Australia/Israel Review


The Last Word: Defying definition

Aug 3, 2022 | Jeremy Jones

A widely-used definition of antisemitism is provoking some very unsavoury claims (Image: Twitter)
A widely-used definition of antisemitism is provoking some very unsavoury claims (Image: Twitter)

Discussions of the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism have seen some extraordinarily unsavoury commentary.

In the NSW Upper House, Greens MLC Abigail Boyd completely mischaracterised the Working Definition so as to criticise it for failing to do what it actually does do and for doing precisely what it doesn’t. 

With no understanding of the way the definition came about, she framed it as a defence by Israel against “evidence-based criticism” and urged the adoption of the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which has precisely zero support from serious organisations seeking to analyse and respond to contemporary antisemitism.

She claimed that her party stood against antisemitism, but failed to list even one initiative or action it has ever taken in defence of the Jewish community. 

Her party colleague in the South Australian Parliament, Tammy Franks, began by limiting antisemitism to far-right wing extremism, neglecting any other sources of this hatred. 

Having made it clear she didn’t know what forms antisemitism takes, she then said, “What is not as clear is ‘what is a semite?’” before demonstrating an apparent aversion to the most basic of research.

As John Safran wrote on the ABC Religion & Ethics website, “This is like arguing that, because the original meaning of ‘lesbian’ was ‘person from the Greek Island of Lesbos’, a discussion about lesbian bars in Adelaide can’t continue until we have gotten that straight.” 

As Safran noted, Franks was in lockstep with Green Left Weekly, which recently published a piece on “Anti-Arab Antisemitism”.

In his article, which I highly recommend, Safran notes, “The Jews came up with the word [antisemitism] to describe the activity of those clobbering us while calling us Semites. It’s wild that this has been twisted into both an ancient and very modern take; that the Jews are always up to something suspicious, always plotting – in this case, they are culturally appropriating a word that doesn’t belong to them!”

Of course, it is not only Greens who have made ridiculous contributions on this subject. The Honourable Shaoquette Moselmane, an ALP member in the NSW Parliament, continued his tradition of making teenage Trotskyists look like balanced thinkers. The highlight of his speech was saying that the Working Definition “is a political tool being used to deflect criticism of Israel as an apartheid State, which has subjugated, oppressed and dehumanised the Palestinian people for the past seventy years.”

In possibly one of the most infantile comments made by a parliamentarian, Moselmane said, “If members Google the IHRA Definition they will find many documents criticising it.”

His party colleague, the Hon. Antony D’Adam described himself “as the grandson of a refugee from fascism and someone with Jewish ancestry.” He made the bizarre claim that “the definition implies that Israel is a proxy for Jewish people, and it is not,” thus denying that people who do not like Jews as individuals generally do not like the one country where the majority of citizens are Jewish. 

Providing evidence of his ignorance, D’Adam added, “in fact, I would argue that Israel has made Jewish people even more unsafe,” without any coherent explanation of where this stunning conclusion came from. 

Over in New Zealand, long time anti-Israel propagandist John Minto broadened the attack to encompass not just the Working Definition but the globally respected International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. 

IHRA sets the gold standard on Holocaust Remembrance and education, yet Minto framed it as a “partisan political organisation”, saying that he is disgusted his Government has decided to join. 

Let me be clear: opposing Holocaust remembrance and education because you are worried it will give people an understanding of the Middle East which you do not want them to have is about as low a moral act as one can commit.

These Parliamentarians and propagandists should hang their heads in shame.

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