Palestinian rights and the IHRA definition of antisemitism – The Guardian

Posted By on December 1, 2020

We, the undersigned Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals are hereby stating our views regarding the definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and the way this definition has been applied, interpreted and deployed in several countries of Europe and North America.

In recent years, the fight against antisemitism has been increasingly instrumentalised by the Israeli government and its supporters in an effort to delegitimise the Palestinian cause and silence defenders of Palestinian rights. Diverting the necessary struggle against antisemitism to serve such an agenda threatens to debase this struggle and hence to discredit and weaken it.

Antisemitism must be debunked and combated. Regardless of pretence, no expression of hatred for Jews as Jews should be tolerated anywhere in the world. Antisemitism manifests itself in sweeping generalisations and stereotypes about Jews, regarding power and money in particular, along with conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial. We regard as legitimate and necessary the fight against such attitudes. We also believe that the lessons of the Holocaust as well as those of other genocides of modern times must be part of the education of new generations against all forms of racial prejudice and hatred.

The fight against antisemitism must, however, be approached in a principled manner, lest it defeat its purpose. Through examples that it provides, the IHRA definition conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews. We profoundly disagree with this. The fight against antisemitism should not be turned into a stratagem to delegitimise the fight against the oppression of the Palestinians, the denial of their rights and the continued occupation of their land. We regard the following principles as crucial in that regard:

1. The fight against antisemitism must be deployed within the frame of international law and human rights. It should be part and parcel of the fight against all forms of racism and xenophobia, including Islamophobia, and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism. The aim of this struggle is to guarantee freedom and emancipation for all oppressed groups. It is deeply distorted when geared towards the defence of an oppressive and predatory state.

2. There is a huge difference between a condition where Jews are singled out, oppressed and suppressed as a minority by antisemitic regimes or groups, and a condition where the self-determination of a Jewish population in Palestine/Israel has been implemented in the form of an ethnic exclusivist and territorially expansionist state. As it currently exists, the state of Israel is based on uprooting the vast majority of the natives what Palestinians and Arabs refer to as the Nakba and on subjugating those natives who still live on the territory of historical Palestine as either second-class citizens or people under occupation, denying them their right to self-determination.

3. The IHRA definition of antisemitism and the related legal measures adopted in several countries have been deployed mostly against leftwing and human rights groups supporting Palestinian rights and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, sidelining the very real threat to Jews coming from rightwing white nationalist movements in Europe and the US. The portrayal of the BDS campaign as antisemitic is a gross distortion of what is fundamentally a legitimate non-violent means of struggle for Palestinian rights.

4. The IHRA definitions statement that an example of antisemitism is Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour is quite odd. It does not bother to recognise that under international law, the current state of Israel has been an occupying power for over half a century, as recognised by the governments of countries where the IHRA definition is being upheld. It does not bother to consider whether this right includes the right to create a Jewish majority by way of ethnic cleansing and whether it should be balanced against the rights of the Palestinian people. Furthermore, the IHRA definition potentially discards as antisemitic all non-Zionist visions of the future of the Israeli state, such as the advocacy of a binational state or a secular democratic one that represents all its citizens equally. Genuine support for the principle of a peoples right to self-determination cannot exclude the Palestinian nation, nor any other.

5. We believe that no right to self-determination should include the right to uproot another people and prevent them from returning to their land, or any other means of securing a demographic majority within the state. The demand by Palestinians for their right of return to the land from which they themselves, their parents and grandparents were expelled cannot be construed as antisemitic. The fact that such a demand creates anxieties among Israelis does not prove that it is unjust, nor that it is antisemitic. It is a right recognised by international law as represented in United Nations general assembly resolution 194 of 1948.

6. To level the charge of antisemitism against anyone who regards the existing state of Israel as racist, notwithstanding the actual institutional and constitutional discrimination upon which it is based, amounts to granting Israel absolute impunity. Israel can thus deport its Palestinian citizens, or revoke their citizenship or deny them the right to vote, and still be immune from the accusation of racism. The IHRA definition and the way it has been deployed prohibit any discussion of the Israeli state as based on ethno-religious discrimination. It thus contravenes elementary justice and basic norms of human rights and international law.

7. We believe that justice requires the full support of Palestinians right to self-determination, including the demand to end the internationally acknowledged occupation of their territories and the statelessness and deprivation of Palestinian refugees. The suppression of Palestinian rights in the IHRA definition betrays an attitude upholding Jewish privilege in Palestine instead of Jewish rights, and Jewish supremacy over Palestinians instead of Jewish safety. We believe that human values and rights are indivisible and that the fight against antisemitism should go hand in hand with the struggle on behalf of all oppressed peoples and groups for dignity, equality and emancipation.

Samir AbdallahFilmmaker, Paris, FranceNadia Abu El-HajAnn Olin Whitney Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, USALila Abu-LughodJoseph L Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science, Columbia University, USABashir Abu-MannehReader in Postcolonial Literature, University of Kent, UKGilbert AchcarProfessor of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UKNadia Leila AissaouiSociologist and Writer on feminist issues, Paris, FranceMamdouh AkerBoard of Trustees, Birzeit University, PalestineMohamed AlyahyaiWriter and novelist, OmanSuad AmiryWriter and Architect, Ramallah, PalestineSinan AntoonAssociate Professor, New York University, Iraq-USTalal AsadEmeritus Professor of Anthropology, Graduate Center, CUNY, USAHanan AshrawiFormer Professor of Comparative Literature, Birzeit University, PalestineAziz Al-AzmehUniversity Professor Emeritus, Central European University, Vienna, AustriaAbdullah BaaboodAcademic and Researcher in Gulf studies, OmanNadia Al-BagdadiProfessor of History, Central European University, ViennaSam BahourWriter, Al-Bireh/Ramallah, PalestineZainab BahraniEdith Porada Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, USARana BarakatAssistant Professor of History, Birzeit University, PalestineBashir BashirAssociate Professor of Political Theory, Open University of Israel, Raanana, State of IsraelTaysir BatnijiArtist-Painter, Gaza, Palestine and Paris, FranceTahar Ben JellounWriter, Paris, FranceMohammed BennisPoet, Mohammedia, MoroccoMohammed BerradaWriter and Literary Critic, Rabat, MoroccoOmar BerradaWriter and Curator, New York, USAAmahl BisharaAssociate Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, Tufts University, USAAnouar BrahemMusician and Composer, TunisiaSalem BrahimiFilmaker, Algeria-FranceAboubakr ChraibiProfessor, Arabic Studies Department, INALCO, Paris, FranceSelma DabbaghWriter, London, UKIzzat DarwazehProfessor of Communications Engineering, University College London, UKMarwan DarweishAssociate Professor, Coventry University, UKBeshara DoumaniMahmoud Darwish Professor of Palestinian Studies and of History, Brown University, USAHaidar EidAssociate Professor of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza, PalestineZiad ElmarsafyProfessor of Comparative Literature, Kings College London, UKNoura ErakatAssistant Professor, Africana Studies and Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, USASamera EsmeirAssociate Professor of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, USAKhaled FahmyFBA, Professor of Modern Arabic Studies, University of Cambridge, UKAli FakhrouAcademic and writer, BahrainRanda FarahAssociate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Western University, CanadaLeila FarsakhAssociate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston, USAKhaled FuraniAssociate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, Tel-Aviv University, State of IsraelBurhan GhaliounEmeritus Professor of Sociology, Sorbonne 3, Paris, FranceAsad GhanemProfessor of Political science, Haifa University, State of IsraelHonaida GhanimGeneral Director of the Palestinian forum for Israeli Studies Madar, Ramallah, PalestineGeorge GiacamanProfessor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, Birzeit University, PalestineRita GiacamanProfessor, Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University, PalestineAmel GramiProfessor of Gender Studies, Tunisian University, TunisSubhi HadidiLiterary Critic, Syria-FranceGhassan HageProfessor of Anthropology and Social theory, University of Melbourne, AustraliaSamira HajEmeritus Professor of History, CSI/Graduate Center, CUNY, USAYassin Al-Haj SalehWriter, SyriaDyala HamzahAssociate Professor of Arab History, Universite de Montreal, CanadaRema HammamiAssociate Professor of Anthropology, Birzeit University, PalestineSari HanafiProfessor of Sociology, American University of Beirut, LebanonAdam HaniehReader in Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UKKadhim Jihad HassanWriter and translator, Professor at INALCO-Sorbonne, Paris, FranceNadia HijabAuthor and human rights advocate, London, UKJamil HilalWriter, Ramallah, PalestineSerene HleihlehCultural Activist, Jordan-PalestineBensalim HimmichAcademic, novelist and writer, MoroccoKhaled HroubProfessor in Residence of Middle Eastern Studies, Northwestern University, QatarMahmoud HusseinWriter, Paris, FranceLakhdar IbrahimiParis School of International Affairs, Institut dEtudes Politiques, FranceAnnemarie JacirFilmmaker, PalestineIslah JadAssociate Professor of Political Science, Birzeit University, PalestineLamia JoreigeVisual Artist and Filmaker, Beirut, LebanonAmal Al-JubouriWriter, IraqMudar KassisAssociate Professor of Philosophy, Birzeit University, PalestineNabeel KassisFormer Professor of Physics and Former President, Birzeit University, PalestineMuhammad Ali KhalidiPresidential Professor of Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center, USARashid KhalidiEdward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University, USAMichel KhleifiFilmmaker, Palestine-BelgiumElias KhouryWriter, Beirut, LebanonNadim KhouryAssociate Professor of International Studies, Lillehammer University College, NorwayRachid KoreichiArtist-Painter, Paris, FranceAdila Laidi-HaniehDirector General, The Palestinian Museum, PalestineRabah LouciniProfessor of History, Oran University, AlgeriaRabab El-MahdiAssociate Professor of Political Science, The American University in Cairo, EgyptZiad MajedAssociate Professor of Middle East Studies and IR, American University of Paris, FranceJumana MannaArtist, Berlin, GermanyFarouk Mardam BeyPublisher, Paris, FranceMai MasriPalestinian filmmaker, LebanonMazen MasriSenior Lecturer in Law, City University of London, UKDina MatarReader in Political Communication and Arab Media, SOAS, University of London, UKHisham MatarWriter, Professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, USAKhaled MattawaPoet, William Wilhartz Professor of English Literature, University of Michigan, USAKarma NabulsiProfessor of Politics and IR, University of Oxford, UKHassan NafaaEmeritus Professor of Political science, Cairo University, EgyptNadine NaberProfessor, Deptartment of Gender and Womens Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago, USAIssam NassarProfessor, Illinois State University, USASari NusseibehEmeritus Professor of Philosophy, Al-Quds University, PalestineNajwa Al-QattanEmeritus Professor of History, Loyola Marymount University, USAOmar Al-QattanFilmmaker, Chair of The Palestinian Museum & the A.M.Qattan Foundation, UKNadim N RouhanaProfessor of International Affairs, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, USAAhmad SaadiProfessor, Haifa, State of IsraelRasha SaltiIndependent Curator, Writer, Researcher of Art and Film, Germany-LebanonElias SanbarWriter, Paris, FranceFares SassineProfessor of Philosophy and Literary Critic, Beirut, LebanonSherene SeikalyAssociate Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara, USASamah SelimAssociate Professor, A, ME & SA Languages & Literatures, Rutgers University, USALeila ShahidWriter, Beirut, LebanonNadera Shalhoub-KevorkianLawrence D Biele Chair in Law, Hebrew University, State of IsraelAnton ShammasProfessor of Comparative Literature, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USAYara SharifSenior Lecturer, Architecture and Cities, University of Westminster, UKHanan Al-ShaykhWriter, London, UKRaja ShehadehLawyer and Writer, Ramallah, PalestineGilbert SinoueWriter, Paris, FranceAhdaf SoueifWriter, Egypt/UKMayssoun SukariehSenior Lecturer in Development Studies, Kings College London, UKElia SuleimanFilmmaker, Palestine-FranceNimer SultanyReader in Public Law, SOAS, University of London, UKJad TabetArchitect and Writer, Beirut, LebanonJihan El-TahriFilmmaker, EgyptSalim TamariEmeritus Professor of Sociology, Birzeit University, PalestineWassyla TamzaliWriter, Contemporary Art Producer, AlgeriaFawwaz TraboulsiWriter, Beirut LebanonDominique VidalHistorian and Journalist, Palestine-FranceHaytham El-WardanyWriter, Egypt-GermanySaid ZeedaniEmeritus Associate Professor of Philosophy, Al-Quds University, PalestineRafeef ZiadahLecturer in Comparative Politics of the Middle East, SOAS, University of London, UKRaef ZreikMinerva Humanities Centre, Tel-Aviv University, State of IsraelElia ZureikProfessor Emeritus, Queens University, Canada


Palestinian rights and the IHRA definition of antisemitism - The Guardian

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