Letter to the Editor: Toby F. Block
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Letter to the Editor: Toby F. Block

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Hillel, Georgia Tech to Jointly Oppose Anti-Semitism

How sad that Jewish groups fear that adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism will stifle criticism of Israeli policy. While the IHRA does specify that accusing Jews of dual loyalty, denying the Jewish right to self-determination, applying standards to Israel that are not applied to other nations, smearing Israel with classic anti-Jewish accusations (such as “blood libels”), calling Israel a Nazi state, and holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions are examples of anti-Semitism, there is nothing in the definition that would prevent anyone from saying, for instance, “Israel should be providing the Palestinians with COVID-19 vaccine; Israel should have accepted the Saudi Arabian Peace Initiative; Israel should not be expanding Jewish communities in the West Bank; Israel should allow Palestine refugees to return to the homes their forebears lost in 1948.” I personally disagree with each of these statements but they, and similar statements, appear in the media and are promulgated at pro-Palestinian meetings all the time.

The situation at Georgia Tech, which led to Tech’s adopting the IHRA definition, did not arise because of anything said at the Palestine 101 meeting. The case arose because the organizers of the meeting barred the Hillel director from attending. And what of the pro-Israel speakers who have been shouted down by protesters or disinvited because of their views? Examples include Janet Mock, who withdrew from a speaking engagement at Brown University when students protested the fact that Hillel was a co-sponsor of the lecture; Bassem Eid, a Palestinian, whose talk at the University of Chicago was interrupted and shut down by students who accused him of being “pro-Israel;” and Nir Birkat, then mayor of Jerusalem, whose presentation at San Francisco State University was cut short by pro-Palestinian protesters. Similarly, the Islamic Society of North America withdrew an invitation to Wajahat Ali to speak at its national convention. ISNA gave no explanation, but Mr. Ali is sure the organization objected to his speaking directly to Jews about the Israel-Palestine conflict and seeking ways to resolve it.

Toby F. Block, Atlanta

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