Tuesday, January 04, 2022

On Using IHRA To Defend Emma Watson

The other day, Emma Watson (or whoever runs her social media account -- it's possible she's handed over the reins) posted the message "Free Palestine". This resulted in perfectly predictable commentary, including Danny Danon calling her an "antisemite". My immediate contribution was to note that, since saying "Free Palestine" does not in any way plausibly violate the IHRA definition of antisemitism, "I look forward to the many who vociferously promote IHRA as the key definition of antisemitism to castigate Ambassador Danon for his wrongful claim."

As it happens, I have been relatively pleased to see how many people -- and not just the obvious suspects, I'm talking about people who are IHRA backers -- are indeed pushing back on Danon. That's a good thing! But it is interesting that I've seen virtually no instances where such persons have cited IHRA as a reason for why Danon was wrong to call Watson an antisemite. There have been no, or nearly no, cases of persons saying "according to the IHRA definition, this is not an instance of antisemitism."

This goes to a point I've been harping on about IHRA (and, in the opposite direction, JDA). It is not the case that IHRA backers think every single thing they don't like is antisemitic. But it is mostly the case that IHRA is only cited in order to say "this thing that is being called antisemitic, is antisemitic"; never to say "this thing that is being called antisemitic, is not antisemitic." JDA has the opposite problem -- it's not that JDA backers think literally nothing is antisemitic, but JDA is virtually always cited to say "this is not antisemitic" and never to say "this is antisemitic."

The problem here isn't one of hypocrisy or inconsistency, precisely. Again, that people -- including those who support IHRA -- are acknowledging that Watson said nothing antisemitic, and that Danon was wrong to claim otherwise, belies the notion that all they want out of life is to call anything squirmy about Israel antisemitic. But it is revealing regarding IHRA's own utility in public discourse about antisemitism and Israel -- it wouldn't occur to anyone to use it to bolster a defense against the charge of antisemitism, even in cases where we might agree the defense has the better of the argument. Unconsciously, perhaps, we all know that isn't IHRA's role.

No comments: