With antisemitism on the rise, the need to adopt a universal definition of antisemitism is more crucial than ever. The IHRA definition of antisemitism has been adopted by 34 countries, various influential organisations such as the European Union’s Parliament, and numerous universities such as Cambridge University. In the United Kingdom alone, over 95 different universities have adopted the IHRA definition. The British Minister for Education and Higher Education, Michelle Donelan, had this to say about the IHRA definition “The horrors of the Holocaust are a stark reminder that we must do all we can to root out antisemitism wherever we find it. That requires a common understanding of what antisemitism is and the forms it takes in modern society.”
On May 8th, CAMERA on Campus hosted an in-person event with Israeli activist Emily Schrader. Emily shared strategies to effectively identify and address contemporary antisemitism on social media and in academic and professional settings.
First and foremost, Emily made a compelling case for the widespread adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism as it can assist with identifying and addressing instances of discrimination against Jewish and pro-Israel students.
The IHRA definition states that “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
To best illustrate this, the IHRA includes several key examples.
Self-determination is a right exercised by many people groups around the world. Those who exclusively argue against the right for Jews to do so are exhibiting a clear double standard. For instance, consider a situation where someone denies Jewish people the right to self-determination by calling for the elimination of the State of Israel. Within the scope of the IHRA definition, such rhetoric is antisemitic.
A prime example of an anti-Zionist group that meets the IHRA’s standard of antisemitism is
Within Our Lifetime (WOL). On their website, under their “Points of Unity”, WOL demands the “abolition of Zionism”, which calls for eliminating the Jewish State, an apparent denial of Jewish self-determination.
Given the proven relevance of the IHRA when identifying contemporary antisemitism, universities must adopt the IHRA definition to address the problem of rising antisemitism.
Even universities in Israel are not exempt from rampant displays of antisemitism. In May 2022, Palestinian students at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba protested the commemoration of Israel’s Independence Day by parading with the Palestinian flag across the campus in the shadow of terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Elad orchestrated by terrorists affiliated with political groups in the PLO. Is this disregard for Jewish lives and Israeli sovereignty acceptable? Clearly not by the standards of the IHRA definition, which deems “justifying the killing of Jews” and “denying Jews self-determination” forms of antisemitism.
At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, held a vigil in March 2022, where the group venerated several Palestinian terrorists responsible for planning and carrying out attacks that resulted in numerous Israeli casualties. Despite receiving a letter explaining how the incident was antisemitic, administrators at UMass Amherst failed to condemn this event or hold SJP at UMass accountable. This is a symptom of the university’s resistance to adopting the IHRA definition and failure to enact policies that protect Jewish students from discrimination.
On Emily Schrader’s account, Jewish students should do their best to educate their peers on the IHRA definition and encourage administrators and student government to adopt the IHRA definition formally.
Antisemitism has also become prevalent on the Internet. Social media, lacking a centralised authority, acts as an echo chamber for antisemitism. Algorithms online fail to detect anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist canards as the bigotry and slander they are. One crucial takeaway from Emily Schrader’s training is to not shy away from addressing antisemitism online. Furthermore, we must push for adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism by social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and Instagram. The companies behind each platform must train their algorithms to adequately identify and address online antisemitism. This will only happen if the Jewish community and organisations, including CAMERA and Act.IL remain vocal about online antisemitism and continue to advocate for change.
Of course, adopting the IHRA definition cannot entirely eradicate antisemitism, but that isn’t the point. The adoption of the IHRA simply means that antisemites cannot hide behind a veneer of “social justice” or the defence of “human rights” to advance their hateful agenda.
Instead, they are placed onto a limited playground, one with rules that will have clear red lines that they cannot cross, less they openly embrace their contempt for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
A slightly different version of this article was first published in The Algemeiner.