Israeli riot cops assault mourners at the funeral of murdered journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (inset).

The Victorian government last week adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism. Speaking at a function celebrating the 74th anniversary of Israel's Independence Day, Premier Dan Andrews stated that "adopting this definition ensures that Jewish history can never be rewritten or diminished."1 Anarchist Communists Meanjin would like to point out, however, that rewriting history is exactly what this promises to do.

For the Palestinian people, Israel's Independence Day is known as Naqba, the Arabic word for catastrophe, and represents the systematic dispossession and persecution that they have experienced at the hands of the Israeli state since its foundation in 1948. From the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the persistent bombing campaign carried out against the civilian inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, there can be no denying that Israel is an apartheid state. Here is where the problem lies, with the IHRA definition's vague referral to "a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews" that may be "directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property."2 At first glance, this may seem uncontroversial but on review we can observe how the State of Israel conflates itself with Jewish identity and culture, essentially asserting itself as the soul representative of Jewishness and in doing so actively encourages the branding of any criticism of its activities as antisemitic.

It is telling that the IHRA definition was first introduced in Australia by the NSW parliament on March 22 after a motion raised by none other than Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile, an absolutely repulsive excuse of a human being known for his intense hatred of Muslims and LGBTQ+ people. In Victoria it was pushed by LNP members, with Caulfield MP David Southwick arguing in favour of it on the basis of the University of Melbourne Students Union's (UMSU) description of Israel as a "settler colonial state". In his statement, Southwick claimed that this left members of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students "feeling very uncomfortable and very unsafe"3. Southwick and these members of the AUJS, which names Zionism as one of its four pillars, would perhaps do well to consider the discomfort and feelings of insecurity that mourners experienced on May 13 when Israeli riot cops assaulted the funeral procession of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was herself murdered by the Israeli army on May 114. Southwick and his LNP colleagues are not interested in this however and are attempting to use the UMSU's legitimate criticism of the Israeli apartheid state to equate it with groups such as the National Socialist Network!

Following Andrews' speech, the president of Zionism Victoria, Yossi Goldfarb, stated that "The importance of adopting the IHRA definition was underlined just two weeks ago when the University of Melbourne Student Union passed a blatantly antisemitic resolution".5 ACM reiterates that opposing the Israeli state and its campaign of violence against the Palestinian people is not antisemitic. Are parents in the West Bank antisemitic for demanding that Israeli troops not fire gas bombs into their children's schools, as they did in Tal on March 3?6 We don't think so and we don't believe that the UMSU is either for calling out the Israeli state's crimes for what they are. It seems in fact that so far the adoption of the IHRA framework is less concerned with confronting Victoria's neonazi problem and more about suppressing the UMSU.

This is closely related to what ACM predicted would happen when Victoria's ban on nazi symbols was first proposed, that such policies would be extended to include any movement standing outside of the political mainstream and "used disproportionately against the left", that is, "the very forces attempting to combat fascism, capitalism and the state itself."7 In Canada the IHRA definition has already been applied expansively, as writer Michael Bueckert notes, "to censor and stigmatize political expression about Israel, and to disallow Palestinian activism."8 This has included opposition to the Canadian government's positive assessment of Palestinian self-determination at the UN General Assembly, critiquing the United Church of Canada for its partnership with a Palestinian women's group, demands that news outlets also adopt the IHRA definition, attacking anarchist Noam Chomsky for having views against the Israeli state and, similar to the situation with the UMSU, demanding that the University of Toronto clamp down on student groups critical of Israel. When the IHRA definition was adopted by the Irish state, Labour Party member Diana Neslen, herself Jewish, was forced to sue the Labour Party on the basis that it "unlawfully discriminated against her based on her belief in anti-Zionism".9 This was supported by Jewish Voice for Just Peace -- Ireland, which made clear that it "opposes the use of the IHRA to silence criticism of Israel."10 In our view, the definition's vagueness gives proponents of Israeli state violence the justificatory framework they need to label anybody that they perceive as being even remotely less than 100% fine and cool with Israeli state policy as antisemitic.

ACM stands in solidarity with the UMSU against the allegations of antisemitism being levelled against it and views the adoption of the IHRA definition as a toxic ploy against the movement for peace in the Middle East. ACM members were present at the Nakba march in Brisbane last week and as an organisation we support the Palestinian people in their struggle for justice and autonomy. Likewise, we are of the view that antisemitism must be fought by the people themselves and not through laws and policies introduced by state entities that have themselves blood on their hands. We believe that both the Palestinian and Israeli people must overcome their respective authorities and unite to bring an end to the constant cycle of violence that is imposed on them. From Australia we can support their struggle by remaining vocal in our opposition to Israeli state violence and not allowing people such as Fred Nile and Dan Andrews define what is and is not acceptable criticism.

Anarchist Communists Meanjin organise on the occupied lands of the Jagera, Yugara, Yugarapul, and Turrbal Nations. We pay our respects to elders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.