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Hadar Susskind

The Desperate Campaign Undermining the Fight Against Antisemitism

The Desperate Campaign for the IHRA Definition is Undermining the Fight Against Antisemitism

With the Biden administration set to release its National Plan to Combat Antisemitism, a sad, yet clarifying campaign is taking place. Jewish organizations and individual leaders participated in dozens of meetings, listening sessions and other opportunities to engage that were organized by the White House. Priorities were outlined, tactics discussed, and goals deliberated. It was clear that there is a broad consensus, antisemitism in America is a crucial problem and must be addressed.

The good news is that the Biden administration, from the President to the VP (and Second Gentleman) to Susan Rice, to Deborah Lipstadt, all understand this and are committed to addressing this crisis in a comprehensive and meaningful way.

Where the sad news comes in is the campaign by some Jewish organizations to undermine this effort, and this broad communal consensus, by insisting on the prioritization of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition above all other issues. Rather than support this far-reaching  plan to truly combat antisemitism, there are those in our community who instead insist that this plan should be about the IHRA definition, and only the IHRA definition.

Why is it that some are insisting that the IHRA definition is so unique that it alone is worthy of inclusion in this effort? Why do those same people insist that the Nexus definition and the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism are so unacceptable as tools to combat antisemitism? After all, they were all crafted by experts to serve as useful tools to help identify what is and is not antisemitic. They all offer frameworks for understanding and addressing the issue. So what’s the big difference?

The difference is that the IHRA definition, and only the IHRA definition has been weaponized by the Israeli government and those who defend its worst policies and actions. The IHRA definition is used, over and over again, to define anti-Zionism as antisemitism, and to define any meaningful criticism of Israeli policy and action as anti-Zionist and therefore antisemitic. These false accusations of antisemitism have been leveled at Members of Congress, at companies like Ben & Jerry’s, and at even at Jewish organizational leaders.

The difference between IHRA and the other definitions is that IHRA has been honed into a weapon to shut down criticism of Israeli policy and discourse on Israel-Palestine. The simple act of sharing the Palestinian narrative, whether by a Palestinian or otherwise, now brings forward automatic calls of “antisemitism.” And while many of the organizations championing the IHRA definition have repeatedly claimed that they are not trying to have it codified into law, the facts show otherwise.

The IHRA definition is a tool for people whose number one priority is parroting the narrative and defending the actions of the Israeli government, objectionable as they may be. Defenders of IHRA claim it is the only tool for fighting antisemitism. But let’s be clear, that’s only true if you define criticism of Israeli policy, of the Occupation, and of human rights abuses, as “by definition” antisemitic.

If the goal is to combat the scourge of antisemitism that is taking place right now in America, then we should be focused on neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us”. We should be focused on verbal and physical attacks on people wearing a Magen David or who are otherwise visibly identified as Jewish. And we should be focusing on politicians and public figures from Trump to Kevin McCarthy to Elon Musk who long ago gave up dog whistles for bull horn blasting their antisemitic tropes and hatred.

If that is goal, then we should be using all of the tools at our disposal to fight antisemitism and keep American Jews safe. That is my goal. And I will not stand silently by as others seek to subvert that goal in the name of defending policies and actions that are unworthy of being defended.

The weaponization of the IHRA definition and the accusations of antisemitism that spring from it are the actions of desperate organizations and people who are losing the battle for public opinion and have now resorted to calling their critics names.

Those clamoring, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that support for the IHRA definition is a consensus opinion are sadly undermining what should in fact be our communal consensus, that we must use all available tools to combat antisemitism.

About the Author
Hadar Susskind is the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. Prior to APN, Hadar served in senior leadership roles at Bend the Arc Jewish Action, J Street, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs as well as the Council on Foundations and the Tides Foundation.
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