Margaret Johnson’s op-ed, “Jews and Muslims must be there for each other” (WJW, Nov. 3), makes several important points in support of Jews and Muslims fighting bigotry, but mischaracterizes in three respects the important role of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism that was incorporated in the Resolution that the Montgomery County Council adopted unanimously on Nov. 1.
First, the op-ed claims that the Council’s adoption of the resolution would be “divisive in intrafaith and interfaith relations.” This would be true only if its opponents choose to make it so, as there is nothing divisive in the definition, which is why it has been embraced by the past four U.S. administrations, 27 U.S. states, 37 countries and others as an important educational tool to identify and combat the rising scourge of antisemitism.
Second, the op-ed claims that the definition conflates antisemitism with criticism of Israel. This is false — in fact, the working definition provides that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” a point reiterated in the Council’s resolution.
Third, the article says many in the Muslim community fear they may be falsely tarred as antisemites because the definition includes as an example of antisemitism, “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” But the unfortunate reality is that while criticism of Israel, including by Israelis, may be well motivated, some criticism of Israel is indeed a manifestation of antisemitism, and it is important to call that out. It depends on the context, as the definition and the Council’s resolution make clear.
The article concludes with a plea to work together against hatred and bigotry. That is a proposition on which we can all agree.