Updating the Definition of Anti-Semitism Favored by Jewish Activists

First formulated in 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism—really a list of guidelines for determining what is and isn’t anti-Semitic—has become a useful tool in defending Jews from their detractors in the West. It has also been the target of much specious criticism, especially from those who wish to disseminate calumnies against Israel with impunity. But, argues Ben Cohen, the bad faith of the definition’s opponents doesn’t mean it is perfect. He suggests some improvements:

To begin with, there’s the opening sentence: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” This is far too vague and quite confusing for the uninitiated, particularly when the primary audience is studying the definition for its practical usage. More accurate and efficient would be a declarative formulation, for example: “Anti-Semitism is the negative, hostile, or hateful perception of the Jewish people as a collective, expressed through a range of rhetorical, violent, and discriminatory measures targeting Jews, or those perceived to be Jews, as well as their property and their communal institutions.”

Then there’s the proverbial elephant in the room: the complete absence of the word “Zionism” from the definition. This omission undermines the contention that contemporary anti-Zionism is a specific form of anti-Semitism that shares many of the same fixations over Jewish wealth and influence as do its other forms. It also dilutes the historic centrality of the Zionist movement over the last century as a focus for Jewish identity and as an instrument for the rejuvenation of the Jews in the wake of the Holocaust.

Hence, the sentence in the definition that identifies as anti-Semitic “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” might be rewritten to say, “depicting Zionism, the Jewish national movement, as inherently racist and the state of Israel as an illegitimate entity . . . ”.

Read more at JNS

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, IHRA

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations