Jewish student leaders past and present attack IHRA critics

Ninety-five current and former student activists write to Guardian to defend IHRA definition of antisemitism


Ninety-five past and present Jewish student leaders have written to the Guardian accusing critics of the IHRA definition of antisemitism of ignoring the “reality” of life on campus for those “on the frontline” facing abuse.

In a letter published on Saturday, they wrote that “the commentariat’s analysis of the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism by British universities does not resemble the reality we have witnessed on the ground.”

It was a response to a letter published earlier this month in which a group of lawyers and retired judged claimed IHRA “undermines freedom of expression.”

Concerned that the Guardian’s letters page had been “hijacked” by a small group of campaigners against the definition, the student leaders, offers and JSoc representatives wrote: ”It is time for a discussion of the IHRA definition and its adoption by British universities to reflect the lived realities of Jewish students. Retired judges, activists based in the Middle East and far-left non-Jewish academics are not on the frontline enduring antisemitism on campus – we are.

“We believe that this definition affords Jewish students the best possible protection, and we are the people best equipped to make that judgment.”

Amongst those to join the initiative were James Harris President, Union of Jewish Students (UJS), Jonathan Braun President, World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS), Bini Guttmann, President, European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and Joel Rosen, External affairs officer, Cambridge University Jewish Society,.

Former UJS heads including Ella and Hannah Rose and current UJS President-elect Nina Freedman were also amongst the signatories.

The letter said that UJS “have long been campaigning in good faith for our universities to adopt this definition.”

They have done so “because we seek to protect Jewish students and not the government of the State of Israel.“

Despite claims to the contrary from the critics, the letter writers said IHRA “explicitly states that criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against other states cannot be considered antisemitic.

“The IHRA definition acknowledges that antisemitism can be subtle, and our experience confirms this.”

They added: ”The abuse we face is often cloaked in political discourse.

“When Jewish students who protested against Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to the University of Bristol described being called a ‘filthy zio’ and ‘a puppet of the Zionist lobby’, and being ‘repeatedly asked who was paying [them] to be there’, and told that they ‘should go back to where [they] belong’, they were not encountering criticism of the State of Israel; rather, they were experiencing naked antisemitism.”

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