Butler Students Deserve a Vote on IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism
Radical activists want you to believe that reasonable people disagree on what constitutes anti-Semitism. They want you to believe that attacks and hateful rhetoric directed at Israel are just part of spirited political debate. However, the truth is that Israel is held to a higher standard than every other country on the planet, not because of its government’s policies or because it is a bad actor on the world stage. Israel is subject to more than its share of scrutiny because of one simple fact – it is the world’s only Jewish state. This hate for Israel is rooted in a new age of anti-Semitism and it is long past time that we acknowledged it. Whether or not people have a genuine connection to the conflict, one thing seems to be clear, that the toxic Israel obsession has infected far too many and is rampant at Butler University as well. I once upon a time found myself as a young Arab in this same echo chamber, where all my source of disenfranchisement about things going on in the region were squarely blamed on Israel. I did not know why nobody did, since we all fell for such a notion under the most ignorant circumstances. However, no longer will I stand on the sideline when I see another group of students or people fall into the same trap of division, hate, and specifically anti-Semitism.
The student government at Butler University was set to vote on resolutions that would do a very simple thing – condemn anti-Semitism and adopt the internationally recognized definition of the term. That was until the university administration stepped in to block the vote. The campus community saw this as an attempt to silence Jewish voices on campus – and they were exactly right. Students have even circulated a petition demanding a right to a vote on the resolutions.
Anti-Semitism today looks different than it did during the 1930s, but it is no less powerful in its ability to spread hate and division. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition is meant to provide a standard by which modern anti-Semitism can be measured so that we can fight back against it. The definition asserts that anti-Semitism “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.” The definition also outlines examples of anti-Semitism, including denying the Holocaust, accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to their home nations, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, applying a double standard toward Israel, and drawing comparisons of Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Detractors will say this definition stifles criticism of Israel but that is simply not the case. In politics and areas of international affairs, criticism is the name of the game. As a Muslim, I have plenty of concerns about conditions in the region and I want an open dialogue to discuss these concerns. The IHRA definition simply says that Israel cannot be held to a unique standard and crucified for engaging in the same behavior as other nations.
I am not Jewish; by the most Western colonial definitions, I am considered the Arab enemy of these people; however, that is no longer true. I do not need to be Jewish or Israeli to see that what is happening at Butler is emblematic of what is happening at universities across the country. Jewish students are silenced and demonized in the name of political disagreement. The rhetoric used to describe Israel – apartheid state, occupier, imperialist – has more to do with the religious identities of Israel’s residents and supporters than with what is happening in the region.
Butler students deserve a vote to adopt the IHRA definition. Doing so will protect Jewish students on campus from undue attacks because of their religious and ethnic identities. Israel is an important cause for many Jewish students and they have every right to express their beliefs without being targeted on campus. The IHRA definition will set a guideline for meaningful debate on campus that does not devolve into hate-mongering and racist attacks on Jews. Butler students deserve a vote and the university has no businesses standing in the way.