More than 350 academics sign letter backing IHRA definition of antisemitism
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More than 350 academics sign letter backing IHRA definition of antisemitism

Signatories to letter, which has been endorsed by the International Legal Forum, include professors from the UK, US, UAE and Israel

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Protesters with a sign opposing antisemitism  (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa)
Protesters with a sign opposing antisemitism (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa)

More than 350 academics from across the globe have signed a letter released on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day backing the international definition of antisemitism.

The letter, which has been endorsed by the International Legal Forum, includes signatories from the UK, America, and from the Arab and Israeli world from differing political spectrums – but who all are united over the belief that International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an “invaluable tool” in response to rising anti-Jewish racism.

Amongst the names on the Open Letter are the University of Oxford’s Dr Charles Asher Small,  Dr David Hirsh of Goldsmiths, University of London, Professor Efraim Karsh of Kings College and Dr Majid Al Sarrah, of the United Arab Emirates and expert in public policy at the London School of Economics.

The letter states that the IHRA working definition “recognises that contemporary antisemitism is often directed against the State of Israel”, focusing “obsessively on Zionism”, which antisemites seek to “malign and oppose”. 

In doing so, the signatories say, this “cannot be understood as anything but an assault on Jewish history, identity and safety.”

It adds: “When Israel’s very existence is delegitimised and threatened, when Israelis and Jews are excluded because of their association with the Jewish state, and when antisemitic conspiracies and tropes flourish under the guise of anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism, we recognize that this is antisemitism.”

Acknowledging  that academia is the backbone of today’s intellectual discussion and framing of the conversation about antisemitism, the letter also notes that Jewish students in particular, are on the front-line of this campaign of hatred, violence and intimidation.

The International Legal Forum (ILF), is an Israel-based legal network of over 3,000 lawyers and activists in 30 different countries, committed to the fight against antisemitism, terror and the delegitimization of Israel in the international legal arena. 

Arsen Ostrovsky, Chair and CEO of ILF said  “It is imperative in order to defeat this virus of antisemitism and change the narrative, where false claims and malicious distortions of truth are dangerously disguised as acceptable criticism of Zionism and Israel, that we first define that which we are trying to defeat. T​he IHRA working definition of antisemitism offers the best, most widely endorsed and professional means by which to achieve that.”

Other UK academics to have signed the letter include Liverpool University’s Dr Katherine Harbord, Kingston University’s Professor Phillip Spencer and Professor James Mendelsohn of the University of the West of England.

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