Zionism as a form of nationalism, or advocate a variety of constitutional arrangements for Jews and Palestinians in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. It is not antisemitic to support arrangements that grant full equality to all inhabitants “between the river and the sea,” whether in two states, a binational state, a unitary democratic state, a federal state, or in any form.

13 – Evidence-based critiques of Israel as a state. This includes its founding institutions and principles. They also include its policies and practices, national and international, such as Israel's conduct in the West Bank and Gaza, the role Israel plays in the region, or any other way in which, as a state, it influences events in the world. It is not anti-Semitic to point out systematic racial discrimination. In general, the same norms of debate that apply to other states and other conflicts over self-determination apply in the case of Israel and Palestine. Thus, while contentious, it is not per se anti-Semitic to compare Israel to other historical cases, including settler colonialism or apartheid.

14 – Boycott, divestment and sanctions are common and non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case, they are not, per se, anti-Semitic.

15 – Political speech need not be measured, proportionate, temperate, or reasonable to be protected under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other rights instruments. Criticisms that some may see as excessive or contentious, or as reflecting a “double standard,” are not, in and of themselves, anti-Semitic. In general, the line between anti-Semitic and non-Anti-Semitic speech is different from the line between irrational speech and rational speech.

March 25th, 2021

The names of more than 200 signatories to that declaration can be found here: https://jerusalemdeclaration.org/?fbclid=IwAR20A9nGvFFBKrn0DFU5yS1gBnNmCy7j1N48TNJXLe9Pg_KS2qXWgBgHKPg

Translation: Sean Purdy.

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