Saturday, 15 Aug 2020 - 25 of Av, 5780

Spain adopts the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism

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The Spanish government has endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.

The IHRA is the only intergovernmental organization mandated to focus solely on Holocaust-related issues; With the scourge of antisemitism on the rise, it took a leading role in combatting it. IHRA experts determined that in order to begin to address the problem of antisemitism, there must be clarity about what antisemitism is.

Spain has been a member of the IHRA since 2008. It is one of 34 member countries.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain thanked the Spanish government for its decision.

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement also welcomed the Spanish endorsement.  ‘’At a time when anti-Semitism is worryingly growing in strength in Europe and across the world, the IHRA definition has never been more important. It is a gold standard which spells out exactly what Jew-hatred looks like, making clear that it has no place in free, democratic and tolerant societies such as Spain,’’ it said.

“The Spanish government’s adoption of the IHRA definition will also resonate beyond its borders. It will encourage additional countries to take the same clear, firm and principled stance that anti-Semitism has no place in today’s world.”

What is the Working Definition of Antisemitism ?

On 26 May 2016, the IHRA plenary in Bucharest decided to adopt the non -legally binding Working Definition of Antisemitism. The text reads: “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.’’

To guide the IHRA in its work, the Working Definition of Antisemitism provides the following examples to serve as illustrations:

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).

Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

Which countries have adopted the Working Definition of Antisemitism so far ? 

The following countries have so far adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism:

Argentina

Austria

Belgium

Bulgaria

Canada

Cyprus

Czech Republic

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Israel

Italy

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Moldova

The Netherlands

North Macedonia

Romania

Serbia

Slovakia

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

United Kingdom

Uruguay

In 2014, the Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter, as OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, said the Working Definition is, “a useful document for governments and civil society in explaining how anti-Zionism is frequently a mask for antisemitism, and Jewish communities are often targets for anti-Israel animus.”1

On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017, European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová said, “We will make the IHRA definition available on our website dedicated to the fight against Antisemitism.”2

In June 2017, the European Parliament recommended use of the Working Definition in its resolution on antisemitism.

In September 2018, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the 31 member countries of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to agree on a common definition of antisemitism. Such a definition can serve as a basis for law enforcement, as well as preventive policies.”3

In December 2018, the Council of the European Union adopted a declaration on combating antisemitism, which included a call on member states which have not yet done so to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.4

In January 2019, U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed the Combating European Antisemitism Act of 2017 into law. This act, first introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) in January 2017, outlines how combating antisemitism is in the national interest of the United States and encourages adoption by national and multinational government institutions of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.5

On February 19, 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron called on France to adopt the IHRA Working Definition. “For the first time in many years, antisemitism is killing people again in France,” said Macron, adding that French authorities “did not know how to react effectively.”

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