Palestinian rights and the IHRA definition of antisemitism


I don’t include the full text of anything in a blogpost but I’m making an exception here because most of us struggle to find time to follow links from blog – life is too short – and this open letter, which was printed in the UK Guardian newspaper on the weekend, deserves to be read in full as New Zealand’s pro-Israeli lobby works behind closed doors to try to worm and weasel the IHRA so-called definition of anti-semitism into acceptance in New Zealand political networks.

We, the undersigned Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals are hereby stating our views regarding the definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and the way this definition has been applied, interpreted and deployed in several countries of Europe and North America.

In recent years, the fight against antisemitism has been increasingly instrumentalised by the Israeli government and its supporters in an effort to delegitimise the Palestinian cause and silence defenders of Palestinian rights. Diverting the necessary struggle against antisemitism to serve such an agenda threatens to debase this struggle and hence to discredit and weaken it. 

Antisemitism must be debunked and combated. Regardless of pretence, no expression of hatred for Jews as Jews should be tolerated anywhere in the world. Antisemitism manifests itself in sweeping generalisations and stereotypes about Jews, regarding power and money in particular, along with conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial. We regard as legitimate and necessary the fight against such attitudes. 

We also believe that the lessons of the Holocaust as well as those of other genocides of modern times must be part of the education of new generations against all forms of racial prejudice and hatred.

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The fight against antisemitism must, however, be approached in a principled manner, lest it defeat its purpose. Through “examples” that it provides, the IHRA definition conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews. We profoundly disagree with this. The fight against antisemitism should not be turned into a stratagem to delegitimise the fight against the oppression of the Palestinians, the denial of their rights and the continued occupation of their land. We regard the following principles as crucial in that regard: 

  1. The fight against antisemitism must be deployed within the frame of international law and human rights. It should be part and parcel of the fight against all forms of racism and xenophobia, including Islamophobia, and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism. The aim of this struggle is to guarantee freedom and emancipation for all oppressed groups. It is deeply distorted when geared towards the defence of an oppressive and predatory state.
  1. There is a huge difference between a condition where Jews are singled out, oppressed and suppressed as a minority by antisemitic regimes or groups, and a condition where the self-determination of a Jewish population in Palestine/Israel has been implemented in the form of an ethnic exclusivist and territorially expansionist state. As it currently exists, the state of Israel is based on uprooting the vast majority of the natives – what Palestinians and Arabs refer to as the Nakba – and on subjugating those natives who still live on the territory of historical Palestine as either second-class citizens or people under occupation, denying them their right to self-determination. 
  1. The IHRA definition of antisemitism and the related legal measures adopted in several countries have been deployed mostly against leftwing and human rights groups supporting Palestinian rights and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, sidelining the very real threat to Jews coming from rightwing white nationalist movements in Europe and the US. The portrayal of the BDS campaign as antisemitic is a gross distortion of what is fundamentally a legitimate non-violent means of struggle for Palestinian rights.
  1. The IHRA definition’s statement that an example of antisemitism is “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” is quite odd. It does not bother to recognise that under international law, the current state of Israel has been an occupying power for over half a century, as recognised by the governments of countries where the IHRA definition is being upheld. It does not bother to consider whether this right includes the right to create a Jewish majority by way of ethnic cleansing and whether it should be balanced against the rights of the Palestinian people. Furthermore, the IHRA definition potentially discards as antisemitic all non-Zionist visions of the future of the Israeli state, such as the advocacy of a binational state or a secular democratic one that represents all its citizens equally. Genuine support for the principle of a people’s right to self-determination cannot exclude the Palestinian nation, nor any other. 
  1. We believe that no right to self-determination should include the right to uproot another people and prevent them from returning to their land, or any other means of securing a demographic majority within the state. The demand by Palestinians for their right of return to the land from which they themselves, their parents and grandparents were expelled cannot be construed as antisemitic. The fact that such a demand creates anxieties among Israelis does not prove that it is unjust, nor that it is antisemitic. It is a right recognised by international law as represented in United Nations general assembly resolution 194 of 1948.
  1. To level the charge of antisemitism against anyone who regards the existing state of Israel as racist, notwithstanding the actual institutional and constitutional discrimination upon which it is based, amounts to granting Israel absolute impunity. Israel can thus deport its Palestinian citizens, or revoke their citizenship or deny them the right to vote, and still be immune from the accusation of racism. The IHRA definition and the way it has been deployed prohibit any discussion of the Israeli state as based on ethno-religious discrimination. It thus contravenes elementary justice and basic norms of human rights and international law.
  1. We believe that justice requires the full support of Palestinians’ right to self-determination, including the demand to end the internationally acknowledged occupation of their territories and the statelessness and deprivation of Palestinian refugees. The suppression of Palestinian rights in the IHRA definition betrays an attitude upholding Jewish privilege in Palestine instead of Jewish rights, and Jewish supremacy over Palestinians instead of Jewish safety. We believe that human values and rights are indivisible and that the fight against antisemitism should go hand in hand with the struggle on behalf of all oppressed peoples and groups for dignity, equality and emancipation.

Samir Abdallah

Filmmaker, Paris, France

Nadia Abu El-Haj
Ann Olin Whitney Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, USA

Lila Abu-Lughod
Joseph L Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science, Columbia University, USA

Bashir Abu-Manneh
Reader in Postcolonial Literature, University of Kent, UK

Gilbert Achcar
Professor of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK

Nadia Leila Aissaoui
Sociologist and Writer on feminist issues, Paris, France

Mamdouh Aker
Board of Trustees, Birzeit University, Palestine

Mohamed Alyahyai
Writer and novelist, Oman

Suad Amiry
Writer and Architect, Ramallah, Palestine

Sinan Antoon
Associate Professor, New York University, Iraq-US

Talal Asad
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Graduate Center, CUNY, USA

Hanan Ashrawi
Former Professor of Comparative Literature, Birzeit University, Palestine

Aziz Al-Azmeh
University Professor Emeritus, Central European University, Vienna, Austria

Abdullah Baabood
Academic and Researcher in Gulf studies, Oman

Nadia Al-Bagdadi
Professor of History, Central European University, Vienna

Sam Bahour
Writer, Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine

Zainab Bahrani
Edith Porada Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, USA

Rana Barakat
Assistant Professor of History, Birzeit University, Palestine

Bashir Bashir
Associate Professor of Political Theory, Open University of Israel, Raanana, State of Israel

Taysir Batniji
Artist-Painter, Gaza, Palestine and Paris, France

Tahar Ben Jelloun
Writer, Paris, France

Mohammed Bennis
Poet, Mohammedia, Morocco

Mohammed Berrada
Writer and Literary Critic, Rabat, Morocco

Omar Berrada
Writer and Curator, New York, USA

Amahl Bishara
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, Tufts University, USA

Anouar Brahem
Musician and Composer, Tunisia

Salem Brahimi
Filmaker, Algeria-France

Aboubakr Chraïbi
Professor, Arabic Studies Department, INALCO, Paris, France

Selma Dabbagh
Writer, London, UK

Izzat Darwazeh
Professor of Communications Engineering, University College London, UK

Marwan Darweish
Associate Professor, Coventry University, UK

Beshara Doumani
Mahmoud Darwish Professor of Palestinian Studies and of History, Brown University, USA

Haidar Eid
Associate Professor of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza, Palestine

Ziad Elmarsafy
Professor of Comparative Literature, King’s College London, UK

Noura Erakat
Assistant Professor, Africana Studies and Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, USA

Samera Esmeir
Associate Professor of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Khaled Fahmy
FBA, Professor of Modern Arabic Studies, University of Cambridge, UK

Ali Fakhrou
Academic and writer, Bahrain

Randa Farah
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Western University, Canada

Leila Farsakh
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA

Khaled Furani
Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, Tel-Aviv University, State of Israel

Burhan Ghalioun
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Sorbonne 3, Paris, France

Asad Ghanem
Professor of Political science, Haifa University, State of Israel

Honaida Ghanim
General Director of the Palestinian forum for Israeli Studies Madar, Ramallah, Palestine

George Giacaman
Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, Birzeit University, Palestine

Rita Giacaman
Professor, Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University, Palestine

Amel Grami
Professor of Gender Studies, Tunisian University, Tunis

Subhi Hadidi
Literary Critic, Syria-France

Ghassan Hage
Professor of Anthropology and Social theory, University of Melbourne, Australia

Samira Haj
Emeritus Professor of History, CSI/Graduate Center, CUNY, USA

Yassin Al-Haj Saleh
Writer, Syria

Dyala Hamzah
Associate Professor of Arab History, Université de Montréal, Canada

Rema Hammami
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Birzeit University, Palestine

Sari Hanafi
Professor of Sociology, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Adam Hanieh
Reader in Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK

Kadhim Jihad Hassan
Writer and translator, Professor at INALCO-Sorbonne, Paris, France

Nadia Hijab
Author and human rights advocate, London, UK

Jamil Hilal
Writer, Ramallah, Palestine

Serene Hleihleh
Cultural Activist, Jordan-Palestine

Bensalim Himmich
Academic, novelist and writer, Morocco

Khaled Hroub
Professor in Residence of Middle Eastern Studies, Northwestern University, Qatar

Mahmoud Hussein
Writer, Paris, France

Lakhdar Ibrahimi
Paris School of International Affairs, Institut d’Etudes Politiques, France

Annemarie Jacir
Filmmaker, Palestine

Islah Jad
Associate Professor of Political Science, Birzeit University, Palestine

Lamia Joreige
Visual Artist and Filmaker, Beirut, Lebanon

Amal Al-Jubouri
Writer, Iraq

Mudar Kassis
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Birzeit University, Palestine

Nabeel Kassis
Former Professor of Physics and Former President, Birzeit University, Palestine

Muhammad Ali Khalidi
Presidential Professor of Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center, USA

Rashid Khalidi
Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University, USA

Michel Khleifi
Filmmaker, Palestine-Belgium

Elias Khoury
Writer, Beirut, Lebanon

Nadim Khoury
Associate Professor of International Studies, Lillehammer University College, Norway

Rachid Koreichi
Artist-Painter, Paris, France

Adila Laïdi-Hanieh
Director General, The Palestinian Museum, Palestine

Rabah Loucini
Professor of History, Oran University, Algeria

Rabab El-Mahdi
Associate Professor of Political Science, The American University in Cairo, Egypt

Ziad Majed
Associate Professor of Middle East Studies and IR, American University of Paris, France

Jumana Manna
Artist, Berlin, Germany

Farouk Mardam Bey
Publisher, Paris, France

Mai Masri
Palestinian filmmaker, Lebanon

Mazen Masri
Senior Lecturer in Law, City University of London, UK

Dina Matar
Reader in Political Communication and Arab Media, SOAS, University of London, UK

Hisham Matar
Writer, Professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, USA

Khaled Mattawa
Poet, William Wilhartz Professor of English Literature, University of Michigan, USA

Karma Nabulsi
Professor of Politics and IR, University of Oxford, UK

Hassan Nafaa
Emeritus Professor of Political science, Cairo University, Egypt

Nadine Naber
Professor, Deptartment of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA

Issam Nassar
Professor, Illinois State University, USA

Sari Nusseibeh
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Al-Quds University, Palestine

Najwa Al-Qattan
Emeritus Professor of History, Loyola Marymount University, USA

Omar Al-Qattan
Filmmaker, Chair of The Palestinian Museum & the A.M.Qattan Foundation, UK

Nadim N Rouhana
Professor of International Affairs, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA

Ahmad Sa’adi
Professor, Haifa, State of Israel

Rasha Salti
Independent Curator, Writer, Researcher of Art and Film, Germany-Lebanon

Elias Sanbar
Writer, Paris, France

Farès Sassine
Professor of Philosophy and Literary Critic, Beirut, Lebanon

Sherene Seikaly
Associate Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Samah Selim
Associate Professor, A, ME & SA Languages & Literatures, Rutgers University, USA

Leila Shahid
Writer, Beirut, Lebanon

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian
Lawrence D Biele Chair in Law, Hebrew University, State of Israel

Anton Shammas
Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

Yara Sharif
Senior Lecturer, Architecture and Cities, University of Westminster, UK

Hanan Al-Shaykh
Writer, London, UK

Raja Shehadeh
Lawyer and Writer, Ramallah, Palestine

Gilbert Sinoué
Writer, Paris, France

Ahdaf Soueif
Writer, Egypt/UK

Mayssoun Sukarieh
Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, King’s College London, UK

Elia Suleiman
Filmmaker, Palestine-France

Nimer Sultany
Reader in Public Law, SOAS, University of London, UK

Jad Tabet
Architect and Writer, Beirut, Lebanon

Jihan El-Tahri
Filmmaker, Egypt

Salim Tamari
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Birzeit University, Palestine

Wassyla Tamzali
Writer, Contemporary Art Producer, Algeria

Fawwaz Traboulsi
Writer, Beirut Lebanon

Dominique Vidal
Historian and Journalist, Palestine-France

Haytham El-Wardany
Writer, Egypt-Germany

Said Zeedani
Emeritus Associate Professor of Philosophy, Al-Quds University, Palestine

Rafeef Ziadah
Lecturer in Comparative Politics of the Middle East, SOAS, University of London, UK

Raef Zreik
Minerva Humanities Centre, Tel-Aviv University, State of Israel

Elia Zureik
Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Canada




  1. Excruciatingly funny: a bunch of Arabs deciding what constitutes antisemitism. I think I’ll put on my money on the Jews to do a better job of that, having endured 2,000 plus years of same. What mind blowing arrogance, Minto.

    • Racist by any chance Gaby? Oh heck no! Couldnt be! Must be those dirty Arabs! I just love it when your hatred of Arabs can no longer be held back and just bursts forth in all consuming waves!! Such fury! Such bile! Where does it all come from?!

      • John W

        Look up the definition of antisemitism. Your bias is the one that needs to be checked clearly. You are an arrogant person whose so proud of himself for what, contributing nothing to this conversation or actually trying to help Palestinians. People like you know no real history or facts – that’s why you say stupid things.

        • You should do a little research into linguistics and history of the peoples involved.

          Semitic languages include Arabic.
          Most Israel people come from traditional Yiddish stock.
          Yiddish is a High German-derived language historically spoken by the Ashkenazi Jews who are descendants from Jewish converts with a traditional home in central Europe not Palestine.
          Since the formation of Israel the Semitic Arabs have been forced out of their homelands by mainly Yiddish speaking Jews. Israel has since taught Hebrew in their schools to these immigrant families.

          The term “Antisemitic” is a overused, well worn ploy to try and discredit any criticism of Israel or non compliance with Israel’s goals.

    • The world is waking up to the Zionist threat, and the movement to resist the ideology’s manipulation of language to disguise its true purpose is being seriously challenged. A writer for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Shlomo Sand, recently commented on an article by the Israeli historian, Professor David Engel, advising human rights supporters to stop using the term ‘anti-Semitism’. Sands reminded us that: “There is no such thing as a Semitic race. There are only Semitic languages. I am a Semite because I speak and write Hebrew. My parents were not Semites because they spoke Yiddish.” Haaretz refers to Engel, a scholar of modern Jewish history, noting that “he has avoided using the word ‘antisemitism‘ for 30 years in his articles or books. The word has been banished from his professional lexicon, even when he is writing about the Holocaust.”
      The purpose of the Zionist term ‘anti-Semitic’, used instead of saying clearly and directly ‘anti-Jewish’, is to exclude from the public mind the right of the Palestinian people to their homeland. Zionism’s conduct and use of terminology opens it to the very same criticism that it aims at its victims. According to its own logic, the Zionist regime’s contemptuous denial and prevention of Palestinian self-determination is, in itself, ‘anti-Semitic’. A big step forward in demolishing Zionist terminology would be for Palestinian human rights supporters never to use it.

  2. It’s rather extraordinary to think that the UK Labour Party saw fit to take on such a garbage definition of antisemitism. It makes support of Palestine an impossible contortion. How anyone can think that any State can be put above the law and be allowed to break any and all humanitarian rights with impunity is the ultimate form of arrogant authoritarianism.

  3. Acceptance of the “international” definition is apparently a litmus test of nation states – a bit like the roll call at Flushing Meadow back in 1947.

    The United Kingdom abstained and then got out of the way so Arab armies could attack the Jewish homeland state – the attack on the UK Labour Party as anti-semitic until it accepted the “international” definition is a sort of revenge. As was the Breixt referendum result which ended Cameron’s time as PM – Cameron and Obama organised the Dec 2016 UNSC Resolution we co-sponsored. The UK is now more in lockstep with the pro Zionist US now. As is Oz.

    We and Canada are the nations in Five Eyes yet to be brought to heel via “white liberal guilt’ (more Christian and right wing nations buy into the Judeo-Christian civilisation thing).

    Expect to see Jewish groups here network with Churches and Moslems to bring in this standard along as part of a restoration of blasphemy law as part of the “more modern” liberal PC of Hate Speech legislation. They will seek to play Ardern, as a figure on the world stage, like a violin.

    If we give way, China will ask can they call criticism of them hate speech too.

  4. In nations applying this standard people are going to become dependent on local Jews or Israeli Jews to do the criticising of Israel. But like Chinese dissidents they could pay a price for this (loss of social credit – access to trains etc or forced abroad) – some Israeli historians have been forced to live abroad because of the threats of violence (and after 9/11 in the USA people who criticised George W Bush’s regime change plans for Iraq were put on no flight lists).

  5. But but but …. according to gobys right wing idol Ben Shapiro ,,,,,,,”Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewerage”,,,

    Later when forced to backtrack over the blatant racism ,,, Ben apologized for his slur against Arabs ,,, and said he meant Palestinians ,,, or Pals as he calls them.

    goby and andrew are the only posters in NZ who I have seen use this racist abbreviation for Palestinians.

    43 mins – 44 mins for the above quotes ,,, Start at 34 minutes for a ‘mosque shooting’ wider perspective.

    South Africa recognized it’s racism, but claimed its apartheid was good.

    Israel denies its apartheid ,,, and claims criticism is racist.

  6. Antisemitism is a virus that constantly mutates. In the Middle Ages, it was rooted in religion, in the 20th century it was racist and given its worse expression under the Nazis. Today, it takes the form of anti-Zionism – denying the Jews, and only the Jews, the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland.
    Here is an excellent rebuttal of the Guardian letter.

    • You mean Zionists identify constraints on their annexation of land awarded for a Palestinian state as something uniquely racist.

      Unlike collective action against German libensraum or Russian irredentism in the Ukraine etc.

  7. Once again you have made a fallacious statement and linked to a disingenuous pile of propagandist manipulation of facts, arguments founded on false premises and reliance of distorted ‘legalese’ to support slanderous contentions. A brief scan of some of the the work of Adam Levick proves he is a skilled manipulator and fabricator of his own ‘truths’. Obviously these distortions assail the senses of people who obviously have knowledge and comprehension skills that are far superior to yours. Find somewhere else to spew you racism and invective.

    • Means sweet fuck all though Gaby. Even enlightened non-Zionist Jews reckon the fabricated, self-serving definition is a load of dynamite that is going to blow up in their undeserving faces! The effects will be like those that will predictably result from Trump signing up Arab states by bribing them with weaponry that will probably end up causing Israel a lot of grief. How long do you think a racist, war criminal, Apartheid state will continue to be tolerated, even if it protector, the US Empire doesn’t crumble? So far the Russians have been pretty quiet – is that because all their Zionists have shuffled off to Israel? Meanwhile, the majority of of those you despise are very tolerant and even protective of non-Zionist adherents of Judaism.

    • If you want to shut the right wing racist gaby aka james from TS up ,,, ask him to explain and justify Israels anti-miscegenation laws ,,,

      ,,,, The same laws banning the mixing of races that the nazis had ,,,, that apartheid south africa had ,,, that the usa had when they had slavery ,,,.

      Modern but backwards Israel is a extremely racist right wing shit-hole ,,, that interferes and attacks left wing Governments and movements around the world ,,,, and hissing ‘antisemitism’ with all the moral authority of a Jeffry Epstein or Harvey rapestein ,,,, or gaby , when caught out and exposed .
      “JUDEA-AFRICA-AMERICA: Our racial relationship history & the crisis in Israel*Palestine”

  8. John, concentrate on us now. The Falestinians are right. It’s obvious. The sentiment for Israel in America is like a fish that’s been hanging around for too long. All the ideals are gone and there’s just the sediments and the born agains’ imaginings.


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