Concordia Student Newspaper Delegitimizes Most Widely-Accepted Definition Of Antisemitism, Seeking To Rob Jewish Students Of Self-Determination

June 10, 2024

The Link, a student newspaper at Concordia University, published on May 29 an article seeking to delegitimize the most widely-accepted definition of antisemitism.

The article, written by Maria Cholakova entitled: “Concordia to consider adopting the IHRA antisemitism definition,” stated that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism has been “widely debated,” an ironic description, given that Cholakova presents only one side of that debate.

Cholakova, who has been the subject of multiple HonestReporting Canada alerts for her anti-Israel content, wrote that “IHRA’s definition of antisemitism has been criticized by 128 scholars, who have described it as aiming to ‘discredit and silence legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies as antisemitism.’” At this point, Cholakova could have presented a dissenting opinion, but did not even pretend to offer any semblance of balance.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, adopted its working definition of antisemitism in 2016. In the definition, IHRA states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” pre-empting the inevitable claims that criticism of Israel would come to be viewed as inherently antisemitic if the definition were to be adopted.

Apart from this important caveat in the IHRA definition of antisemitism, Cholakova also omitted from her analysis a key element of the definition: it is both by and for the Jewish People. The definition has been adopted by over 1,200 entities, including 45 countries, Canada included. While no organization can claim to speak for all Jews in all places, the IHRA definition has attracted widespread acceptance across the Jewish world. Antisemitism is an insidious and pervasive hatred, and Jewish people have a basic right to define, on their own terms, what constitutes antisemitism and not have external definitions foisted upon them, particularly by hostile critics.

Other groups who experience hatred and prejudice are certainly afforded this right to define what is hatred of their group. It is only with respect to Jews that commentators insist that everyone be provided a proverbial seat at the table in deciding what is Jew hatred.

In her column, Cholakova went on to summarize Concordia University President Carr’s statements before Parliament with respect to the university’s potential adoption of the IHRA definition, and Concordia’s official position on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel. Concordia, as Carr stated, has officially stood in opposition to BDS since 2014, but a university spokesperson waffled when asked about the adoption of the IHRA definition.

“The university expects that the Standing Together against Racism and Identity-based Violence (STRIVE) Task Force’s subcommittee on antisemitism will evaluate whether the IHRA definition needs to be implemented.”

Concordia’s campus has been a flashpoint for antisemitic rhetoric since 2002 when a violent riot shut down a planned speech by Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not, at that time, prime minister of Israel. Tensions were so high that the university administration shut down all Middle East related programming for a period of months following. Concordia has remained a campus rife with anti-Israel activism where students call for the destruction of the state of Israel, glorify the Intifada: a global call for violence against Jews, and where student-run organizations, such as The Link newspaper where Cholakova’s piece was published, are regularly accused both of anti-Israel bias and of silencing Jewish voices on campus.

It is against this backdrop that Cholakova reported, as though it were unproblematic, that Concordia still needs more time to decide if they ought to adopt the definition of antisemitism used worldwide by governments, universities, and Jewish organizations, the definition that seeks to ensure that Jewish people across the world are not held to account for the actions of the state of Israel, and that appropriately labels as antisemitic any attempts to blame Jewish people or institutions across the diaspora for the perceived faults of the Jewish state. 

To conclude her article, Cholakova stated that in the Parliamentary session where President Carr testified, “several MPs and speakers debated the importance of conflating antisemitism and anti-Zionism.” She may have intended to write the importance of not conflating antisemitism and anti-Zionism, but it reads more accurately as-is. Concordia’s own student agenda from 2001, distributed by the student government, called for Israel’s destruction, while members of that student government were banned from campus for spray-painting antisemitic slogans on campus. Anti-Zionism is so often an (or even the) antecedent for antisemitism.

At the very least, Jewish students at Concordia should have the deciding vote as to whether a particular act is antisemitic or not, a point thoroughly missed by Cholakova and The Link in her May 29 article.


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