Lipstadt tells Senate hearing not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Asked by Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen if she considers criticism of Israel to be antisemitic, Biden’s nominee for antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt says that she does not.

“I don’t think any rational-minded person would think that criticism of Israeli policies is antisemitic,” Lipstadt says during her confirmation hearing.

However, she says that in some instances, criticism of Israel does “cross the line” into antisemitism.

She says IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism is a “helpful tool.” The classification provides a number of examples for when criticism for Israel does cross that line, such as when Israel’s policies are compared to those of the Nazis.

The definition has become more controversial in recent years though, with progressive, pro-Israel groups arguing that it is being used to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.

Lipstadt urges using caution, saying “a lot depends on the context” and that “it’s important to be nuanced,” because “if you call everything antisemitism, when you have a real active antisemitism, people aren’t paying attention.”

Asked by Republican Senator Marco Rubio about the recent Amnesty International report accusing Israel of practicing apartheid, Lipstadt says she found the determination to to “ahistorical and unhistorical.”

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