The Zionist Federation of Australia welcomes the University of Melbourne’s adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “This move is a strong step forward in the fight against antisemitism on campus and in society as a whole. This is an example of real leadership, and we acknowledge and thank the former Chancellor Allan Myers AC KC and Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell for their engagement on this issue. By adopting the Working Definition, Melbourne University is taking a meaningful step to demonstrate to Jewish students that antisemitism on campus will not be tolerated.”
Mr Leibler continued, “The IHRA working definition is widely accepted as the most comprehensive and accurate definition of antisemitism currently in use. It recognises that antisemitism can take many forms, including traditional forms such as hate speech and violence, as well as more subtle and insidious forms such as delegitimisation, demonisation and double standards in relation to Israel”.
Mr Leibler concluded, “By becoming the first Australian university to adopt the IHRA Working Definition, the University of Melbourne has demonstrated the leadership expected of Australia’s top-ranked university. We call on other universities to follow its lead and adopt the IHRA Working Definition.”
In 2021, the Australian Government adopted the IHRA working definition, in a bipartisan decision. Since then, the majority of Australian states—including Victoria—have adopted or endorsed the definition. The Working Definition specifies that criticism of Israel is not in and of itself antisemitic, but that denying to Jews the right to self-determination is.
Originally developed as a European Union educational tool, the Working Definition of Antisemitism was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Since then, dozens of countries, businesses and educational institutions have adopted or otherwise embraced the Working Definition as the best description of modern antisemitism. IHRA is an international state-level organisation of which Australia is a member.
Antisemitism is increasing in Australia and around the world. Jewish students are facing increased levels of verbal and physical intimidation on campus, including death threats. Much of this discrimination is justified by its perpetrators as anti-Israel activism, which is why the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is so important—because it acts as a tool for well-intentioned people to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitic discrimination.
Last year, Melbourne University’s student union demonstrated the need for the IHRA Working Definition when it passed an antisemitic motion that resulted in Jewish students feeling unsafe on campus. That motion, which implicitly denied Jewish indigeneity to Israel, along with other explicit lies, evidently made the Melbourne University Council realise the worth of the Working Definition as an educational tool.