Confronting the IHRA definition and the attack on the Palestine movement: Israel is a racist endeavour

For several years, apologists and supporters of colonialism and Zionism in Palestine have promoted the adoption of the “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.” The primary function of the IHRA definition serves to link anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Rather than addressing the main sources of anti-Semitism today (primarily the Western far right), seven of the eleven examples associated with the definition mention Israel. Thus, it would be anti-Semitic to “deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

As Palestinian activist, chair of the Canada Palestine Association, Hanna Kawas points out,”to claim that a state founded on exclusive privilege for one group over another is not a racist endeavor is the ultimate insult to the Palestinian lived experience.”

In the same vein, Liliana Córdova Kaczerginski, Jewish anti-Zionist activist and founding member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, states that, in her view, “the question of criticizing Zionism is not a new thing, an original or exotic invention, but it was born together with the creation of the Zionist movement within the Jewish communities that did not want to be dragged into that nationalist project…In Germany or the United Kingdom, where the movement was especially strong, from 1880 to 1945, these people expressed themselves as German or British, but with a Jewish confession or identity as well. But not in a Jewish national project. The propaganda apparatus says this is total heresy, it makes us bad Jews, which is almost funny because, for example, there is a group of very, very religious Jews, the Neturei Karta, who are really very observant and are militant anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinians. Anti-Zionism can be of all kinds: liberal, religious, leftist, revolutionary… but it is a common criticism and it is not new.”

The aim of the project to push adoption of this definition is, first and foremost, to legitimize the Zionist project in Palestine and criminalize anti-Zionist voices, especially Palestinians themselves. Any real fight against anti-Semitism has nothing to do with these transparent political manoeuvres!

This IHRA definition has been adopted by various national and international institutions, but it has also been the object of firm anti-racist opposition (such as in the municipality of Strasbourg, which rejected this definition).

Despite significant mobilization in opposition , Vancouver City Council in Canada also adopted the IHRA definition on November 16 after rejecting it in 2019. On this occasion, the Canada Palestine Association recalled that “the primary purpose of the IHRA definition is to legitimize Israel and slander all those who expose its illegal and inhumane activities, curbing Palestinian solidarity work and covering up Israeli war crimes. The “three Ds” of Israeli Hasbara are at work: they distort the nature of the Palestinian struggle, they deflect attention from the colonialist nature of Zionism and defame as anti-Semitic all those who denounce and condemn Israeli atrocities. This has always been the modus operandi of the Israeli establishment; we must not forget the original motto of the Mossad ‘By deceit, you will make war’.”

Elsewhere in Canada, the Waterloo Regional District School Board is soon expected to pass a motion to adopt this definition. Faced with this deadline, several associations are calling for action, pointing out that “the IHRA definition is used by its supporters to silence Palestinians, censor the way Palestinians express their common history, restrict academic freedom and repress expressions of Palestinian solidarity. In short, the IHRA definition is being used to covertly embed systemic anti-Palestinian racism in our society.”

Similarly, a Spanish legislative proposal aims to exclude organizations deemed “anti-Semitic” from subsidies. On the initiative of the right-wing MP Isabel Diaz Ayuso, this project incorporates the IHRA definition and therefore directly threatens the solidarity movement with Palestine in the Spanish state. Living in Madrid, Liliana Córdova Kaczerginski is firmly opposed to this project and believes “that there is a coordinated attempt by the Israeli foreign ministry to confuse legitimate criticism and solidarity with the Palestinian people with anti-Semitism because Israel wants to have a free pass in its disrespect for international law”.

It is more urgent than ever to confront the ongoing efforts to implement the IHRA definition, which seeks, through the adoption of its definition of anti-Semitism, to normalize the policy of occupation in Palestine and to criminalize the Palestine solidarity movement and stigmatize Palestinian history, identity and liberation struggle. It is the responsibility of the entire anti-racist movement to take up this fight and to reaffirm its support for the Palestinian people and their resistance confronting occupation, apartheid, Zionism and colonialism.

Cover photo credit ( “Israel is a racist endeavour” ): Michael YC Tseng
Translated and adapted from original: Collectif Palestine Vaincra