The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism – a guide to commentaries on it

JVL Introduction

A JVL statement on the Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism (JDA) was published earlier today.

We publish below a selection of articles that have appeared to date in response to the Declaration.

First of all, five articles by signatories, published in Britain, the US, the EU and Israel explain why they have worked for and support the Declaration.

These are followed by Palestinian voices, welcoming, but also very critical, of aspects of the Declaration and its framing; statements from Jewish groups supportive of the  Palestinian struggle; Jewish communal responses – or rather the virtual lack of any as an international omertá appears to be in force; and a number of other group and individual reactions – again with various degrees of welcome, support and criticism.

We look forward to a debate about the Declaration and its use in universities and elsewhere against the pernicious influence of the IHRA definition, both in the fight for freedom of speech on Israel-Palestine and in the struggle against the rise of real antisemitism and racism of all kinds coming ovewhelmingly from the right.

[last updated 23 April – do send links to any interesting articles not included below and we will add them]

A: Articles by signatories

  1. A new declaration aims to fight antisemitism without curtailing free speech
    by Elissa Bemporad & Alon Confino & Derek Penslar – in Forward
  2. A new antisemitism definition to ease IHRA confusion
    by Aleida Assmann, Alon Confino and David Feldman – in EU Observer
  3. Why I Signed the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism
    by Barry Tachtenburg – in Jewish Currents
  4. Criticism of Israel and Its Policies Isn’t Antisemitism
    by Omer Bartov – in Haaretz
  5. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism: Why the oldest hatred needs a new definition
    by Brian Klug –in the Nation
  6. We Need a Better Definition of Anti-Semitism
    Joshua Shanes and Dov Waxman, Slate Magazine

B: Palestinian and Palestine Solidarity responses

  1. The BNC response  [BNC is the Palestinian BDS National Committee]
  2. PSC response to the Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism
  3. Approach new definition of anti-Semitism with caution, Palestinians say
    Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada

C: Jewish groups supportive of the Palestinian struggle

  1. Jewish Voice for Peace – immediate response
  2. Sh’ma Koleinu – Alternative Jewish Voices (NZ) – immediate response
  3. Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) – immediate response
  4. Principles for Dismantling Antisemitism: A Progressive Jewish Response to the Jerusalem Declaration
    JVP and others, 5 April 2021
  5. JJP welcomes the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism
    Jews for Justice for Palestinians
  6. We welcome the publication of the new Jerusalem Declaration and the contribution it makes to the struggle against antisemitism and towards collective liberation.
    Na’amod: British Jews Against Occupation

D: Jewish communal responses

There would appear to be an international omertá in force – nothing from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Community Security Trust, Aipac et al to date… But here a few pieces from those sympathetic to them or on the right of them – or those for whom “left antisemitism” really is the issue,,,

  1. Over 200 scholars create new antisemitism definition that excludes backing BDS
    Jewish News – fairly strightforward factual report
  2. We don’t need another definition of Jew hate
    Dave Rich, Jewish Chronicle
  3. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism – harmful to Jews
    David Collier
  4. The Jerusalem Declaration defines the ‘community of the good’, not antisemitism
    David Hirsh, Jewish Chronicle
  5. A New Definition of Antisemitism Is Out, and the Antisemites Love It
    David Shraub, Haaretz, 7th April 2021

E: Some other group and individual responses

  1. Talking Points on the Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism (JDA)
    Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU)
  2. The JDA is to be welcomed but also debated
    Mike Cushman, Free Speech on Israel
  3. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism
    The Balfour Project
  4. Unlike the IHRA Misdefinition of Anti-Semitism the JDA Makes a Clear Distinction Between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism
    Tony Greenstein
  5. New antisemitism definition excludes BDS, but Palestine activists say it’s still flawed
    Michael Arria, Mondoweiss
  6. Turning the tables
    David Rosenberg, Morning Star
  7. Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism: We cannot define our way out of this impasse
    Sai Englert, Middle East Monitor
  8. On antisemitism, universities should adopt the new Jerusalem Declaration
    Bahram Bekhradnia, Times Higher, 5  April 2021
  9. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism and its Potential
    Wieland Hoban, theleftberlin, 6 April 2021
  10. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism and free expression
    Rob Feerguson, Free Speech in israel, 14 April 2021
  11. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is an orientalist text
    Mark Muhannad Ayyash, Al Jazeera, 21 April



Comments (8)

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    Not a single word yet from the British mainstream media. I am trying to regard that as positive – they don’t know how to deal with it. The people in the MSM who have accepted, even supported/promoted the IHRA document are not stupid – they know what they have been doing. But now they may be finding they have backed themselves into a very tight corner. There’s all sorts of things to disagree with in the JDA – but unlike with the IHRA document, disagreement with the JDA is not a problem fundamental to its existence or adoption. The JDA draftspersons actively invite thought, consideration, debate – the reverse of the IHRA supporters who simply want to crush and bully people out of thinking even a smidgen differently. So the MSM commentators are sort of caught – dismissing out of hand would be cavalier, but they allow in any degree of recognition for the JDA, what slippery slope might they find themselves on?!

  • goldbach says:

    I went straight to Dave Rich’s article expecting a well-argued piece of writing regardless of whether I concurred with it all. However, right at the start he misrepresented the Jerusalem Declaration as being recommended as a replacement for IHRA. What it actually says is that it can be used to complement and clarify IHRA where IHRA has already been adopted, or can be adopted where institutions are not using IHRA. It is clearly possible to read something and find what we expect to find rather than what is actually written. That’s a shame for all those who really want to combat antisemitism. I hope that he will read the Declaration again and reflect.

  • Riva Joffe says:

    Blimey guys! You’ve put this resource list together in such a short time. Respect!!

  • I should add that Mondoweiss has printed by blog article in a slightly amended form
    Why we should critically welcome the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism

    It is clearly a valid criticism to say that the JDA over concentrates on Israel/Palestine and omits to mention the far-RIght where 99% of anti-Semitism comes from.

    However it has been formulated in response to the IHRA for whom the main task was redefining anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. In that context it is understandable.

    Dave Rich of the CST naturally criticises it in the Jewish Chronicle and in support of his position that the IHRA doesn’t chill free speech quotes PSC! I have emailed them asking for clarification but nothing surprises me

  • Fred Skolnik says:

    One would naturally expect a declaration on antisemitism to have been produced by people who have spent their lives fighting it. This one has been produced by people who have spent their lives attacking the State of Israel, often in the most violent and malicious language imaginable, and it is in fact not very hard to see that its sole purpose is to legitimize these attacks by immunizing them to accusations of antisemitism. In other words, their real concern is not the victims of antisemitism but themselves.

    As for antisemitism as it is expressed in attacks on Israel (and criticism of Israel as such is not necessarily an expression of antisemitism), the giveaway is always the vehemence of the language (wild and irresponsible accusations of Nazism, fascism, genocide, war crimes, racism, apartheid and a general tone of vindictive hostility), language which few of these great humanists would ever think to use with reference to truly genocidal nations and some of the greatest violators of human rights on the face of the earth (Sudan, Rwanda, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, etc.). When uninformed people come down very strongly on one side or the other of a regional conflict concerning countries they’ve never seen where people speak languages they don’t understand, popping up everywhere with their virulent “takes” on the situation, it also raises very natural suspicions. To take sides in the Arab-Israel conflict when one is totally unequipped to verify or evaluate what one finds in biased second- and third-hand English-language sources is certainly another giveaway. However, we don’t really need new declarations and definitions. All we need is half a brain and a little objectivity. It really isn’t that hard to spot a Jew hater. He always gives himself away. He can’t help himself.

    One of the aims of the Declaration is of course to sanitize the BDS movement. Is the BDS movement antisemitic? No more than the previous Arab boycott of Israel that pretty much petered out in the 1990s, that is, it is one more anti-Israel measure initiated by Arabs and/or Palestinians to bring about the disappearance of the State of Israel, and even a relatively mild one compared to their barbaric acts of blowing up Israeli women and children in buses and restaurants to achieve the same ultimate end. This is not the question then. The question is whether the movement, along with countless I Hate Israel websites, attracts non-Arab supporters who are antisemites. Surely it does, for haters of Jews are bound to be haters of Israel too. How many? What percentage? Maybe a great many. Maybe most. How can you tell who is and who isn’t? Once again, by all the obvious signs, by the language, by the vehemence, by the venom.

    • Mike Cushman says:

      This comment is typical of many hostile responses to the JDA. What is typical is the refusal to engage with what the JDA actually says – debate on its words is welcome, total mischaracterisation is something else.

      Another typical element is to attack the authors of the report as fanatical opponents of Israel. “This one has been produced by people who have spent their lives attacking the State of Israel, often in the most violent and malicious language imaginable, and it is in fact not very hard to see that its sole purpose is to legitimize these attacks by immunizing them to accusations of antisemitism.” The authors, in fact, are large section of the most assiduous students of antisemitism who embrace a wide range of attitudes to Israel and Zionism, from supporters of Israel to mild critics to a small number of harsh critics. The authors, contrary to the assertions in this comment are overwhelmingness either native speakers of Hebrew or fluent speakers and writers of Hebrew.

      One can understand the stance of the author of this comment by repeating their closing words “Once again, by all the obvious signs, by the language, by the vehemence, by the venom.”

  • Fred Skolnik says:

    And by the way, there is nothing “evidence-based” (see their para. 13) about accusing Israel of Nazism, fascism, genocide, etc., which has become part and parcel of Israel criticism and certainly part of the “excessive” language of hatred that the Declaration also seeks to legitimize.

  • Fred Skolnik says:

    You’ve omitted my comment preceding the one just above:

    No “supporter of Israel” or “mild critic” would sign a statement that implies that Israel is the guilty party in the conflict, denying the Palestinians their rights, that its “institutions and founding principles” are somehow tainted, that it is worthy of comparison with “other settler-colonial and apartheid cases,” or that it is guilty of “systematic racial discrimination.” Nor would they sign a Declaration that seeks to legilimize the BDS movement. I also don’t see an “overwhelming” number of Hebrew speakers here and certainly there aren’t among the blog crawlers who pop up on the I Hate Israel sites to stick it to us. But you will agree with me that Jew haters are apt to be Israel haters as well, that they are recognizable by the vehemence and venom of their language, and that the Declaration seeks to legitimize criticism of Israel in just this language.

Comments are now closed.