Jerusalem’s Van Leer Institute is hosting a conference this week under the heading of “Defining Antisemitism between History and Politics”. From the outside, this appears to be an academic event on an important and timely issue, particularly given the ongoing rise in different and often violent forms of Jew-hatred, from both the left and the right of the political spectrum.
However, as is often the case when Jews and Israel are involved, the image that is being projected by the hosts is not the full picture. The Institute’s leaders have a clear ideological affiliation and agenda on the left. They describe themselves as cultivating “innovative interdisciplinary research into publicly-significant questions, reflecting our commitment to a just, open society, well-integrated in the region.”
In 2020, Van Leer hosted an event to promote a campaign aimed at undermining the most effective framework for countering modern antisemitism – the 2016 working definition of the International Holocaust remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Their alternative, under the misleading title of “the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism,” is aimed at stripping the IHRA document of many of its most significant examples – specifically the ones that refer to singling out Israel for attack, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and denying the Jewish people, uniquely, the right of self determination and sovereign equality.
This week’s conference, which features a number of ideologues as well as some academics and public figures, takes place against the background of the earlier attack on the IHRA working definition.