The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has adopted a working definition of antisemitism.
The IHRA, which is made up of 31 member countries, and has a unique mandate to focus on education, research and remembrance of the Holocaust, agreed on the non-legally binding definition last month. The definition states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Manifestations, the definition reads, “might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity” though “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”
The examples section of the definition includes classic forms of Jew hatred such as “stereotypical allegations about Jews as such” and spreading conspiracy theories about Jews, as well as calls to harm Jews.
It also mentions Israel eight times, listing as examples behaviors such as “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is also listed, along with “accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”
The text closely resembles a document that had served as the European Union’s working definition of anti-Semitism before Brussels distanced itself from the definition following lobbying and criticism by pro-Palestinian activists.
Adopted in 2005 by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia — a body set up by the European Union to combat racism — it was removed in 2013 from the website of the Fundamental Rights Agency, the body that replaced the center. A spokesperson for the agency told JTA the EU neither needed nor had a real definition for the phenomenon. She said the document had been pulled as part of maintenance work on the website.
Sir Eric Pickles, UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and Head of the UK delegation to the IHRA said:
“I am delighted that IHRA has adopted, by consensus, this working definition of antisemitism, and I particularly congratulate our chairman Mihnea Constantinescu from Romania for his leadership on this issue. With this definition agreed by 31 countries, we can step up our efforts in the fight against antisemitism internationally.”
IHRA Chair, Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu said: “By adopting this working definition, the IHRA is setting an example of responsible conduct for other international fora and hopes to inspire them also to take action on a legally binding working definition.”
The decision was made at the IHRA’s first bi-annual plenary meeting in Bucharest this May, where around 200 experts and policymakers from all over the world met to discuss the Holocaust as a contemporary political issue. The committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, chaired by Mark Weitzman, proposed the adoption of a definition. Mr Weitzman said: “In order to begin to address the problem of antisemitism, there must be clarity about what antisemitism actually is. This is not a simple question. The adopted working definition helps provide guidance in answer to this challenging question.”