This 2024 - Let's Win the Battle of Headlines
OpinionAntisemitism

It’s a life raft to those who hold fast to it

The last thing we Jews need to worry about is that debate about Israel’s policies will be stifled, or that there isn’t enough criticism of Israel.

A woman holds a sign opposing antisemitism at a rally. Credit: AndriiKoval/Shutterstock.
A woman holds a sign opposing antisemitism at a rally. Credit: AndriiKoval/Shutterstock.
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the founding rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md. He has served as the head of the Jewish National Fund’s Rabbis for Israel and is the founder of the Coalition of Zionist Rabbis for Israel.

If any one thing has united Jews throughout the ages, it is anti-Semitism. Yet in this era of increased polarization and division, it seems that we cannot even agree anymore on what that constitutes.

The 500-word International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition agreed upon by the Obama State Department, after consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders when Ira Forman was the special envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, has been adopted by dozens of nations, organizations and universities.

Despite the obvious need for such a document as a useful tool and its widespread acceptance, a number of Jewish groups recently came out with a statement opposing its adoption. Because of their objection to the examples cited in the document meant to help clarify what constitutes anti-Semitic acts or speech, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the New Israel Fund, T’ruah and other progressive groups recently issued a statement objecting to it becoming official policy of the United States and oppose it being codified into U.S. law.

It would be as if someone drowning in the ocean were thrown a life preserver, and the person would refuse to use it because they object to the wording on the inside the lining.

Although the definition clearly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic,” these groups worry that criticism of Israel would be suppressed and that adoption of the doctrine would undermine core freedoms. They even go so far as to say that questioning the legitimacy of the founding of the State of Israel should not be deemed objectionable.

I cannot help but wonder if those who are so concerned about free speech and academic freedom have objected when anti-Israel agitators have stifled and shouted down and shut down presentations by representatives of the State of Israel or pro-Israel speakers on college campuses.

We know all too well that efforts to demonize, delegitimize and subject the State of Israel to double standards are camouflage for antipathy towards Jews and the Jewish people. Singling out of the Jewish state for criticisms not leveled at other nations is a convenient way to dodge the charge of anti-Semitism.

Israel does not lack for critics. A robust democracy—unlike the Arab states that surround it, or the Palestinian Authority or Hamas—has a free and rancorous press.

The last thing we Jews need to worry about is that debate about Israel’s policies will be stifled, or that there isn’t enough criticism of Israel.

I wish these progressive groups who claim to “care deeply about the State of Israel” would worry more about protecting Israel—and Jewish people everywhere—than its critics.

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the founding rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md. He has served as the head of the Jewish National Fund’s Rabbis for Israel and is the founder of the Coalition of Zionist Rabbis for Israel.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Israel is at war - Support JNS

JNS is combating the barrage of misinformation with factual reporting. We depend on your support.

Support JNS
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates