What is the IHRA re-definition?
The IHRA definition, or rather re-definition, of anti-semitism might at first seem like a fairly straightforward thirty-eight word definition, but it is also associated with eleven examples- seven of which highlight critical statements of Israel as markers of antisemitism. The resolution being voted on by the Montgomery County Council explicitly includes the eleven examples.
I thought this was paused in July?
In July, Montgomery County residents pushed back and it was paused for more deliberation. However, there are indications that the County Council is still pursuing adoption of the resolution.
Are there alternatives that can be made to make the resolution more acceptable?
County Council has done straightforward resolutions on anti-Semitism and the coalition has indicated that they are fine with that. The Coalition is not okay with censoring politically-protected speech which includes criticism of a government, whether it is the US, Israel or any other country and their policies. We feel that these protected-rights are not negotiable.
Montgomery County residents should not be faced with the false dichotomy of choosing between condemning anti-Palestinian racism (e.g., criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.
This is pretty controversial. Why isn’t there a public hearing?
Council Councilmembers have told us they don’t do hearings for resolutions. However, resolutions shouldn’t be this divisive.
What does viewpoint neutral mean?
Viewpoint neutrality is a well-known concept in First Amendment law. It stands for the idea that when government actions implicate the speech rights of groups and individuals, those actions must be done in an even- handed way. They may not discriminate based on the message advocated.
Is it true that the drafter of the IHRA definition expressed concern about its use?
Yes, Kenneth Stern has been critical of the way that it is being weaponized to silence speech. You can read more here.
Isn’t this just symbolism?
Symbolism matters. Look at the Confederate statutes erected during Jim Crow. They sent a clear message to African-Americans to be silent. The dismantling of the statutes are also symbolic. They send the message that there is a desire to dismantle structural racism.
Tell me more about the American Association of University Professors?
When President Trump adopted the IHRA re-definition, there were also threats to the teaching of critical race theory. The AAUP drafted a statement that addressed both of these threats to academic freedom. You can read the statement here.
Is Montgomery County unique in regard to this issue?
Sorta. Since President Trump adopted the IHRA re-definition of anti-Semitism, there has been a national campaign to adopt the re-definition in communities across the country. For right-wing communities this has been promulgated overtly. However, for left and central communities it has been pushed clandestinely, such as in Arlington, VA and Washington DC.
If this was adopted in Montgomery County, we would be the first liberal community that overtly adopted the resolution.
Do have any materials that we can circulate?
How can I be more engaged?
Write to Susan Kerin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Coalition members would also be happy to discuss the campaign with your community.