Hill Times Columnists Dishonestly Claim IHRA Definition Seeks To Suppress Criticism Of Israel

June 23, 2024

Every group deserves to define the hatred it faces. Every group, except it seems, Jews.

That’s the main thrust in so many words of a recent opinion column in The Hill Times entitled: “Weaponizing IHRA and ignoring foreign interference,” published on June 19 by Louise Smith, an activist with Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and Shenaz Kermalli, a freelance journalist.

Independent Jewish Voices is an organization that following Hamas’ genocidal October 7 massacres, openly defended Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, and Kermalli penned an opinion column tacitly defending Houthi terrorists and who has dishonestly accused Israel of carrying out 9/11 attacks in Gaza.

In their joint column, the pair fixed their gaze on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, the most widely-accepted such definition, having been embraced by dozens of countries, including the Parliament of Canada, multiple provinces, and most importantly, is the normative definition by Jewish communities globally.

What bothers Smith and Kermalli is the IHRA definition’s recognition that anti-Zionism – the denial of the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in their historic homeland – has become a smokescreen for many antisemites. Predictably, the authors oppose that definition, going so far as to mislead readers by claiming that the definition is “used to curb academic freedom by silencing, erasing, dehumanizing, and defaming Palestinians and their allies,” and that “The definition conflates criticism and/or protest of Zionism and colonialism with antisemitism.”

This is all rubbish. The definition spells out in explicit language for anyone honest enough to read it that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Of course, it suits Smith and Kermalli far better to hide this fatal flaw in their argument from readers.

Despite the best efforts of pro-Hamas mobs to mainstream overt anti-Jewish rhetoric in society, such antisemitism remains on the fringes. How antisemites have gotten around this challenge is by cloaking their hate under the guise of “anti-Zionism.” That is precisely why the IHRA definition is important: to unmask this cynical effort and show it for what it is.

More critically, it is utterly outlandish to have two anti-Zionists – one of whom is a hijab-wearing Muslim – seek to define what constitutes Zionism and antisemitism.

As British barrister Natasha Hausdorff recently pointed out at the Munk Debate in Toronto: “Would you ask a misogynist to define misogyny? You wouldn’t ask a sex offender to define rape. You wouldn’t ask the KKK to define anti-Black racism. So why, when it comes to the Jews, would you let the anti-Zionists define anti-Zionism.”

That is exactly what Smith and Kermalli are seeking to do in their column; allow those who seek to delegitimize and deny the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in their own land to define Zionism and antisemitism.

All while assailing the IHRA definition of antisemitism, the pair unironically then called on institutions to embrace a definition of so-called “anti-Palestinian racism,” a highly charged and controversial definition which seeks to effectively demonize anyone who rejects anti-Israel propaganda.

Smith and Kermalli are fringe anti-Israel radicals who have no business being in the pages of The Hill Times, let alone having the gall to demand how to define anti-Jewish hatred.

Take action now by sending a letter to the editor to the Hill Times. Send letters to: news@hilltimes.com.

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