Hundreds of academics sign letter supporting IHRA definition of antisemitism

More than 400 academics, professionals and intellectuals worldwide signed a letter supporting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The letter, which was signed by UCLA Computer Science Professor Judea Pearl, University of Ottawa Holocaust History Professor Jan Grabowski and McGill University Professor Gil Troy, stated that while all of the various scholars hold differing political viewpoints, they all believe that the IHRA definition is an “invaluable tool” in combating the rise of antisemitism globally.

“This new antisemitism has its roots in a noxious mixture of classical, modern racial, Islamic and Soviet anti-Zionist antisemitism,” the letter stated. “It marks out the Jewish state as uniquely demonic, deserving of boycott and opprobrium. In a world full of states and national movements, it calls for the dismantling and ultimately violent destruction of the State of Israel. This antisemitism justifies the harassment, exclusion and ostracism of Israelis and Jews worldwide. It continues centuries old traditions of boycotting, rejecting and shunning Jews.”

The letter noted that modern antisemitism singles out Zionism and attempts to delineate between Zionism and Judaism. “Many of our parents and grandparents fled persecution in Europe and the Arab and Muslim worlds due to their Jewish identity,” the letter stated. “The State of Israel has provided Jews worldwide with a homeland, a place to develop our unique culture and the ability to protect ourselves from external threats. Therefore, calls to dismantle the Jewish state cannot be understood as anything but an assault on Jewish history, identity and safety.”

The scholars added that those who say that IHRA silences criticism of Israel are engaging in a “strawman” argument and that IHRA specifically targets rhetoric that delegitimizes and threatens Israel’s existence.

“The hatred directed against Israel, when left unchecked, seeps out and targets Jewish communities in the Diaspora, who largely identify with and support the State of Israel in essence, not necessarily with one policy or another,” the letter stated. “These anti-Israel conspiracy theories and false accusations have fueled harassment, assault and even murder of Jews in North America and Europe. We are incredulous at the suggestion that the adoption of the IHRA definition and the commitment to rooting out antisemitism is somehow opposed to the wider struggle against racism and oppression.”

International human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky, who is also the chair and CEO of the International Legal Forum, which endorsed the letter, said in a statement, “At a time when there is a spate of alternate definitions of antisemitism, in blatant attempt to water down and undermine the fight against this oldest and most enduring of hatreds, as well as its modern manifestation in the assault against Zionism and the State of Israel, it is inspiring to see so many academics and intellectuals from around the world, united behind the IHRA working definition as an indispensable tool in identifying and combating antisemitism.”

Sussex Friends of Israel tweeted that the letter shows that IHRA is “gaining global momentum” and that “attempts to undermine the widely accepted definition by a tiny minority is neither needed nor wanted.”

Sharaka, an organization that leads interfaith delegations to connect Israelis with people in the Gulf Arab nations, also tweeted that they are “proud to stand with” the scholars who endorsed the IHRA definition.