Prominent legal blog calls out anti-IHRA letter from Jewish professors

The UCR sign at the center of the University of California, Riverside, covered in pro-Palestine, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist symbols, April 30, 2024. Credit: Fluffy89502 via Wikimedia Commons.

A group of “Concerned Jewish Faculty Against Antisemitism” issued a letter opposing efforts by states, universities and other entities to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.

The almost 1100 professors state that the definition, which has been adopted by 43 countries and over 30 U.S. states, to provide guidance as to whether the suspect in a crime that had been committed had antisemitic intent, conflates antisemitism with “legitimate criticism of Israel.” All Southern states except for Mississippi and North Carolina have adopted the definition, and on May 9 the North Carolina House overwhelmingly voted in favor.

The open letter states that “the IHRA definition will delegitimize and silence Jewish Americans — among others — who advocate for Palestinian human rights or otherwise criticize Israeli policies,” and that the definition will reinforce a notion that “Jewish identity is inextricably linked to every decision of Israel’s government.”

Instead, the professors promote the Nexus Document or the Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism, which carve out most of the anti-Israel rhetoric currently being espoused in campus demonstrations as not being antisemitic.

The Jerusalem Declaration, developed and promoted by academics and activists who are critical of Israel, states that holding a double standard on Israel’s action, or promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement against Israel, are not necessarily antisemitic, nor are “evidence-based” claims of Israel being a colonial-settler or apartheid state.

David Bernstein, a university professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School and executive director of its Liberty and Law Center, wrote in the legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy that much of the opposition to the Antisemitism Awareness Act over its codification of the IHRA definition “has been hysterical and counterfactual.”

The IHRA definition “never says that criticism of Israel, etc., is ‘in and of itself’ antisemitic. Indeed, it specifically says ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’,” Bernstein writes.

“Not only have Jewish critics of Israel, indeed Jews who don’t think Israel should exist, not been silenced, it seems like they never shut up,” he added. “The latter group is a tiny fringe of the Jewish community, but they appear disproportionately in both mainstream and social media.”

Among the Concerned Jewish Faculty signatories in this region are:

Mollie Barnes, Associate Professor, University of South Carolina Beaufort

Emily Berman, Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center

Michael Carbajales-Dale, Associate Professor, Clemson University

Geoffrey Claussen, Professor of Religious Studies, Elon University

Bruce Cohen, Asst Professor, Preceptor Community Med., Mercer University School of Medicine

Debra Rae Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English Emerita, University of South Carolina

Joshua Cooper, Professor of Mathematics, University of South Carolina

Elyse Crystall, Teaching Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Gina Di Salvo, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee

Lise Dobrin, Professor of Anthropology, University of Virginia

D.R. Dow, Cullen Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center

Rebecca Epstein-Levi, Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University

William Forbath, Chair in Law and Professor of History, UT Austin

Jason Francisco, Associate Professor, Emory University

Jay Geller, Professor of Modern Jewish Culture Emeritus, Vanderbilt University

Sander Gilman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Psychiatry, Emory University

Shai Ginsburg, Associate Professor, Duke University

Jesse Goldstein, Associate Professor of sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University

Robin Goodman, Distinguished Research Professor of English, Florida State University

Joel Gordon, Professor, University of Arkansas

Ruth Grant, Professor Emerita of Political Science, Duke University

Jeffrey Grossman, Associate Professor, University of Virginia

Lauren Gutterman, Associate Professor of American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Luke Herrine, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Alabama

Erin Hochman, Associate Professor of History, Southern Methodist University

Eli Jelly-Schapiro, Associate Professor of English, University of South Carolina

Diane Kemker, Visiting Professor of Law, Southern University Law Center

Aaron Kemmerer, Instructor, Virginia Commonwealth University

Lauren Klein, Associate Professor, Emory University

Thomas Kleven, Professor of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University

Janet Kolodner, Professor of the Practice, Boston College, and Regents’ Professor Emerita, Georgia Institute of Technology

Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner, Associate Professor, University of Virginia

Allan Kulikoff, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Georgia

Adam Levine, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Duke University

Holly Lewis, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Texas State University

Clayton Lust, Professor of History, Lone Star College, Montgomery

Jared Margulies, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Alabama

Elizabeth (Libby) McClure, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Delia Milliron, Professor, University of Texas at Austin

Ram Neta, Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Ranen Omer-Sherman, Endowed Chair of Jewish Studies, University of Louisville

Michal Osterwell, Teaching Professor, UNC Chapel Hill

Michael Palm, Associate Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill

Virginia Patterson, Partner, Hollins University

Sarah E. Raskin, Associate Professor, Wilder School, Virginia Commonwealth University

Mark Rifkin, Linda Arnold Carlisle Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Professor of English, University of North Carolina Greensboro

Elizabeth Rivlin, Associate Professor of English, Clemson University

Alexander Rosenberg, Professor of Philosophy, Duke University

Jennifer Rubenstein, Associate Professor, University of Virginia

Doron Samuel-Siegel, Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law

Monica Sandler, Visiting Assistant Professor, Emory University

Brent Sasley, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Arlington

Amy Sater, Professor of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston

Steven Seegel, Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Joshua Shanes, Professor, Jewish Studies, College of Charleston

Saar Shemesh, Adjunct Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University

Sarah Shields, Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Sam Shuman, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Davidson College

Martin Shuster, Professor of Philosophy and Isaac Swift Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Matthew Shutzer, Assistant Professor of History, Duke University

Irene Silverblatt, Professor Emerita, Duke University

Shana Sippy, Associate Professor of Religion, Centre College, Danville, KY

Brent Sirota, Associate Professor of History, North Carolina State University

Rebecca Stein, Professor, Duke University

Dorian Stuber, Professor of English, Hendrix College

Barry Trachtenberg, Rubin Presidential Chair of Jewish History, Wake Forest University

Arleen Tuchman, Nelson O. Tyrone, Jr. Chair in History, Emerita, Vanderbilt University

Alan Wallach, Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies Emeritus, The College of William and Mary

Laura Wilkinson, Instructor, Virginia Commonwealth University