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AAUP vs IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which prides itself as a neutral organization, has raised eyebrows in its recent position on the definition of anti-Semitism under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a definition that has broad acceptance worldwide. The AAUP has rejected the IHRA definition due to the fact that many of its elements pertain to Israel. Here is the text of their statement (which also criticizes opposition to the teaching of Critical Race Theory).

In response, Cary Nelson, a former AAUP president, and Steven Lubet have written a piece for Inside Higher Education that criticizes the AAUP position. Their article can be viewed here.

As to my own reaction, I would point out that while there are certain elements within the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that involve Israel, the IHRA definition recognizes that mere opposition to Israel’s policies, especially vis-a-vis the Palestinian conflict, does not in itself constitute anti-Semitism. However, if you deny the Jewish people a right to their homeland (Israel), if you compare Israelis and Jews to Nazis, if you hold all Jews worldwide responsible for your perceived faults with Israel, if you accuse Jewish citizens of other countries of having more loyalty to Israel than their own country if you apply human rights standards to Israel (the only democracy in the region) that you do not apply to other countries, particularly Israel’s neighbors in the Middle East, those fall within the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Because this flap revolves around an association of university professors, it is pretty clear to me why this position has been taken by AAUP. Clearly, many of their members are fervent opponents of Israel and support the Palestinian narrative, an issue that has plagued American university campuses across the nation for at least a couple of decades. Indeed, I would argue based on my own experiences while teaching part-time for 18 years (1998-2016) at the University of California at Irvine (UCI), that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become one of the top hot button issues on university campuses, thanks to many factors, including the leftist bent so dominant in academia, the well-oiled pro-Palestinian lobby, the disruptive activities of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), as well as many chapters of the Muslim Student Association, and the intimidation and bullying of Jewish students by pro-Palestinian activists on campuses across America (and Canada). Then there is also the influence of universities receiving foreign funding from places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar to set up Middle East Studies departments, which are basically hotbeds of pan-Arab, anti-Israel, anti-West indoctrination staffed by pro-Palestinian activists posing as scholars.

But the point I want to come back to here is the issue of campus anti-Semitism, something I observed first-hand at UC Irvine and other campuses in Southern California over the years beginning around 2006-7. Specifically, are all these events we see on campuses, speaking events, panels, Israel Apartheid weeks, simply legitimate criticism of Israeli policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians- or are they anti-Semitism in themselves? Or is the truth somewhere in between? The pro-Palestinian activists assure us they are not anti-Semitic, only anti-Zionist. They point to the fact that some of their supporters are Jewish themselves, whether professors or students. That is true.

But the presence of a few oddball, academic Jews doesn’t change the fact that anti-Semitism is deeply embedded in the pro-Palestinian movement. In my view, the conflict is not so much over land as it is about religion-at least in the Palestinian eyes. As has been pointed out by many, the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” refers to a nation called Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in other words, no more Israel.

I would also like to point out some examples of the pro-Palestinian movement on college campuses, based either on my own personal presence or research-backed with actual videos and photos of anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

For several years in the first couple of decades of this century, the most favored speaker of the UCI Muslim Student Union was an imam in Oakland named Amir Abdel Malik Ali, a fiery speaker who made numerous anti-Semitic comments during his speeches, which are well documented on video. One of his favorite rhetorical tactics is to accuse certain public figures of being, “Zionist Jews”, a word he would spit out in the grand old style of Nazi Germany. Ali has also castigated Rahm “Israel” Emanuel and David Axelrod of being” Zionist Jews”.

In 2006 at UCI, he accused Rupert Murdoch of being a “straight-up Zionist Jew” The video of that incident has apparently been taken down after being online for several years. (It is my understanding that Murdock is not Jewish.)

In Ali’s appearance at UCI in May 2010, he freely admitted he supported Hamas. That organization, which runs Gaza, has in its constitution, a reference to the little ditty from the Islamic hadith that talks about the end of days when the Jew will hide behind trees, and the trees will call out to Muslims, “O Muslim. There is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” In addition, Ali also told a questioner, “You Jews……..you all are the new Nazis”.

In May of 2012 at UCI, Ali accused then-University of California president, Mark Yudof, of being a “Zionist Jew”. The above link has a complete video of Ali’s speaking appearance and q and a.

In February 2001, Mohamed al-Asi, a Washington DC-based imam, spoke at UCI and said this: “There is a psychosis in the Jewish community that cannot coexist peacefully and brotherly with other human beings. You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you cannot take the ghetto out of the Jew. (Investigative Project on Terrorism).

In May of 2008, during the annual week of Israel-bashing hosted by the UCI Muslim Student Union, I observed this image posted on the mock Apartheid Wall set up outside the campus library. It was an image of Ariel Sharon drawn in the stereotypical Nazi style of portraying Jews. It referred to him as a cannibal.

In May 2009, again during the MSU anti-Israel week of festivities, British politician and pro-Palestinian activist (not to mention Hamas supporter), George Galloway, came to speak at UCI. I was present and during the q and a, I ran off a list of recent protests in the US in which pro-Palestinian demonstrators had chanted things like “Jews back to the ovens”, “Long live Hitler”, etc. Galloway interrupted me by saying, “I think you’re a liar” as a pro-Palestinian audience of several hundred roared in applause. Fortunately, the incidents I was talking about were well documented on video, and the pro-Jewish activist group, Stand With Us, produced a rebuttal video.

I could go on and on listing MSU/SJP-invited speakers who have come to speak at UCI, such as Cynthia McKinney, Hatem Bazian, Abdul Alim Musa, and others who have long been accused of making anti-Semitic comments, but I think the point has been made. All too often speeches on our college campuses, not to mention images, have crossed over the line from opposition to Israel’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians to insults directed towards Jews as people, to say nothing about the tactics of disruption and intimidation against Jewish students and their events by Muslim Student Association/Union chapters and SJP chapters on numerous campuses. This writer has personally witnessed disruptions of Jewish, pro-Israel events on the UCI campus including the infamous disruption of former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren’s speech in 2010. In addition, it is no coincidence that for several years now, swastikas have been appearing on university campuses. In short, in spite of all the denials, anti-Semitism is deeply embedded in the pro-Palestinian movement on US college campuses. For that reason, among others, the IHRA’s inclusion of the above-mentioned Israel-related elements in their definition of anti-Semitism is fully justified.

About the Author
Gary Fouse worked from 1998-2016 as adjunct teacher at University of California at Irvine Ext. teaching English as a second language. Served three years in US Army Military Police at Erlangen, Germany 1966-68. 1970-1973- Criminal Investigator with US Customs 1973-1995 Criminal investigator with Drug Enforcement Administration. Stationed in Los Angeles, Bangkok, Milan, Italy, Pittsburgh and Office of Training, FBI Academy, Quantico, Va. until retirement. Author of Erlangen-An American's History of a German Town-University Press of America 2005. The Story of Papiamentu- A Study in Slavery and Language, University Press of America, 2002. The Languages of the Former Soviet Republics-Their History and Development, University Press of America, 2000.
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