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Thursday, May 09, 2024

Why I (Probably) Won't Sign the Statement from Jewish Faculty Opposing the Antisemitism Awareness Act

There are now nearly 800 signatories to the "Statement from Concerned Jewish Faculty Against Antisemitism," but it presents a tough problem for me. I agree with the bottom line that the "Antisemitism Awareness Act," already passed by the House, should be defeated in the Senate or vetoed by Pres. Biden, because it is wrong to codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition has much to commend it as an educational tool. By its own terms, however, it was intended to be "non-legally binding," and it would be a mistake to make it legally enforceable.

The Statement goes further, however, inaccurately stating that the IHRA definition “conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel.” In fact, the IHRA definition simply points out that criticism of Israel may be antisemitic, which is unquestionably true, and that "criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic." That is the opposite of conflation.

The Statement is signed by many people I respect, but it also includes Judith Butler and Gabriel Winant, who have no credibility on antisemitism, among others with whom I do not care to associate.

So this is a tough one for me. The Antisemitism Awareness Act would do more harm than good, but the Statement from Concerned Jewish Faculty also misrepresents and undermines the IHRA definition even for educational purposes. I am still undecided, but leaning against signing (the default being inaction).

Posted by Steve Lubet on May 9, 2024 at 11:26 AM | Permalink


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