The alarming rise in antisemitism may be incontestable, but there is no consensus on what antisemitism is and what causes it. Even in the Jewish community there is disagreement over what constitutes antisemitism, particularly concerning the thorny question of whether anti-Zionism is an expression of anti-Jewish racism.
Professor Dov Waxman, the featured speaker at this year’s Lillian and Marvin Goldblatt Jewish Studies Lecture, thinks Jews spend too much time arguing about what should count as antisemitism and too little time thinking about how to address antisemitic prejudice in the real world. His talk, titled, “How to Think about Antsemitism: Anti-Jewish Racism?” will take place at McMaster University in October.
The Goldblatt Lecture is an annual lecture series in Jewish Studies created in 2002 by the late Marvin Goldblatt in memory of his wife, Lillian. This year’s lecture, which is co-sponsored by the Hamilton Jewish Federation, is returning after a four-year hiatus.
Dov Waxman is the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair of Israel Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. His research focuses on the conflict over Israel-Palestine, Israeli politics and foreign policy, U.S.-Israel relations, American Jewry’s relationship with Israel, Jewish politics, and contemporary antisemitism. He is the author of four books, most recently, “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Everyone Needs to Know” (Oxford University Press, 2019).
In a Zoom interview with the HJN, Professor Waxman referenced the controversy over the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been endorsed by numerous countries and institutions around the world, but has come under criticism for silencing Palestinian advocacy and censoring free speech. Waxman, who shares those concerns, was involved in drafting the Nexus Document as an alternative to IHRA, that outlines examples of when criticism of Israel is not inherently antisemitic, but said it would be a mistake to exaggerate the importance of any definition.
“Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on these different definitions ... it’s not actually clear what practical effect those endorsements have.”
Waxman says he is much more concerned by expressions of antisemitism from white supremacists, which he calls, “the most threatening form of antisemitism today.”
The Goldblatt Lecture will take place on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023 at 7 p.m. at CIBC Hall, McMaster University Student Centre, 3rd Floor. Admission is free, but registration is recommended at hamiltonjewishfederation.regfox.com/goldblatt-lecture-series. For more information, please contact the Federation office at 905-648-0605.