British Jewry’s Fight against Anti-Semitism, and Its Opponents

December 10, 2020 | David Hirsh
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Recently Britain’s Union of Jewish Students has been urging universities to adopt the “working definition of anti-Semitism” proffered by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which includes guidelines for distinguishing between mere criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism disguised in anti-Zionist clothing. Of course, the IHRA definition has its detractors, including David Feldman, himself the director of an academic center for the study of anti-Semitism. David Hirsh writes:

Anti-Semitism is commonplace in UK universities. Last week I was contacted by a student whose lecturer taught that IHRA was a pretext to silence criticism of Israel and by another whose dissertation was failed because she wrote in the “wrong” framework about Israel and the Palestinians. This kind of anti-Semitism is harder to sustain in institutions that have adopted IHRA.

But Feldman characterizes the universities which make a point of not allowing IHRA to be part of their official armory against anti-Semitism as “refusenik.” The refuseniks were overwhelmingly Jews in the Soviet Union who were refused permission to go to Israel, although there were others too who were refused permission to leave. They . . . were victims of anti-Semitism at the hands of a totalitarian state that . . . demonized Zionism as the enemy of mankind. Feldman turns this upside down. Today, for him, the refuseniks are the ideological descendants not of the Soviet Jews but of their oppressors, the apparatchiks . . . who denounced Jews as particularist, pro-apartheid, and privileged.

It is said that Palestinians should be allowed to describe their own oppression in whatever ways they see fit. And they are so allowed. But if some Palestinians choose to describe their own oppression in anti-Semitic ways then we, and our universities, have the right to say so.

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