I support the IHRA definition and you should too

Anti-Israel activists at Florida State University (FSU) are working to reverse the university’s earlier decision to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism – the adoption of which protects the campus Jewish community by recognizing the sinister modern manifestations of antisemitism. As a Muslim and Arab student at FSU, I support the IHRA definition of antisemitism and I hope that FSU does not fall prey to nefarious detractors seeking to sow division.

A resolution pending in the FSU Student Government Association (SGA) claims to call for increased support and representation for Muslim and Arab Students. This is just a cover for its true purpose. In reality, the resolution means to reject the IHRA definition of antisemitism for the FSU campus community.

Rejecting the IHRA is not in the interest of the Arab community. The Jewish people are not our enemy and denying the realities of antisemitism does nothing to further Arab causes. The IHRA definition represents the lived experiences of Jews. I have seen antisemitism endured by my peers and it is time to acknowledge how this kind of discrimination creates an environment that allows antisemitism to thrive and grow. This effort by no means represents our community. Our community believes in uniting against hatred, not spreading it.

Antisemitism is still a present danger to the world Jewish community, but it looks different today than in decades past. The IHRA’S internationally accepted definition provides needed clarity about what antisemitism looks like today, in part reading “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.” The definition also outlines examples of modern antisemitism including, “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel,” “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their nations.”

I want to be clear, recognizing and appreciating the challenges facing Jewish students does NOT in any way diminish support for or solidarity with Arab students. Some radical activists will try to convince you that any representation for Jews will suppress criticisms of Israel, which is glaringly untrue. I have my own opinions and concerns about the state of the region, but acknowledging antisemitism as a dangerous issue is not the same as suppressing political debate or open dialogue. The IHRA definition clarifies that Israel cannot be held to a unique standard above other nations and criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Those who do not realize the basic facts about what antisemitism is, and its threat to the Jewish people, are out of touch and must be educated.

I reject the idea that this definition must be removed from FSU to increase support for Arab and Muslim students on campus. If Jews and Arabs stand together against discrimination of all kinds instead of placing blame on each other, we can drive out hate and create a better, united campus community. FSU should do the right thing by working to support both communities and reject the SGA resolution. My ancestral home country of Morocco has moved to adopt IHRA and fight antisemitism, I have two, it’s time for FSU and all other North American universities to follow suit.

About the Author
Walid Tamtam was born in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, growing up hailing from a Moroccan background in schools, mosques, and other familiar social environments, anti-semitism seemed to be acceptable if not encouraged. Since two years ago Walid, broke out of his echo chambers to tell the full story and break down the polarization of these communities and act as a bridge to bring people together.
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