(JTA) — The new international definition of anti-Semitism that mentions Israel hatred was adopted in part to replace a similar one scrapped by the European Union, an initiator of the new text said.
Robert Williams, a delegate of the United States at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, told JTA on Tuesday that his intergovernmental agency of 31 Western nations adopted its new definition of anti-Semitism last month partly as a response to the 2013 removal from the website of the EU’s anti-racism agency of a definition that also mentioned the demonization of Israel as an example of anti-Semitism.
“After that happened, we decided at IHRA to have discussions about adopting a definition, and the result was the adoption of a text very similar to the definition abandoned” by the European Union,” Williams said.
Manifestations of anti-Semitism, the new 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.”
Like the abandoned EU definition, the IHRA text also lists comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany as anti-Semitic.
The EU definition was dropped following lobbying by pro-Palestinian activists and pulled it offline from the website of its anti-racism agency. In response to a query about the removal, an EU spokesperson told JTA in 2013 that the definition was never official. Israel protested its removal.
According to the spokesperson, the EU neither has nor needs a definition of anti-Semitism to fight the phenomenon.
Williams and Mark Weitzman, chair of the IHRA Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, promoted the adoption of the new definition with diplomats from Romania, the current IHRA chair, the United States and Israel, Williams said. He said the adoption of an IHRA definition also was a response to an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and beyond.
In addition to the demonization of Israel, the IHRA definition also mentions classic forms of Jew hatred, such as collective stigmatization and calling for harm.