British Zionists themselves have discredited the IHRA definition

August 29, 2018

by Martin Odoni

Why the IHRA definition is flawed

The definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ offered by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, it has been stated frequently, is given excessive credence.  Its own creator, Kenneth Stern, has stated that it should not be seen as the be-all-and-end-all, that its intent was not to be legally-binding but more a guideline for research into possible manifestations of anti-Semitism, and that it is being cynically exploited to silence critics of Israel. These notes of caution are made quite explicitly by the IHRA themselves even where they have published their definition; –

To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations… Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity… Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

(Emphases added.)

In other words, the notorious ‘examples’ in the IHRA definition, over which the Labour Party is getting into so much trouble, are not meant to be seen as cast-iron proof of anti-Semitic attitudes. They are merely meant to be seen as clues for ‘where to look’, as it were. Where these behaviours are seen, the person or people demonstrating them might be anti-Semitic in their intentions, and so it is advisable to investigate. That is quite different from how Zionists and mainstream media foam-at-the-mouths wish people to interpret it. They want everyone to believe that the examples are defined as inherently anti-Semitic, and that anyone demonstrating such behaviours must therefore be slapped down.

Even if that were what the IHRA definition had said – and it was not – it further needs reiterating that there is no particular imperative that such an ‘edict’ should have to be followed. The IHRA has no authority in this regard, and to be fair to its membership, they have never claimed such authority, to the best of my knowledge. That the definition is not meant to be legally-binding should end all claims to its ‘absolute’ status.

The only remaining argument that I can see people offering for why the Labour Party should be compelled to accept the definition lock-stock-and-barrel therefore appears to be, “Well, so many Governments and groups around the world accept the IHRA definition, so why shouldn’t the Labour Party?” This is one of the laziest, most childish examples of an argumentum ad populum (‘bandwagon fallacy‘) I have ever seen outside of one of Christopher Whittle’s attempted shoutdowns over Margaret Thatcher and the Hillsborough Disaster.

Distinguishing the definition from the examples

The examples are not, strictly speaking, part of the definition itself. They are guidelines – sadly flawed ones – for helping identify behaviours described within it.  The actual definition itself is a lot shorter; –

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.

Even this is flawed, given that it is vague and too broadly grounded – especially where it even extends to behaviours directed towards non-Jewish individuals, which lends it a potential for instances of outright absurdity. Without very rigidly-stipulated provisos as to exactly how a non-Jewish individual could possibly be seen as a victim of anti-Semitism, the term as currently described in the definition can, without any real stretch, be extended to literally any act of persecution against any member of the human race. I am not exaggerating. Because of the poor wording, there is nothing within the definition to guarantee that the behaviour must be Jewish-related. Now, yes, there are circumstances where a gentile might be a victim of anti-Semitic behaviour e.g. they are mistaken by an anti-Semite for a Jew, they are close friends of a Jew and they become ‘implicated-by-association’ in the eyes of the anti-Semite etc, but there is nothing in either the definition itself or even in the examples that really narrows it down in this way, and in any event, it would be fair to define it as behaviour related to anti-Semitism, more than anti-Semitism directly.

So ridiculous is the definition as it currently stands that, under its terms, it would be just about feasible to argue that, say, Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Soviet Union’s Siege of Berlin were all ‘acts of anti-Semitism’. That last one in particular, for reasons too obvious to need pointing out, would be a mind-twisting reversal of reality.

This flaw in the definition is no minor, quibbling loophole, it is a gaping, fundamental rip in its logic.

My own definition of anti-Semitism, by the way, is simpler, and more precise.

Anti-Semitism is a hatred or fear of Jews, held for no reason other than that they are Jews.

I think that covers it rather well, and is really all that anyone needs. It needs to be remembered that anti-Semitism is not so much an action as an attitude – a motivation for a behaviour more than a behaviour itself. That is why the examples should not be seen as concrete guarantees of anti-Semitism. All of the examples offered can be anti-Semitic in intent, but at least some of the behaviours described therein are often done for honest, non-malicious reasons. I have taken part in some of them myself, as regular readers will be well aware, and as I am a Jew by birth, that should be a most telling note of caution.

Why getting the definition right is so critical

The importance of getting this definition right is enormous in the present climate of near-crazed hysteria, and not only for the sake of the Palestinians, who continue to be ground under the heel of Zionist Israeli expansion, and whose voices are seldom heard in the West and therefore need their global supporters to have the freedom to speak up on their behalf. It is also for the betterment of the Jewish people themselves.

As Robert Cohen pointed out in a social media post yesterday, some of the idiotic, hyperbolic and paranoid remarks coming from Anglo-Jewish leaders (usually unelected ones, please note) are not doing Zionist credibility any favours. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks made an utter hyena of himself this week by comparing Jeremy Corbyn’s very mild dig at Zionists from five years ago to Enoch Powell’s dog-whistling ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968.

By any standards, Sacks’ remarks are infantile and wildly over-the-top, much in keeping with Margaret Hodge’s recent gobbledegook. But also, they, if anything, tend towards what Corbyn was saying in the first place; that Zionists seem to have a very insecure humour-shortfall on matters connected to Israel, and cannot allow even the slightest of jokes at their own expense.

The latest row is the clearest attempt yet to conflate Jews with Zionists, but I am speaking of Sacks very much in his capacity as a Zionist rather than as a Jew, or even as a Rabbi, here. He has written quite explicitly, and quite preposterously, that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same thing. (As I have argued more than once, Zionism is anti-Semitic in its very application, but let us leave that on one side.) Sure, anti-Zionism can be motivated by anti-Semitism, as the IHRA definition’s examples suggest. But certainly not always. Some more sophisticated opponents of Zionism or Israeli policy – dare I include myself among them? – oppose it partly out of concern for the well-being of, not just Palestinians, but Jews themselves. It is precisely because of those who use Israeli brutality as a pretext for letting out anti-Semitic feeling that anti-Zionism (or at least opposition to Israel) is good for Jewish people as a kind of ‘moral anchor’; if enough pressure is applied to Israel that it stops its land-grabs from the Palestinians, and allows the Palestinian exiles sealed in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to return to their real homes, that pretext for anti-Semitic behaviour will be taken away.

But more even than that, the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism may have a very undesired effect on popular discourse that would harm Jewish communities. Quite simply, the definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ has been stretched so much over the last few years in particular that, should society ultimately be crowbarred into going along with it, we are in danger of accepting the idea that the term does not necessarily imply something especially bad anymore.

The intent behind this conflation on the part of the likes of Hodge and Sacks is quite blatantly to use cries of ‘anti-Semitism!‘ to make criticism of Israel and Zionism look bad. That is a possible end result, should we be weak-willed enough to give in to it. And it is clear that some people are taken in by it.

But just as likely an outcome would be for matters to be dragged the opposite way; real acts of Jew-hate could stop being seen as an inherently evil phenomenon instead, because the term ‘anti-Semitism’ will include all sorts of behaviours that really are not hateful and do no harm. At that point, people really may stop taking it seriously when real cases of anti-Jewish behaviour are found.

“Anti-Semitism” now sounds like an inconvenience only

If you doubt that that can happen, consider the exasperated noises some of Israel’s ‘useful idiots’ in the media, such as James O’Brien, keep making when Labour supporters insist that a giant volcanic mountain is being made out of a wart on the face of the runt of a litter of baby woodlice. The truth is, all indicators suggest that the Labour supporters are right. And that skepticism is now visibly growing across the country, which is healthy up to a point.

But beyond that point, the danger is that when real anti-Semitic behaviour is uncovered, an awful lot of people are going to roll their eyes and dismiss it, as much as Labour supporters dismiss anti-Semitism in the party right now. “Anti-Semitism now just means something Jews don’t like!” appears to be the unsettling refrain echoing towards us from over the horizon, and I already see signs of it developing on social media.

Because the term anti-Semitism has already been stretched far beyond its realistic limits, and because, however inadvertently, the IHRA have tried to set such ridiculous terms in stone – with the British contingent of the Alliance even doubling-down on them in the last few weeks – wider reactions appear to be getting skeptical. Some are even starting to assume that the word just means something Jews – or to put that far more accurately Zionists – would rather were kept quiet. Because in a manner of speaking, that is precisely what Zionists and Israel apologists have been trying to make it mean.

There is probably even less anti-Semitism in the Labour Party than I thought

Now, one might argue that I am wrong about anti-Semitism in the party, and that it really is widespread. However, for reasons I have given repeatedly over the last eighteen months, many of the accusations are trumped up, and what numbers we can find when investigating proportion suggest there are so few people involved that they total a small fraction of one per cent of the Labour membership. This is underlined by a conversation I had only yesterday with a party member who always has her ‘ear-to-the-ground’ (I have withheld her name for privacy reasons). She said; –

Most of those suspended in the purge are now back in the party, with no action against them, proving IMO it was a set up. It’s a myth that there have been hundreds expelled by NCC. They hear one case a month

(Emphasis added.)

Now, I have no way of verifying how accurate this is, but the individual in question has a good track record, and it certainly tallies with all the other indicators I have found since the present hysteria started up. If the numbers involved were really so gigantic as the media want us to believe, and if they were mostly genuine cases of anti-Semitism, why would the party’s National Constitutional Committee be processing cases at such a slow rate, and why would so few of the accused be expelled?

Going back to the definition and its examples, there is another matter to which I wish to draw attention.

Ugh, Jonathan Hoffman again?!

I and one of my allies at the Wear Red blog have been having yet another contretemps with our dear old chum and comrade-in-nausea-induction, Jonathan Hoffman. Yes, he of the vulpine demeanour and the Nazi entourage.  Yes, he of such self-unaware stupidity that he does not recognise what an own goal it is to put the word ‘RACIST‘ in big capital letters on his Twitter display pic directly above his own name; –

Hoffman and his Twitter display pic

Jonathan Hoffman genuinely doesn’t realise what this display pic appears to declare about himself.

(NB: I have no doubt that the Hufflepuff-man will soon realise what a stupid blunder the above is, change the display pic, and then insist that I ‘photoshopped’ this picture. He has a history of making such laughable denials when caught red-handed.)

Indeed, he of such awesomely bad taste in victim cards, he thinks that adding Je Suis Margaret Hodge to his profile name will make him sound like a formidable man of principle, and not like a brainless drama queen.

Yes, him again.

I shall not go into much detail about the exchanges we had with Hoffman on social media, as they were lengthy, with endless, very catty back-and-forth. But I wish to draw attention to his conduct when I challenged him to condemn Binyamin Netanyahu for his history of taking part in celebrations of the King David Hotel Bombing of 1946, and Israel for selling arms to Leopoldo Galtieri’s Military Junta in Argentina during the Falklands War.

As I pointed out a couple of weeks back, Bibi’s foolish public attack on Jeremy Corbyn over the wreath he placed in Tunisia in 2014 has put British Zionists in an unhappy position. And this latest showdown with Hoffman has proven my point. Despite repeatedly being challenged to condemn Israel, past and present, Hoffman repeatedly sidestepped the matter, sometimes quibbling over terminology, before eventually lapsing into guilty silence. (You can read the exchanges here, although be warned, it is a disjointed, rather fractious comment thread.)

Hoffman disproves the IHRA definition he depends on

Hoffman has spent almost every day over the last three years condemning Jeremy Corbyn for being “anti-Semitic”, just because Corbyn is a tireless critic of Israel, and a supporter of Palestinian rights. But Hoffman refuses to criticise any proven connection between Israel and British deaths that happened in the name of Zionism, be they in 1946 or 1982. Corbyn commemorates Palestinians murdered by Israeli planes – Hoffman offers castigation. Bibi commemorates Zionist militants blowing up a hotel and ending British lives and Israel sells arms to a nation with which Britain was at war – Hoffman offers pedantic quibbles and stony silence.

We can only conclude from that therefore that Hoffman is more loyal to Israel than he is to Britain. But he is British – a former vice-President of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain & Ireland.

Now, by one of the examples given in the IHRA definition, the above highlighted paragraph is anti-Semitic.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

But how can that paragraph be anti-Semitic? Judging Hoffman’s priorities as being Israeli is simply the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the facts. He will not condemn Israel or Zionists for undoubted misdeeds against the British, but will condemn a Briton for a (dubiously-perceived) misdeed against Israel. An objective assessment of the facts cannot be anti-Semitic, because anti-Semitism is a prejudice. By definition, an objective assessment is the antithesis of prejudice.

So, to say it again, the examples appended to the IHRA definition are only guidelines, and should not be seen as absolute. When these examples manifest in the real world, they indicate places to be on the look-out for anti-Semitism, but should not be seen as concrete evidence of anti-Semitism. Once investigations have been carried out, there is every chance of discovering that there is nothing untoward going on.

Now, one of the most deranged, bullying Zionist fanatics in the country has kindly helped me to demonstrate why.

I must remember to thank him some time.

3 Responses to “British Zionists themselves have discredited the IHRA definition”

  1. Kenneth Hammond Says:

    Why the UK Labour Party should not adopt the IHRA Definition or any other definition of anti-Semitism
    Activism Norman G. Finkelstein https://mondoweiss.net/2018/08/labour-should-definition-semitism/


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