The Balfour Project opposes all forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination, including antisemitism.
We commend the recent Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism; one year in the making, by international scholars in antisemitism and related fields from Europe, the USA, Canada and Israel. The Declaration is intended as a response to the Working Definition on Antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016, which has been a subject of controversy in the UK and elsewhere.
The authors of the Jerusalem Declaration hold that the IHRA’s definition and the examples it gives are neither clear nor coherent. They argue that the IHRA definition, which has been endorsed by some governments as a good benchmark, blurs the crucial difference between antisemitic speech and legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism. This causes confusion, while delegitimising the voices of Palestinians and others – including Jews – who hold views that are critical of Israel and Zionism. Such confusion, they argue, hinders the fight against the scourge of antisemitism. We at the Balfour Project agree with this important distinction.
The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is very different from the IHRA definition, notably in that it specifies what is NOT antisemitic as well as what is.
The Jerusalem Declaration is not, and does not purport to be, a legal or quasi-legal instrument. It should not be codified into law. Nor should it be used to restrict the legitimate exercise of academic freedom. Most of its authors are Jewish. They include Menachem Klein of the Israeli Policy Working Group, who has spoken at several Balfour Project events. The strength of the Jerusalem Declaration is that it draws on universal principles. It links the legitimate fight against antisemitism with the fight against all other forms of racism. It is thus helpful to British universities and institutions as they try to address this issue.
The publication of the Jerusalem Declaration is an important development. Like everything related to Israel/Palestine, including Britain’s historic responsibilities, it will provoke debate. Those ongoing British responsibilities are the focus of the Balfour Project. We are committed to open discussion. We draw the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism to your attention because it demonstrates the distinguished signatories’ commitment to open discussion.
Sir Vincent Fean
Chair of the Trustees
The Balfour Project
March 29, 2021