Defining anti-Semitism


Sir, – While I agree with Oliver Sears that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antiSemitism is neither useful in fighting real anti-Semitism nor correct in equating criticism of the Israeli colonisation of Palestine with anti-Semitism, I do not share his statement that the Jerusalem Declaration on AntiSemitism (JDA), authored by 200 Israeli and Jewish scholars (yet without consultation with Palestinian civil society), is “a better attempt to offer a comprehensive definition of anti-Semitism” (“Expression of anti-Semitism must be made taboo”, Opinion & Analysis, April 7th). I am a member of Jewish Voice for Just Peace (Ireland) and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. As a Jewish person often targeted by (Irish) anti-Semitic attacks in relation to my support for migrants and asylum seekers, and by Zionist attacks regarding my pro-Palestine activism, and who has researched racism and anti-Semitism throughout my academic career, I do not believe elevating anti-Semitism above other forms of racism, particularly Islamophobia and anti-migrant racism, is helpful in tackling racism. Yes, anti-Semitism is real and should be taken seriously, but neither the IHRA nor the JDA are concerned with the actual dangers faced by Jewish or Palestinian people. In fact, the current anti-anti-Semitism discourse masquerading as anti-racism damages any solidarity between Jews and other racialised people, and prevents the understanding of racism as a colonial technology of power aimed at maintaining white supremacy. In a recent webinar on the IHRA, Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal, opposed using the Jerusalem Declaration to discredit the IHRA, arguing that the JDA is still talking about anti-Semitism when we should be talking about Palestine. By highlighting the JDA as a positive alternative to the IHRA (probably because it was authored by Jewish scholars), Khalidi said, and I agree, we participate in the distraction from talking about racism tout court and about the Israeli racialisation of the Palestinians. – Yours, etc,


Retired Associate

Professor of Sociology,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2