Debunking the IHRA Definition: A Palestinian Perspective

We will not be silenced! Yes, Israel is a racist endeavour!

On November 16, the new Vancouver City Council adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, despite a massive community pushback that has pledged to keep support of Palestine visible and vocal going forward. The main objective of the IHRA definition is to legitimize Israel and to slander all those who expose its illegal and inhumane activities, putting a chill on the Palestinian solidarity work and covering up for Israeli war crimes.
The Israeli Hasbara 3D’s are at work: it distorts the nature of the Palestinian struggle, it distracts from the settler colonialist nature of Zionism, and defames as anti-Semites all those who expose and condemn Israeli atrocities. This has always been the modus operandi of the Israeli establishment; we shouldn’t forget the original Mossad motto “By Way of Deception Thou Shalt Do War”.

Let’s take a closer look. The short working IHRA definition itself lacks clarity and does not point the finger to the real anti-Semites (the white supremacists). It also states that “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property” (my emphasis). One can only conclude that this refers to a non-Jewish Zionist (e.g., Christian or Muslim), so if for example, you harass a Saudi journalist that supports Israel then you are an anti-Semite. How ridiculous can this get!

And then we have the infamous IHRA illustrative examples, the preamble to which states: “Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”
This summarizes and highlights the double talk in this definition; Zionists in general and those who drafted this document “conceive” and believe that Israel is “a Jewish collectivity”, so one can only conclude that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. But then they say, “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” What an oxymoron, and who decides what criticism fits into that narrow criteria?

Seven out of the eleven examples mention Israel by name, lets examine those examples one by one:

  • “Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”
    Of course, holocaust denial is atrocious, but using the Holocaust to further a political agenda is equally unforgivable. During the Holocaust, Zionists made deals with the Nazis to help bolster their settler-colonialist agenda; many detailed books have been written on this subject, notably 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis by Lenni Brenner and most recently Zionism During the Holocaust by Tony Greenstein.
  • “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
    In fact, it is the Zionist ideology itself that creates this “dual loyalty”, and from its inception, Jewish opposition to Zionism was based on the dangers inherent in pushing this “Jewish nation-state” concept. They knew that this would be an excuse for many countries to deny them their existing respective nationalities. The strongest opposition to the Balfour Declaration within the British Government came from its only Jewish member, Sir Edwin Montagu, who wrote: “Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom…I assert that there is not a Jewish nation…When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home, every country will immediately desire to get rid of its Jewish citizens…” (My emphasis)
    By equating Zionism with Judaism, by constantly pushing the theme that the “Jewish community” is attached to Israel, the Zionists are responsible for most of the confusion surrounding the loyalty issue. Whether by design or blunder, this increases anti-Semitism.
  • “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
    This example was referenced by multiple speakers during the Vancouver City Council debate, all of whom pointed out the overwhelming evidence that yes, indeed, Israel IS a racist endeavor (and always was). To claim that a state founded on exclusive privilege for one group over another is not a racist endeavor is the ultimate insult to the Palestinian lived experience.
    * Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, wrote in his book The Jewish State in 1896: “We should there form a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.
    * The ”nation-state” law declared that the Jewish people “have an exclusive right to national self-determination” in Israel.
    * International human rights organizations Amnesty International (AI),  Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and Yesh Din and all Palestinian human rights organizations have established that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid (institutional racism).
  • “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
    True “democratic nations” do not practice apartheid, ethnic cleansing and war crimes; further, Israel as a settler-colonialist venture, with the longest military occupation in modern history, is in a class of its own.
    Still, this particular point has often been used by the Zionist lobby to attempt to discredit the global BDS movement, even going so far as to falsely compare it to the Nazi Boycott of Jews in Germany. If there are any ”double standards”, they are practiced in favor of Israel. Canada sanctions 22 countries, 9 of them in the Middle East, but the worst violators of human rights are not on the list … Israel and Saudi Arabia (not to “single out” Israel). And the U.S. employs the same duplicitous policy, sanctioning multiple countries but never Israel, thus allowing impunity for Israeli war crimes.
  • “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”
    This example has been used to smear those saying or reporting that Israel is killing Palestinian children; accordingly, if you do so, you are “libelling” the Jews, which once again conflates Jews with Israel.
  • “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
    Actually, many Jewish intellectuals, and even former Israeli military officials, have done so. On Dec. 4, 1948 Albert Einstein and other intellectuals wrote a letter to the New York Times describing the Zionist Herut party, the predecessor of Likud, the current ruling party in Israel, as “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” That letter concluded by “…urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism”. It was the Israeli philosopher and professor, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who coined the phrase, Judeo-Nazi. And Avraham Shalom, former head of the Shin Bet stated in the documentary The Gatekeepers: “On the other hand, it’s a brutal occupation force, similar to the Germans in World War II. Similar, but not identical.”
  • “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”
    In essence, this is the only example mentioning Israel that is valid. However, it’s a complete flip from the previous six examples, that consistently equated and conflated Israel with all Jews, and the Jews with Israel.  By doing so, all the previous six examples promote anti-Semitism, in addition to promoting anti-Palestinian racism.

Zionism always thrived on anti-Semitism. The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, recognized this fact and described anti-Semitism as the “propelling force” and declared: “Anti-Semitism has grown and continues to grow, and so do I.” He also stated: “The governments of all countries scourged by anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in assisting us to obtain the sovereignty we want.”

One really questions if Zionists know or care that their aggressive tactics with the IHRA definition promote anti-Semitism and create resentment. Not just because it conflates Jews with Israel, but because it also sends the message that one form of racism is more repugnant than all others.

Is Israel, that was created over the skulls of the indigenous Palestinian people, really the safe haven for the Jews as Zionists claim? History has proven, and will further prove, otherwise.

(Written by CPA Chair, Hanna Kawas, based on a presentation given at a Vancouver meeting on Nov. 21, “Next Steps for the Palestine Movement – #NoIHRA in Vancouver, Reports from Brussels and Palestine”.)

Another version of this article was published in AlMayadeen English: Debunking the IHRA Definition: We will not be Silenced! | Al Mayadeen English.