Study: Anti-Semitism Definition Gets Mainstream Acceptance

A hand-drawn swastika is seen on the front of Union Station, near the Capitol in Washington, in 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As of the end of December 2022, a total of 1,116 global entities have adopted and endorsed the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. In the United States, during 2022, 18 new states adopted it via legislation or executive actions, bringing the total number of states adopting this definition of anti-Semitism to 30, more than half. With that, seven out of 10 Canadian provinces have now adopted the definition as well. U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Washington, D.C, El Paso and Wichita have all signed on too.

Since the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016, it has become the most widely recognized barometer in the collective effort against Jew-hatred, serving as an essential tool to identify and delineate all contemporary manifestations of this age-old bigotry. A diverse array of international institutions and organizations, national and local governments, NGOs, universities, athletic clubs and corporations are now using it as a framework for recognizing modern-day iterations of anti-Semitism, training and educational programs, and policymaking initiatives. Notably, with anti-Semitism on the rise and increasingly becoming mainstream in the U.S., many more U.S. cities and states have adopted the IHRA definition at a critical turning point, and as a first step in taking serious action against Jew hatred.

“Support for the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism transcends the political and ideological spectrum and unites entities and individuals of a broad swathe of religious, national and cultural backgrounds,” said Sacha Roytman Dratwa, CEO of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM). “The surpassing of the 1,000 milestone from a previous report compiled by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement is a telling indicator of the far-reaching impact and influence of the definition and its accompanying 11 explanatory examples of prejudiced and discriminatory behavior against Jews. While the rise in anti-Semitic incidents has been alarming, the tidal wave of global support for the Jewish people is undeniable and greatly encouraging.”

“This significant adoption phenomenon, which has gained momentum in recent years, pinpoints the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism as a major tool in the contemporary struggle against anti-Semitism,” added Professor Dina Porat, a CAM Advisory Board member and the Alfred P. Slaner Chair for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. “Its adoption by a host of varied entities reflects a wish to stand up against an old evil and newer ones, as part of a global effort to improve the international arena.”

In December, CAM assembled a “Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism” in Athens, Greece, where they fostered a conversation on the most effective ways to deal with anti-Semitic bigotry and violence among more than 50 municipal leaders from around the world, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams. In a year that began with the hostage situation at a Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and then concluded with the Kanye West controversy, major North American cities are following in the footsteps of European capitals such as London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna in adopting the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.

The largest category for new adoptions and endorsements in 2022 were non-federal government entities, including municipalities, counties, state and provincial governments, with 58 in total, including 32, or 55%, in the U.S.

“Local authorities and law enforcement agencies under their jurisdiction have a crucial role to play in confronting anti-Semitism where it is most directly felt – on the streets of the communities where Jews live their day-to-day lives,” Dratwa noted.

The business sector, though, is an important area with “room for growth” in utilizing the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, Dratwa went on to say.

“The fallout from scandals involving celebrities such as Kanye West and Kyrie Irving underscored why companies must have the means to properly identify and react to expressions of anti-Semitism,” said Roytman Dratwa. “Both West and Irving lost lucrative endorsement deals with the likes of Adidas and Nike over their anti-Semitic rhetoric and behavior. Meanwhile, the ongoing explosion of online anti-Semitism, particularly on social media, highlights the need for major platforms to enact stricter policies for the detection, monitoring and removal of hateful content, as well as the banning of purveyors of bigotry, like West.”

Included in the growing list of IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism adoptions are nations, cities, universities, NGOs and corporations such as:

  • The Philippines
  • Colombia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Tuscany, Italy
  • City University of New York
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • The Florida Democratic Party
  • Lufthansa Airlines

Taking an additional step, President Biden’s administration – which has said it “enthusiastically embraces” the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism – announced in December the creation of an inter-agency task force to develop a “national strategy to counter anti-Semitism.”

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