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Call by 129 Jewish and Israeli scholars to the French National Assembly: don’t support

resolution equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and endorsing IHRA definition

27 November 2019

Dear Member of the French Parliament,

We, Jewish scholars from Israel and elsewhere, many of whom specialize in anti-Semitism and
in Jewish and Holocaust history, are writing to you in anticipation of a resolution on combatting
anti-Semitism, which the French parliament will debate and put to the vote on December 3rd and

We wish to express our deep concern about the rise in anti-Semitism around the world,
including in France. We view anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism and bigotry as a real
threat that must be fought most forcefully, and urge the French government and parliament to do

While we strongly emphasize this concern, we oppose the tabled resolution on anti-Semitism for
two main reasons and call on you to withhold your signature and support from it.

First, the explanatory statement of the resolution associates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. It
even equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism where it says that “criticizing the very existence
of Israel as a collective composed of Jewish citizens is tantamount to hatred towards the Jewish
community as a whole.”

Before we elaborate, we wish to deplore that the explanatory statement designates Israel “as a
collective composed of Jewish citizens”. Some 20 percent of Israel’s population is composed of
Palestinian citizens, most of whom are Muslims and Christians. The chosen designation
obscures and denies their existence. We consider this highly problematic, also in view of your
country’s commitment to a non-ethnic definition of French citizenship.

Our opinions on Zionism may differ, but all of us, including those who consider themselves
Zionists, think the association of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is fundamentally wrong. To
the many Jews who consider themselves anti-Zionist, it is also deeply offensive.

Anti-Zionism is a legitimate viewpoint in Jewish history, which has a long tradition, including
in Israel. Some Jews oppose Zionism for religious reasons, others for political or cultural
reasons. Many Holocaust victims were anti-Zionists. The tabled motion dishonours them and
disgraces their memory by retroactively calling them anti-Semites.

For Palestinians, Zionism means dispossession, displacement, occupation and structural

inequality. It is cynical and insensitive to stigmatize them as anti-Semites for opposing Zionism.
They oppose Zionism not because they hate Jews, but because they experience Zionism as an
oppressive political movement. It is particularly insensitive to do so, and attesting to a double
standard, considering that Israel is denying Palestine’s right to exist – and undermining its very

No doubt, anti-Semites exist among those opposing Zionism. But there are also plenty of anti-
Semites who support Zionism. It is thus nonsensical and inappropriate to generally identify anti-
Zionism with anti-Semitism. By conflating these two different phenomena, the National
Assembly would undermine the vital efforts to fight the real anti-Semitism, which is multi-
dimensional and coming from different sectors in French society.

Our second objection: the tabled resolution endorses the “working definition” of anti-Semitism
by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

This definition is highly problematic. The resolution asserts that the definition “makes it
possible to designate as precisely as possible what contemporary anti-Semitism is”. In reality,
however, the definition is unclear and indefinite and therefore not an effective instrument to
fight anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, legislation to effectively fight and prosecute anti-Semitism
already exists in France.

The explanatory statement to the tabled resolution says the IHRA definition “does not recognize
criticism of the policies of the State of Israel as antisemitic”. In reality, however, several
“contemporary examples of anti-Semitism” have been attached to the definition, which
intentionally conflate criticism of and opposition to policies of the State of Israel with anti-
Semitism. These examples are presented and treated as an integral part of the definition.

According to the examples and how they are being applied, if you criticize Israel in a way
perceived as double standard, you are an anti-Semite. If you favour a binational or a democratic
one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you are an anti-Semite. So are you, when
you blame Israel for institutionalized racism. One can certainly disagree with these utterances.
But such opinions are considered legitimate and protected by freedom of speech in any other
political context. As a result, the definition creates an unjustified double standard in favour of
Israel and against the Palestinians.

The IHRA definition is already being used to stigmatize and silence critics of the State of Israel,
including human rights organizations and respected experts. This has been condemned by
leading scholars of anti-Semitism. Kenneth Stern, one of the original drafters of the IHRA
definition, has also warned against the definition’s use to undermine free speech.

The key question is: why is all of this happening? We cannot see it detached from the main
agenda of the Israeli government to entrench its occupation and annexation of Palestine, and to
silence any criticism of this agenda.

For years, the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been
denouncing any opposition to its policies as anti-Semitic. Netanyahu himself has been forcefully
pushing the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, as well as the IHRA definition. This
illustrates how the fight against anti-Semitism has been instrumentalized to shield the Israeli

With concern, we note that these endeavours of the Israeli government are getting a political
tailwind, also in France. On 28 May 2019, MP Sylvain Maillard participated in an event
alongside Yossi Dagan, a militant settler leader, who chairs an Israeli state authority in charge of
settlements in the occupied West Bank. As you know, MP Maillard initiated the present
resolution on anti-Semitism – notably a few days before the event with Dagan.

We thus urge you: fight anti-Semitism and all forms of racism – but do so without aiding the
Israeli government’s agenda of occupation and annexation.
The tabled resolution is not a credible and effective way to do so. Anti-Semitism needs to be
fought on universal grounds, along other forms of racism and bigotry, to counter hate.
Abandoning this universal approach will lead to further polarization in France, which would
also harm the fight against anti-Semitism.

In this context, we note the tabled resolution is also at odds with the position of CNCDH, the
French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights. In its 2018 Report on the Fight
Against Racism, CNCDH warned the IHRA definition risks weakening the French universal
approach to fighting racism and insisted “on vigilance not to confuse between racism and
legitimate criticism of a State and its policy”.

We urge you: don’t sign and support a resolution that falsely equates anti-Zionism with
anti-Semitism. Don’t sign and support a resolution that endorses IHRA’s politicized
definition of anti-Semitism, particularly if it does so without any distance to the
definition’s problematic examples relating to Israel.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. Howard Tzvi Adelman, Associate Professor of History and of Jewish History,
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
Dr. Karin Adelman, physician
Prof. Ofer Aharony, Faculty of Physics, Weizmann Institute of Science
Prof. (emeritus) Mateo Alaluf, Institute of Sociology, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Prof. Gadi Algazi, Professor of Medieval History, Department of History, Tel Aviv
University; associate fellow at Re:Work: International Research Center Work and Human
Lifecycle in Global History at Humboldt University, Berlin
Dr. Hila Amit, writer, researcher
Prof. Gil Anidjar, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Department, Columbia
Dr. Seth Anziska, Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London
Prof. Yonathan Anson, Department of Social Work, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Prof. Jean-Christophe Attias, Professor and Chair of Medieval Jewish Thought, École
pratique des hautes études, Université PSL, Paris
Prof. (emerita) Elsa Auerbach, English Department, University of Massachusetts Boston
(daughter of German Holocaust refugees)
Prof. (emeritus) Joel Beinin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of
Middle East History, Stanford University
Prof. Avner Ben-Amos, Department of History, Tel Aviv University
Yaara Benger Alaluf, independent scholar
Dr. Ayelet Ben-Yishai, Department of English Language, University of Haifa
Prof. Andrew Stuart Bergerson, History Department, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Prof. Michael Berkowitz, Professor of Modern Jewish History, Department of Hebrew and
Jewish Studies, University College London
Prof. Louise Bethlehem, English and Cultural Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Prof. David Blanc, Department of Mathematics, University of Haifa
Prof. Daniel D. Blatman, Head of Avraham Harman Research Institute of Contemporary
Jewry, Max and Rita Haber Chair in Contemporary Jewry and Holocaust Studies, The
Hebrew University Jerusalem
Prof. Hagit Borer, Fellow of the British Academy; Fellow of the Linguistics Society of
America; Chair in Linguistics, SLLF, Queen Mary University of London
Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, University of California at
Berkeley, Fellow American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Von Humboldt Senior Laureate
Dr. Rony Brauman, physician, Professor at University of Manchester
Prof. (emeritus) Jose Brunner, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science
and Ideas and Buchmann Faculty of Law, Director, Eva & Marc Besen Institute for the Study
of Historical Consciousness, co-founder of Israel’s first legal clinic for the rights of
Holocaust survivors, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory,
University of California, Berkeley
Prof. (emerita) Jane Caplan, Professor of Modern European History, University of Oxford;
Emeritus Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford; Marjorie Walter Goodhart Professor
Emeritus of European History, Bryn Mawr College; Visiting Professor, Birkbeck, University
of London
Dr. Nina Caputo, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Florida
Prof. Michael Chanan, Professor of Film and Video, University of Roehampton, London
Prof. Stephen Clingman, Distinguished University Professor, Department of English,
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dr. Eyal Clyne, unaffiliated
Prof. James Cohen, Institut du monde anglophone, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3
Prof. Alon Confino, Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies, Director of The Institute for
Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies, Department of History, University of
Mike Cushman, research fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science
Dr. Hilla Dayan, Department of Sociology, Amsterdam University College
Prof. (emerita) Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun, Faculty of Social Sciences, University Paris
Diderot Paris 7
Prof. Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Professor of Comparative Literature, Hebrew University of
Dr. Tal Dor, adjunct researcher, Experice, Université Paris 8
Prof. (emeritus) Tommy Dreyfus, Mathematics Education, School of Education, Tel Aviv
University, Awardee of the Felix Klein Medal
Prof. David Enoch, Faculty of Law and Department of Philosophy, Hebrew University of
Prof. (emerita) Judith Ferster, English Department, North Carolina State University
Dr. Cynthia Franklin, Department of English, University of Hawaii
Prof. (emeritus) Gideon Freudenthal, The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of
Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University
Prof. (emeritus) Chaim Gans, Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Tamar Garb, Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art, Director of Institute
of Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, University College London
Katharina Galor, Hirschfeld Visiting Associate Professor, Program in Judaic Studies,
Brown University
Prof. Shai Ginsburg, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University
Prof. Rachel Giora, Department of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Snait Gissis, Faculty of Humanities, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Amos Goldberg, Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew
University of Jerusalem
Prof. (emeritus) Steve Golin, History Department, Bloomfield College
Prof. Neve Gordon, Professor of International Law and Marie Curie Fellow, Queen Mary
University of London
Prof. Joel Gordon, The Department of History, University of Arkansas Fayetteville
Prof. Nir Gov, Department of Chemical and Biological Physics, Weizmann Institute of
Dr. Yann Guillaud, lecturer at Sciences Po and the Catholic University of Paris
Dr. Gérard Haddad, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, writer
Dr. Ilana Hammerman, writer, winner of the Yeshayahu Leibowitz Prize (2015)
Prof. David Harel, Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, The
Weizmann Institute of Science; winner of the Israel Prize (2004) and of the EMET prize
Prof. Elizabeth Heineman, Department of History, University of Iowa
Dr. Shir Hever, Political Science, Free University of Berlin
Prof. Eva Jablonka, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel
Aviv University
Michal Kaiser-Livne, psychoanalyst, Berlin Institute for Group Analysis
Dr. Brian Klug, senior research fellow and tutor in Philosophy, University of Oxford,
honorary fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations,
University of Southampton
Prof. (emeritus) Yehoshua Kolodny, Institute of Earth Sciences, Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, winner of the Israel Prize (2009)
Dr. Hubert Krivine, physicist
Pascal Lederer, physicist, honorary research director at the French National Centre for
Scientific Research (CNRS)
Prof. (emeritus) Micah Leshem, Department of Psychology, University of Haifa
Dr. Les Levidow, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University, United
Dr. Mark Levene, emeritus fellow, Department of History, University of Southampton UK;
Parkes Centre for Jewish/non-Jewish Relations; winner of the Institute for the Study of
Genocide, New York; Lemkin prize (2015)
Prof. Joseph Levine, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dr. R. Ruth Linden, President Tree of Life Health Advocates, San Francisco; co-founder of
the Bay Area Holocaust Oral History Project
Adi Liraz, interdisciplinary artist, instructor relating to the history of Jews in Greece and in
Dr. Rachel Livne-Freudenthal, Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem
Prof. (emeritus) Moshé Machover, Professor of Philosophy, University of London
Joëlle Marelli, independent scholar, former program director at the College International de
Philosophie, Paris
Dr. Anat Matar, Philosophy Department, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Yehoshua Mathias, senior lecturer, School of Education, Hebrew University of
Prof. David Mednicoff, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Public Policy,
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dr. Oded Na’aman, The Martin Buber Society of Fellows, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Dr. Sheryl Nestel, independent scholar
Prof. Isaac Nevo, Associate Professor, Philosophy
Prof. (emerita) Benita Parry, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Warwick
Hadas Pe’ery, lecturer at the The Buchmann Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv University;
laureate of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Award for Composers
Prof. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, School of Education, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; The
David Yellin Academic College of Education; co-winner of the Sakharov Prize (2001)
Prof. Yael Politi, Center for Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering, Technische Universität
Dr. David Ranan, Birkbeck University, London
Prof. (emerita) Ada Rapoport-Albert, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University
College London
Ben Ratskoff, University of California, Los Angeles
Prof. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, Jewish History
Prof. (emerita) Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Departments of English Literature and
Comparative Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; member of the Israel Academy of
Sciences and Humanities
Dr. Noa Roei, Literary and Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam
Prof. (emerita) Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz
Prof. Dana Ron, Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University
Prof. (emeritus) Steven Rose, Professor of Biology and Neurobiology, The Open
University, United Kingdom
Prof. (emeritus) Jonathan Rosenhead, Professor of Operational Research, Department of
Management, London School of Economics and Political Science
Prof. David M. Rosenthal, Cognitive Science Concentration Graduate Center, City
University of New York
Prof. Michael Rothberg, 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies,
Department of Comparative Literature, University of California; specializes in Holocaust
Dr. E. Natalie Rothman, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, University of
Toronto Scarborough
Prof. Catherine Rottenberg, Department of American and Canadian Studies, University of
Dr. Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard
Dr. Hannah Safran, Haifa Feminist Research Center
Dr. Ariel Salzmann, Department of History, Queen’s University, Ontario
Catherine Samary, economist (ret.), Paris Dauphine University
Prof. (emeritus) Donald Sassoon, Professor of Comparative European History, Queen
Mary, University of London
Prof. (emerita) Naomi Scheman, Philosophy and Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies,
University of Minnesota
Prof. (emerita) Joan Scott, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of Appeal, England and Wales; former UK Judge
ad hoc at European Court of Human Rights; former visiting professor of law, Oxford
Prof. (emeritus) Graeme Segal, Mathematics, All Souls College
Prof. Gershon Shafir, Department of Sociology, University of California, San Diego
Prof. (emerita) Alice Shalvi, English Departments, Hebrew University Jerusalem and Ben-
Gurion University of the Negev; former Rector Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; winner
of the Israel Prize (2007), co-winner of the Leibowitz Prize (2009), winner of the Bonei Zion
Prize (2017)
Dr. Dimitry Shevchenko, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Asian Studies, The
Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. (emeritus) Avi Shlaim, Department of Politics and International Relations, St.
Antony’s College and University of Oxford; Fellow of the British Academy
Prof. David Shulman, Department of Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
member Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, winner of the EMET Prize (2010) and
of the Israel Prize (2016)
Dr. Dmitry Shumsky, Department of Jewish history and Head of the Cherrick Center for the
Study of Zionism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Lisa Stampnitzky, lecturer in Politics, Department of Politics and International
Relations, University of Sheffield
Prof. Marc Steinling, physician, biophysicist, honorary Professor of Universities (son of
French resistants FTP-MOI)
Prof. Sacha Stern, Head of Department, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College
Prof. (emeritus) Zeev Sternhell, Léon Blum Professor emeritus, Hebrew University of
Jerusalem; Israel Prize Laureate in Political Science; Member of the Israel Academy of
Sciences and Letters; International Honorary member American Academy of Arts and
Howard Rechavia Taylor, Columbia University
Prof. Barry Trachtenberg, Michael R. and Deborah K. Rubin Presidential Chair of Jewish
History, Department of History, Wake Forest University
Prof. (emeritus) Rolf Verleger, psychologist, member of the Central Council of Jews in
Germany 2005-2009
Dominique Vidal, historian and journalist
Prof. Roy Wagner, Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences, ETH Zürich
Dr. Yair Wallach, Head of the Centre for Jewish Studies, Department of the Languages and
Cultures of the Near and Middle East, SOAS, University of London
Daphna Westerman, MA Fine Arts Bauhaus-University, Weimar
Prof. Diane L. Wolf, Department of Sociology, University of California, Davis
Prof. (emeritus) Niza Yanay, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev
Prof. (emeritus) Moshe Zimmermann, former director of the Richard Koebner Minerva
Center for German History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Prof. (emeritus) Moshe Zuckermann, The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of
Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University