As Joe Biden prepared to take office as the new US president last month, mainstream US Jewish organisations sent him a letter urging him to follow his predecessors and adopt the 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as the operative one for US government agencies, which the State Department had already done since the Obama years.
This uniform US Jewish organisational support for the IHRA definition contrasts with the fact that US Jews are divided over it. The IHRA definition deems “the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” to be antisemitic.
A legal adoption of the IHRA definition means governmental and institutional targeting, censorship and persecution of anyone who deigns to attack the establishment and the continued existence of the Israeli settler-colony as racist.
Violating free speech
As the US Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, which uses the IHRA definition, has passed the Senate but not the House of Representatives – something that former President Donald Trump remedied by issuing an executive order that adopted the IHRA definition in December 2019 – the letter urges Biden to follow in Trump’s footsteps.
European countries, including Germany, France and Britain, along with the European Union, have already adopted the IHRA definition. Opponents of the IHRA definition in the US, including some of the Jewish organisations that would later support it, focused on its violation of the right of free speech.
The tragicomedy of the IHRA definition is that, according to it, most of the world would have been judged as ‘antisemitic’ in 1975 and ‘philosemitic’ in 1991
But why would Israel and its western supporters suddenly be interested in legally prosecuting western citizens for criticising Zionism’s racist ideology and the Israeli state’s racist policies, when they had historically fought them with rhetorical delegitimisation, not to mention through effectively preventing most from questioning official Israeli propaganda in the western media?
It is true that pro-Israel views had always dominated the western media and western government policies and declarations,