On Monday, 244 academics attacked Campaign Against Antisemitism and the International Definition of Antisemitism in a letter published in The Guardian (and not for the first time either). The academics claimed that we were stifling criticism of Israel rather than acting against genuine Jew-hatred. It was not long before The Independent was repeating the claims.
Neither paper had the decency to seek our comment before publishing the claims and indeed The Guardian initially refused to publish our reply to the letter.
After we lodged a formal complaint against The Guardian and The Independent, The Guardian agreed to publish the following letter. We will continue to pursue the outstanding elements of our complaints.
The International Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the Prime Minister following a long campaign does not conflate antisemitism and criticism of Israel. Those who oppose the definition are simply blind to Jew-hatred. When the lynch mob of academics who wrote to you read the definition, they will have seen that it says that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. Their letter is therefore a deceit, because they claim that all they want to do is rationally criticise Israel and they fear that we will call them antisemites. That would be conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and as they well know, under this definition they have nothing to fear.
What the definition does consider to be antisemitic is calling Jews or the Jewish state the successor to the Nazis. That is not criticism, it is hate speech. The definition equally calls those who engage in spreading conspiracy myths about Jewish subterfuge and nefarious power antisemites, and of course the definition is right.
The 244 academics who signed the letter condemning Campaign Against Antisemitism are, in fact, engaging in the greatest of academic crime: dishonesty. It is therefore no wonder that we have asked students to gather evidence of antisemitism and send it to us so that we can take it up with universities.
Today, everybody carries in their pockets a high-definition video camera and so Jewish students are thankfully able to prove that they are being intimidated and abused, and we are able to help them. That must be what these academics fear: they fear that the particular brand of antisemitism that disguises itself as discourse about Israel is finally becoming political, social and professional suicide.
This recognition of the full spectrum of antisemitism comes not a moment too soon: on campuses where “oppression” is so frequently discussed, Jewish students are being squeezed out of student life. That is why the Minister of State for Universities has had to take a stand against bullying, unaccountable academics and student leaders who have long enjoyed partaking in the oldest hatred of all.
The International Definition of Antisemitism has been endorsed by thirty-one nations now, not out of fealty to Israel but out of recognition that antisemitism rots society from within, and that Jews are sadly, as ever, on the front line.
Chairman, Campaign Against Antisemitism