OK, GOP, let’s put that antisemitism definition into effect!

(RNS) — In their zeal to protect us Jews, Republicans are pushing to codify what’s known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism — last week via an Antisemitism Awareness Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and this week via a Shalom Act in the North Carolina House.

Designed as a research tool for identifying antisemitism, the IHRA definition consists of a vague description of the prejudice followed by a list of 11 things that might constitute it. The definition was never meant to be made into law. 

A widespread charge is that the definition seeks to preempt legitimate criticism of Israel, and there’s no doubt one of its central concerns is to protect Israel from being attacked with old antisemitic tropes. For example, the ninth item on the list reads: “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”

Among the most trenchant critics of its codification is Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who nevertheless decided to vote in favor of the Awareness Act. As he explained, “(I)t seems unlikely that this meaningless ‘gotcha’ legislation can help much — but neither can it hurt much, and it may now bring some people despairing over manifestations of antisemitism a sense of consolation.”

Well, but maybe it can help a little, especially if Republicans take to heart Jesus’ admonition to “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!” I propose they begin by imitating The Washington Post’s practice of awarding up to four Pinocchios for politicians’ mendacities, using swastikas instead of Pinocchios to rate alleged violations of the IHRA definition.

Take Marjorie Taylor Greene (please). To her credit (did I just write that?), she voted against the Awareness Act because, she posted on X, while “Antisemitism is wrong,” the ninth item on the IHRA list “could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews.”

Last I checked, the Gospel (Luke 23) says it was Pilate who handed Jesus over to Herod, after which Herod handed Jesus back to the Roman governor to be crucified. Whatever. Her evident desire is to be able to blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion with impunity. 

I’d say the IHRA definition includes the classic version of this claim. Recommendation: Three swastikas.

As logs go, Greene should be pretty easy for Republicans to take out, given how roundly her colleagues reviled her abortive effort to vacate House Speaker Mike Johnson this week. A harder case is that big orange log running to recapture the presidency. How far has he run afoul of the IHRA definition?

Item 3 on the IHRA list is: “Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.” 

After the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, whose slogan was “Jews will not replace us,” Trump commented that there were “very fine people on both sides.” In 2022, Trump had dinner at his Florida home with right-wing activist Nick Fuentes and entertainer Kanye West, both of whom are notorious for antisemitic pronouncements.

Praising or consorting with antisemites does not violate the IHRA definition. Recommendation: 0 swastikas.

Item 6 on the IHRA list is: “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

In 2019, Trump accused Jews who vote Democratic of “great disloyalty” but by that he meant disloyalty to Israel. As he said later, “Jewish people who live in the United States don’t love Israel enough.”

By accusing Jews of being disloyal to Israel, Trump plays on the old charge of dual loyalty, slyly suggesting that “good Jews” could be so charged. That constitutes an indirect violation of the IRHA definition. Recommendation: One swastika.

Item 2 on the IHRA list : “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Trump specializes in stereotypical allegations about lots of groups, and Jews are no exception. He has frequently portrayed Jews as obsessed with money and tough negotiators. Recommendation: One swastika.

In his 2016 campaign, Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton surrounded by money with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” inside a six-pointed star, the shape of the Star of David. He also ran an ad warning of “global special interests” showing several prominent Jews, including Janet Yellen, Lloyd Blankfein and George Soros.

Last summer, the Trump presidential campaign sent out an email with a picture of Soros behind the White House acting as puppeteer of President Biden, who says, “I thought when I got to be president I’d get to give orders. But I take more orders than I ever did.” Recommendation: Four swastikas.

Previous ArticleNext Article