On the political role of the German Left in the campaign against the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism

Gerald M. Steinberg Discussion

As the acceptance and influence of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism (WDA) has expanded, campaigns to counter and replace this have also expanded.  The main alternative is known as the Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism (JDA) which removes the core Israel-related examples. As the name indicates, the supporters of the JDA seek to legitimize their document as an Israeli-led effort. However, there is considerable evidence that the main authors and forces behind this are German left political actors, specifiically from the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS), which is the political foundation arm of Die Linke, and from the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) at the Berlin Technical University. (See my recent publication -- The Central Political Role of German Left Actors in the Campaign to Replace the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.26613/jca.5.2.116/html -- Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism 5.2) In addition to placing this development in the context of German left ideological agendas, citing the publications of Jeffrey Herf, among others, I argue that based on the recognition that a German-based text would have less appeal than one with the Jerusalem label, this declaration is presented as having been produced by an Israeli left think-tank -- the Van Leer Institute.

In parallel on the subject of German left politics and antisemitism, note the ongoing debate on antisemitism in Germany's Documenta art festival -- see for example the essay by Ben Cohen (https://www.jns.org/opinion/getting-away-with-it-germanys-documenta-art-festival/ --  and his presentation at the ISCA Indiana University speaker series (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fK9LYy3QxY&ab_channel=ISCAIndianaUniversity)

The objective of this discussion is to shine more light on the involvement of the German left in the conflict over the IHRA WDA and the broader issue of defining contemporary antisemitism.

Gerald Steinberg

Political Science, Bar Ilan University