In an opinion piece for The Guardian, a group of “Palestinian university students from campuses across Australia” warned that the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in higher education institutions across the country ” would constitute a dangerous threat to academic freedom â.
The writers, who claim they must remain anonymous because of a supposed “threat of [their] academics and future careers, âit appears in response to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement last month that his government will formally endorse this widely adopted working definition of hatred against the Jewish people.
In the article, the student authors – that is, assuming the editors of The Guardian have done a minimum of due diligence – write:
Basically, the IHRA definition will not protect Jews from anti-Semitism, but censor legitimate criticism of Israel. The IHRA’s definition and its guiding examples confuse anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, which not only silences Palestinians but falsely confuses Judaism with Zionism. It already exists discrimination against Palestinians Palestine students and scholarships on university campuses in North America, UK and Europe.
So where does this alleged discrimination against Palestinian students take place?
A hyperlink provided in the article directs readers to the website Palestinianelegal.org, who collected alleged censorship accounts from pro-Palestinian actors on campus.
It is enlightening to consider such an incident which, from the link to it by the authors of the Guardian article, we can assume that it is indicative of the alleged censorship of higher education institutions:
At a large public university, two professors received complaints after their program signed a student-led declaration of solidarity with Palestine that used the word âgenocideâ. The complaints, coming from pro-Israel colleagues in their department, included false accusations of anti-Semitism. “
Unfortunately, there is no way to fathom the veracity of this apparent event, as Palestine Legal did not provide any details as to when and where it happened, other than the fact that it happened. is produced in a “large public university”.
Even so, the incident in question concerns a complaint filed by staff about two academics who supported a statement accusing Israel of committing genocide.
Aside from the fact that it is patently false that Israel engaged in massacres, not least because official statistics of the Palestinian population prove otherwise, Palestine Legal offers no evidence that the professors were even reprimanded.
Indeed, throughout the article, the authors are unable to cite a single example of suppressed pro-Palestinian views or “legitimate criticism of Israel” suppressed on college campuses.
Read more: Anti-Semitism Masked as Anti-Israel Bias at Berkeley, America’s “Most Prestigious College”
The article then sheds light on the case of David Miller, whose job at the University of Bristol was laid off last month following an investigation:
professor of sociology at the University of Bristol, David Miller, was recently charged of anti-Semitism following comments on Israel and dismissed. Despite legal counsel who found his comments “not to constitute illegal speech,” the university found they fell short of its standards. “
As HonestReporting previously pointed out, however, Miller was not baselessly accused of anti-Semitism because he criticized Israel. On the contrary, the graduated scholar described as “political pawns” students who disagreed with his assessment that the Jewish state is a “violent, racist and ethnically cleansing foreign regime.”
Miller’s suggestion that Jewish students have âdouble loyaltyâ is unmistakably anti-Semitic. Dating back thousands of years, this duck accuses Jews of subverting their homeland in order to advance a secret Jewish agenda or, more recently, that of Israel.
The trope was also a staple of Nazi propaganda in which Jews were accused of “stabbing the nation in the back” with acts of sabotage that led to Germany losing WWI.
Additionally, in the years leading up to his dismissal, Miller made numerous statements criticizing Israel and did not face censorship from the University of Bristol leadership.
The Guardian piece continues:
The definition of the IHRA has been widely disputed since its inception, including by more than 40 Jewish groups who rightly fear that the amalgamation of genuine anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel will not only lead to further injustices for the Palestinian people, but also to a worldwide rise of genuine anti-Semitism.
Let’s be clear: the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by many governments and public bodies around the world has been because of growing sectarianism directed against Jews and is not used to muzzle criticism of Israel.
The IHRA even specifies that “a criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be considered anti-Semitic”.
Indeed, King’s College London became one of the first UK universities to adopt the IHRA definition in 2018.
At the time, a spokesperson for the institution said the decision was necessary after disruptions at a number of student-hosted events, including a speech by the former Israeli deputy prime minister. Dan Meridor in which protesters waving signs called him a war criminal and called Israel a terrorist state.
On another occasion in 2016, police were called after protesters smashed a window, threw up chairs and called two Jewish students “Nazis” during a speech by the former head of the Israeli security service Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, organized by the Israeli KCL Society.
Yet it appears that King’s College approval of the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism did not have the effect of impeding the expression of anti-Israel sentiments on campus.
Last year, for example, student group KCL Action Palestine hosted an event – by the way, International Holocaust Remembrance Day – in which Omar Barghouti was invited to speak.
Barghouti, who was very clear in his opposition to a “Jewish state in any part of [British Mandatory] Palestine, âused his speech to advocate for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which encourages international action aimed at ultimately dismantling Israel.
Looking at a number of incidents at higher education institutions in the United States, it is quite evident that it is not the pro-Palestinian discourse that is being stifled, but rather the Jewish students and supporters of Zionism who are victimized.
In late 2019 and amid a rising tide of BDS activism on U.S. campuses, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order that spelled out protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 1964 applying to “institutions which engage in anti-Semitic hatred”. classifying Judaism as a protected characteristic such as race or nationality.
The ordinance allows the Ministry of Education to withhold funding from colleges or education programs where such discrimination is deemed to have occurred and suggests that when applying the provisions of Title VI, the definition of l The IHRA’s anti-Semitism should be taken into account.
Despite this, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel fanaticism – usually under the guise of pro-Palestinian activism – has apparently continued unabated in American universities.
Last month, HonestReporting detailed the case of a doctoral student. a student in the history department at the University of North Carolina who teaches undergraduates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and called Israel supporters “Zionist trash” on Twitter. In other remarks, Kylie Broderick has described Zionism as an “oppressive ideology” which is supported by its “patron, the imperialist American death cult”; retweeted a comment calling all of Israel âoccupied Palestinian territoryâ; and professed support for the BDS movement.
This is just one example that HonestReporting has highlighted in a series of articles examining the scourge of anti-Semitism on college campuses in the United States (see here, here and here)
In addition, a recent survey of Jewish students in the United States found that half of them had at one time or another concealed their Jewish identity in college, while 65% said they did not feel safe on campus.
Additionally, a report from Inside Higher Education in September showed “harassment and attacks on Jewish students [are] at an all time high. “
Therefore, the Guardian’s opinion writers’ submission that the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism “silences the Palestinians” rings hollow, unless their definition of academic freedom and rigorous intellectual debate is allowed. to claim, among other things, that the mere existence of the world alone the Jewish state is a “racist enterprise”.
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