University campus (stock image)
University campus (stock image)iStock

Aberdeen University was blasted by the main body representing the Scottish Jewish community for rejecting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in favour of the Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism (JDA), which is popular with anti-Israel activists.

The move came after the university implemented a two-year consultation, at the end of which they alleged that the IHRA definition impacted speech criticizing Israel, the UK Jewish News reported.

The university’s move to adopt the JDA went against an earlier decision by the university’s “race definitions task and finish group” who proposed in May 2021 that the IHRA definition should be adopted, Scottish news site The Ferret reported.

The IHRA definition was also criticized at a meeting of the university’s senate in September 2021, where it was alleged to “impinge too heavily on academic freedom and the work of academics” and that the JDA was a “fairer and clearer definition and set of guidelines.”

The meeting weighed heavily on the university’s decision not to adopt the IHRA, according to the report.

The selection of the JDA was applauded by various anti-Israel and BDS groups, including the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice for Labour.

The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities blasted the school’s decision, describing it as “indulging in second-order antisemitism.”

“If the critics of the IHRA Definition (originally devised by the EU Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia) had taken the trouble to read it, they would see that far from ‘defining antisemitism as any critique of the state of Israel’, it explicitly says the opposite – the second paragraph begins ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” a Council spokesperson told the Jewish News. “Unfortunately however there is no shortage of antisemitism of all kinds on campuses, and universities and their staff should be at the forefront of stamping it out.”

The IHRA definition has been widely adopted across the world at various levels of government, including by 38 countries; UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres; UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed; the European Union Council, Parliament and Commission; the Secretary General of the Organization of American States; and the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.