Tony Greenstein | 02 March 2020 | Post Views:

Victories in Canada and New Zealand Shows that the IHRA CAN be Defeated – JVL’s defeatism is counter-productive

It is because the IHRA is indefensible that the Government is threatening Universities which don’t adopt it with Financial Sanctions

Tommy Robinson explains why he is a Zionist in identical terms to the 3 Labour Party leadership candidates – because Jews have a right to a homeland!

The IHRA is a weapon fashioned to defend the Israeli state and western imperialist interests and targeted at the Palestine solidarity movement. That is its only purpose. It is irrelevant to a fight against anti-Semitism not least because some of its formulations are in themselves anti-Semitic. That is why its principal supporters lie in the British Establishment.

Why is a definition useful in the fight against anti-Semitism? Noone seems to have asked this question. Perhaps because it is so obvious. When my father, like thousands of other working class Jews, opposed Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists march at Cable Street in 1936, the Board of Deputies told Jews to hide indoors, he didn’t need a definition of anti-Semitism to know what the beast is. Amongst its critics are:

Sir Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge who said of the IHRA that it

fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite. He described it as‘placing the historical, political, military and humanitarian uniqueness of Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine beyond permissible criticism.’

David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism described it as ‘bewilderingly imprecise” Hugh Tomlinson QC said the IHRA ‘lacks clarity and comprehensiveness’ and that it hasa potential chilling effect on public bodies’

Geoffrey Robertson QC stated that it would ‘chill free speech’ and was ‘not fit for purpose’ Even Kenneth Stern, the person who drafted it, in testimony to Congress, said:

‘“The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus…. It was never supposed to curtail speech on campus.”

Stern wrote in respect of the United States and Trump, a man who is clearly anti-Semitic that:

It was never intended to be a campus hate speech code, but that’s what Donald Trump’s executive order accomplished this week. This order is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates, but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.

There is of course a very simple definition of ‘anti-semitism’ for anyone who is in need of one. It can be found in the Oxford English and Miriam Webster dictionaries. It comprises all of 6 words –‘hostility to or discrimination against Jews.’

Even Professor Geoffrey Alderman, a right-wing Zionist and the historian of Britain’s Jewish community, as well as a former Jewish Chronicle columnist, described the IHRA as a ‘a flawed and faulty definition of anti-Semitism.’

Despite this the IHRA has gained traction because of its utility to the political establishment as an effective way of defending Britain’s support for and trading links with Israel.

You might be forgiven for thinking that Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign would be eager to drive a nail into the IHRA’s coffin. Not a bit of it. It has given up the fight and it has been joined in this by Jewish Voice for Labour.

We were told at the recent PSC AGM by JVL’s Professor Jonathan Rosenhead that it was impossible to fight back against the IHRA. We should accept defeat and move on. A message that was music to the ears of PSC’s Socialist Action leadership.

Events, however, as Harold MacMillan once observed, have a habit of upsetting the most austere of political predictions and contradicting even the most noble of Cassandras. Canada and New Zealand illustrate that it is perfectly possible, given the will, to fight the IHRA.

One of the problems with the Palestine solidarity movement is that unlike the Zionists we don’t have think tanks or discuss strategy together. Strategy is made on the hoof and tactics often become a substitute for strategy. Partly this is a consequence of the massive disparity in resources available to us and the Zionists.

However supporters of Palestine and anti-Zionists have one advantage, public support. Even in countries with the most avid pro-Zionist leaderships such as Germany and the United States, the populace is coming towards our way of thinking. Although we should be under no doubt that the consequence of the last 4.5 years of relentless ‘anti-Semitism’ barrage in Britain has been to strip off the soft periphery of support for Palestine.

Instead it is left to a few individuals such as Jonathan Cook, Asa Winstanley, Richard Silverstein and myself – writing for different blogs and web sites to act as a substitute. PSC, which should be a haven of fresh and innovative thinking to back up solidarity activists is instead an ideas free desert.

This presents a problem as activists turn away from the politics of what they are doing and why they are doing it and instead make a virtue out of the act in itself. Every occupation, protest, arrest and acquittal is a victory in itself. Like anarchists the deed becomes everything.

Tommy Robinson explains why he is a Zionist – note he is wearing a ‘I am a Zionist’ badge

It is therefore to be welcomed that there have been significant victories against the IHRA in New Zealand and Canada in particular. It would have been outrageous if Wellington Council had adopted the IHRA, after the murder of 50 Muslims in last year’s shooting. Israel, which the IHRA seeks to protect, is admired by White Supremacists such as Tommy Robinson and Geert Wilders. Israel is their model of a state because of its hostility to Muslims and its ethno nationalism. The IHRA is a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ that even anti-Semites can support!

New Zealand

The Wellington Jewish Council had requested Wellington to adopt the IHRA. But the Jewish Council’s request upset some members of the Wellington Progressive Synagogue, who noted the definition had the potential to conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism (opposition to the state of Israel), as it had already done overseas.

At the Jewish council’s request, the topic was removed from the city council’s agenda on Tuesday. It was due to be discussed at a city council meeting on Wednesday.

In an opinion piece published in The Dominion Post on Tuesday, Progressive Synagogue members Marilyn Garson and Fred Albert argued the controversial definition could render criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine antisemitic.

City councillor Iona Pannett said she supported the decision to have the item removed.

“We want a peaceful and safe way of discussing it, away from the public glare.”

She had received correspondence from some members of the Jewish community who did not agree with the wording of the definition.

The proposal would also have been nothing more than “virtue-signalling” because the council did not have a plan on how to implement it, Pannett said.


In Ontario activists have been fighting against the introduction of Bill 168 by the legislature. On February 27 the Bill passed by 55-0 and has been sent into Committee. The Bill calls on the government to be “guided” by the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism to “protect Ontarians from discrimination and hate amounting to anti-Semitism.”

Two days before the debate members of Independent Jewish Voices of Canada (IJV) held a press conference to urge MPPs to reject the “flawed” bill.

IJV charged that the bill “conflates” anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of Israel, and that as a law, it would be used to silence dissent on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The following day, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) announced its support for the IJV position on the bill, which “infringes on both freedom of expression and academic freedom on post-secondary education campuses.”

The CFS, which represents 530,000 students across Canada. argued that the bill “threatens to criminalize activists fighting for Palestinian rights as well as critical analysis on Israel and Zionism,”

In arguments reminiscent of those used in Britain, Daniel Koren, executive director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, said, “It is incredibly offensive that the CFS believes it can dictate what constitutes anti-Semitism and speak on behalf of Canada’s Jewish community, which overwhelmingly supports adopting the IHRA definition.”

Notice Koren doesn’t actually defend the IHRA, because in its own terms it is indefensible. Instead he makes the dishonest Zionist argument that it is ‘incredibly offensive’ for anyone but Zionists to define what is and isn’t anti-Semitism. The fact is that the IHRA frames support for Palestine solidarity and opposition to Zionism as ‘anti-Semitism’. No group, however powerful or prestigious has the right to define their ‘oppression’ in terms of another group which is oppressed.

More than 350 Canadian academics signed an open letter denouncing the IHRA definition, calling it an “imposition” that would “imperil the pursuit of truth and the legitimate expression of dissent.”

See Ontario moves closer to adopting IHRA definition of anti-Semitism

Protest in Calgary

Last month, Montreal joinedCalgary and Vancouver in rejecting a motion to adopt the IHRA’s “working definition” of anti-Semitism.


On 18 November 2019 Calgary City Councillors Diane Colley-Urquhart and Jeromy Farkas amended their motion on Antisemitism to exclude the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

Calgary would have been the second Canadian city to vote on the IHRA re-definition following its adoption by the Liberal government as part of its “Anti-racism strategy” in June. Vancouver City Council voted on the definition early this year, but the motion failed, sending it to committee for the development of a comprehensive anti-racism position.

Independent Jewish Voices is not alone in speaking out against the adoption of the IHRA re-definition. It has also been strongly criticized by prominent civil liberties groups–including the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the American Civil Liberties Union–as well as by more than 40 Jewish organizations, who signed a 2018 open letter. The Federal NDP has likewise expressed concern that it could “be a threat for people who legitimately denounce grave human rights abuses by the government of Israel against Palestinians.”


Calgary, 18 November 2019–Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) applauds Calgary City Councillors Diane Colley-Urquhart and Jeromy Farkas for amending their motion on Antisemitism to exclude the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

Montreal has withdrawn proposals for the IHRA to be adopted

Jewish Group Applauds Montreal City Council for Abandoning Controversial Definition of Antisemitism

Montreal, January 28, 2020

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) applauds the Montreal City Council for abandoning a motion to adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism today.

The motion to adopt the definition was withdrawn this morning by opposition leader Lionel Perez after the administration of Mayor Valérie Plante decided to send the motion to La Commission de la présidence du conseil (“The Commission of the Presidency of the Council”) for further study.

Montreal is the third Canadian city council to consider adopting the IHRA definition after similar attempts failed last year in both Vancouver and Calgary. IJV rallied significant grassroots opposition to all three motions. Over 300 IJV members and supporters sent letters to Montreal city councillors regarding today’s motion, and several spoke last night at City Hall renouncing it.

“This is another major victory for all who oppose antisemitism and support Palestinian human rights,” said Corey Balsam, IJV’s National Coordinator. “We strongly believe that our safety as Jews is intimately tied with the safety and well-being of other communities targeted by hate and bigotry, and that includes the Palestinian people. We congratulate the City of Montreal for its decision to abandon the IHRA’s problematic definition and strongly encourage other cities and provinces in Canada to follow suit.”

Opposition to the IHRA definition has become increasingly widespread around the world, including in Quebec and throughout the rest of Canada. In Quebec, major trade unions such as the FTQ, CSN, FNEEQ, as well as the Ligue des Droits et Libertés have all expressed their support for dropping the IHRA definition.

IJV’s objections to the IHRA re-definition are detailed in its recent report, in which it deconstructs the definition line by line and warns of the dangerous consequences of its adoption both for the fight against antisemitism and the movement for Palestinian human rights.

“The IHRA definition sadly betrays the post-Holocaust ethos of “never again”, instrumentalizing the important fight against antisemitism to silence those who advocate for Palestinian human rights, including Jews themselves,” affirms Balsam. “IJV will continue to challenge the definition at every level of government and at any other institutional body to which it is proposed.”

Currently there is a private member’s bill before the Ontario legislature that would implement the IHRA definition in that province, and IJV will mobilize opposition to that as well.

For more information, please see
January 28, 2020 IJV Canada

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