More than 350 academics sign letter backing IHRA definition of antisemitism

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

More than 350 academics sign letter backing IHRA definition of antisemitism

Signatories to letter, which has been endorsed by the International Legal Forum, include professors from the UK, US, UAE and Israel

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Protesters with a sign opposing antisemitism  (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa)
Protesters with a sign opposing antisemitism (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa)

More than 350 academics from across the globe have signed a letter released on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day backing the international definition of antisemitism.

The letter, which has been endorsed by the International Legal Forum, includes signatories from the UK, America, and from the Arab and Israeli world from differing political spectrums – but who all are united over the belief that International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an “invaluable tool” in response to rising anti-Jewish racism.

Amongst the names on the Open Letter are the University of Oxford’s Dr Charles Asher Small,  Dr David Hirsh of Goldsmiths, University of London, Professor Efraim Karsh of Kings College and Dr Majid Al Sarrah, of the United Arab Emirates and expert in public policy at the London School of Economics.

The letter states that the IHRA working definition “recognises that contemporary antisemitism is often directed against the State of Israel”, focusing “obsessively on Zionism”, which antisemites seek to “malign and oppose”. 

In doing so, the signatories say, this “cannot be understood as anything but an assault on Jewish history, identity and safety.”

It adds: “When Israel’s very existence is delegitimised and threatened, when Israelis and Jews are excluded because of their association with the Jewish state, and when antisemitic conspiracies and tropes flourish under the guise of anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism, we recognize that this is antisemitism.”

Acknowledging  that academia is the backbone of today’s intellectual discussion and framing of the conversation about antisemitism, the letter also notes that Jewish students in particular, are on the front-line of this campaign of hatred, violence and intimidation.

The International Legal Forum (ILF), is an Israel-based legal network of over 3,000 lawyers and activists in 30 different countries, committed to the fight against antisemitism, terror and the delegitimization of Israel in the international legal arena. 

Arsen Ostrovsky, Chair and CEO of ILF said  “It is imperative in order to defeat this virus of antisemitism and change the narrative, where false claims and malicious distortions of truth are dangerously disguised as acceptable criticism of Zionism and Israel, that we first define that which we are trying to defeat. T​he IHRA working definition of antisemitism offers the best, most widely endorsed and professional means by which to achieve that.”

Other UK academics to have signed the letter include Liverpool University’s Dr Katherine Harbord, Kingston University’s Professor Phillip Spencer and Professor James Mendelsohn of the University of the West of England.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: