THE IHRA thing. The beginning


Now here is the thing. The same ” intent ” requirement that appears in bits of the LP  code is the very underpinning of the WHOLE of the IHRA so called IHRA “definition”. ( hereinafter called the IHRA thing )

Kenneth Stern has been the bogey man of pro Palestinians for over a decade. Reviled as the McCarthyite that supplied Israelists with the invidious weapon that sought to establish that there was one country, and one country only, that we may not speak freely about

It seems that Stern has been getting a bum rap, and I for one am feeling a bit sheepish about it. He is in fact a scholar of the utmost integrity and as passionate a defender of free speech as you could hope to find. Further, he is horrified at the bastardisation of his work, the attempt to turn a research aid into a code that is used to target people.

The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill free speech on a College campus ( or anywhere else ). In fact, at a conference in 2010 about the impact of the definition , I highlighted this misuse, and the damage it could do.”

Stern is the executive director of the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation,which “works to increase understanding of hatred and antisemitism, and how to combat them, with a particular emphasis on college campuses.”. 

From 1989 to 2014 he was on the staff of the American Jewish Committee where he was its antisemitism expert with particular responsibilites for college campuses. He is hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to his Zionism.

In the early 2000’s the EUMC became interested in having a definition of antisemitism that could be used across borders for research purposes.  That is, to enable its researchers in the various member countries to work within the same loose framework. It was to Stern that they turned. “ I ( Stern ) did the drafting and Rabbi Andrew Baker did the political negotiating.

Several things are abundantly clear from Stern’s testimony to the congressional Committee on the Judiciary in late 2017.

The definition is the first two sentences.

The so called examples are suggestions as to places where antisemitism MIGHT be lurking, places that might be of interest to researchers.

The thing, says Stern, is useful for data collection purposes only. As a  code for  facilitating the targeting and indicting of individuals and organisations is concerned, it is both USELESS and DANGEROUS ( not least for Jews ).

Stern in 2010……..” ( The Definition ) was never meant to provide a framework for eviscerating free speech or academic freedom, let alone labeling anyone an antisemite”

Yet labelling people antisemites is the sole purpose of the Israelist’s demand for the IHRA thing ” in full “.  This demand is a category mistake. The” definition” is not that kind of thing.

The thing speaks of COULD, MIGHT, CONTEXT. It never tells us what IS antisemitic, which it would need to do if it was to be any use as a code. These words, might, could, context, must mean something and Stern is clear about what. It all, in the end, comes down to intent, which he distinguishes from motive. An actor might be motivated by a hatred of Jews, but needn’t be. We can conclude we are in the presence  of an antisemitic incident when a Jew or Jews is TARGETED BECAUSE THEY ARE JEWISH. For example a burglar might target a Jewish home because he has got it into his head that all Jews are rich. He might hate Jews but he may not. Targeting, of any kind, is a necessary and sufficient condition. Similarly a burglar might target a working class black man’s home because he thinks the police response may be less vigorous than if the victim was a middle class Anglo Saxon.

For Stern antisemitism is the targeting of Jews because they are Jews. It really is that simple. And this , of course, is perfectly consistent with THE concept, well understood by the 1.5 billion speakers of the language. The meaning is determined by the sum force of the uses of the expression. This is how natural language works. It is not established by the stipulation of a few bums on chairs around a table.

THE OXFORD DICTIONARY: antisemitism: hostility to, or prejudice against, Jews.

Now Israelists, led by the conmen of CST,  KNOW that the thing, properly understood, is useless. So the game is this. In advocating for the ” definition”  they make a big thing of the might, could, context bits, as evidence that the thing does not inhibit free speech, and to allay fears. Then could, might, context, slides off into ” likely to be“. That twin pillar of the Israelist gutter press, The Jewish Chronicle, is particularly adept at this move. THEN when they are targeting people  they talk as though the thing is a hard definition.

That is antisemitic, see the IHRA definition “

Saying that breaches the IHRA definition.”

And so on.

As we have seen, the definition is not the kind of thing someone can be in violation of.

The ultimate weakness of this game  in legal or quasi legal contexts , e.g a political party rule book, is that the IHRA thing is not the law. But the US First Amendment and the UK Human Rights Act, which guarantee free expression, are the law.

What all this means is that the LP were correct to introduce the notion of intent and the Israelists are ill placed to whinge and whine when the whole of the document they  are advocating for is firmly grounded in the same notion

Stern quotes a colleague….”When you make it about Jews, you lose”. He meant that any attempt to combat antisemitism should not be cast as special protection for Jews. Stern spends most of his time fighting to prevent the thing being adopted in adversarial contexts, particularly by colleges and legislative bodies. And, of course, a disciplinary ” tribunal”  of a political party, is a quasi legal adversrial context.

He keeps half an eye on the UK.

And they will be right. The EUMC “ WORKING DEFINITION” was recently adopted in the UK and applied to campus. An “Israeli Apartheid “ week event was cancelled as violating the definition. A holocaust survivor was obliged to change the title of a campus talk, and the University mandated it to be recorded, after an Israeli diplomat complained that it violated the definition. Perhaps most egregious of all, an off campus group , citing the definition, called upon the University to conduct an enquiry of a professor for antisemitism, based on an article she had written many years before. The University conducted the enquiry. And while it found no basis to discipline the professor, the exercise itself was chilling and McCarthy like.”

A final word from Stern here.

The Holocaust was certainly driven by hateful ideas about Jews and others. But perhaps the rabbi should have considered that it was also made possible by the silencing of dissent, and official pronouncements of what thoughts were disapproved”

So what now for the LP. A tough one. Three years of appeasing the unappeasable and regular payments of Danegeld may not be recoverable. I don’t know. Howard Jacobson and Ruth Deech are explicit in telling us what the end Game is.

This won’t be over until we have fixed talk about Israel.”

What is certain is that the Party is going to be inundated with a tsunami of complaints, overwhelmingly mendacious, that it will have to deal with. Its resources and energy will be sapped and dissipated on a mammoth scale. Well done Lansman and McDonnell.

Anyone in any way concerned about this issue really should read Stern’s testimony to the CCJ in full. If you can’t be bothered to, well, you can’t be bothered.







6 thoughts on “THE IHRA thing. The beginning”

  1. As you know Stephen I very rarely agree with you.
    That being said I read this first part with some interest and look forward to reading the next two parts.
    When I have read all of it, and checked your links. I will then reflect on your piece in its entirety and decide on whether, I believe, it has any merit or not.


    1. No, Gerald has written.
      If you are hearing voices when you read my posts, then it is time for you to visit a therapist.
      I am waiting for parts two and three before I consider Stephen’s ‘masterpiece’.

      By the way the last time someone was rude enough to use the expression “Get to it, boy” was many decades ago when I was an apprentice working on construction sites. I wonder if they found out where his body was buried.


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