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IHRA ‘misrepresents’ its definition of anti-Semitism itself, the report said Boycott News on divestments and sanctions


An international organization is behind one Controversial definition According to a new report by the Freedom of Speech advocacy group on Israel, Al Jazeera’s investigative unit misled the public about that definition.

The report, written by Oxford University researcher Jamie Stern-Weiner and to be officially published on Sunday, shows that the statements of the spokesperson and publications of the International Holocaust Memorial Union (IHRA ) has distorted the “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” by claiming that it included a list of hotly debated “examples” of anti-Semitism.

At a meeting in May 2016 in Bucharest, IHRA’s decision-making body, then representing 31 countries, adopted a document that included two separate parts.

The first part is the two-sentence definition of anti-Semitism:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of the Jews, which can be expressed as hatred towards the Jews. The rhetoric and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism were directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and / or their property, towards Jewish community organizations and religious institutions. “

The second part is a list of 11 “contemporary examples” of anti-Semitic statements or conduct.

Of these eleven examples, seven are relevant to the state of Israel. One controversial example might be considered antisemitism when describing Israel as a “racist attempt”, while another is that it could be considered anti-Semitic when ” adopt dual standards ”for Israel.

The organization’s decision to adopt the document came after a heated debate regarding the inclusion of examples in the IHRA definition. According to a secret internal memorandum from an ambassador to the 2016 IHRA plenary meeting, viewed by Al Jazeera, Sweden and Denmark oppose the definition being adopted as well as “added examples. define”.

In the end, the board decided to use only two-sentence paragraphs as its definition, excluding controversial examples. The examples are not endorsed as part of the operational definition but rather as “illustrations” to “guide IHRA in its work”.

Limit freedom of speech

Despite this decision being taken by the plenary, the Stern-Weiner report shows how controversy surrounding the status of examples has been removed from public records by senior members of IHRA. .

Leading pro-Israel advocacy groups have described these examples as the most important part of the IHRA definition. A senior official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry explained that, while “the IHRA definition itself is… minimalistic”, what makes it “an essential definition in our eyes is a list of examples. “.

Critics of the examples have expressed concern over the way in which they restrict freedom of expression, especially that of the Palestinians, to describe their occupation of land and their continued oppression by the state of Israel. .

These examples have also been used by Israeli lobbying groups to disrupt Boycott, Divestment, and Punishment (BDS) movements around the world by claiming that a boycott Israel is anti-Semitic.

In the report’s prologue, Professor Avi Shlaim of Oxford University argues that its findings “should rethink any government or organization that is considering adopting the IHRA definition”.

Wrong statement

Stern-Weiner identifies the repeated public statements of IHRA, IHRA spokespersons and representatives misrepresenting IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism by including it in its list of examples.

In May 2018, IHRA’s Anti-Semitism and Denial of Holocaust Committee appeared to go against a decision made by the plenary two years earlier, stating that “definitions and examples constitutes a full definition and this topic is not open for further discussion ”. This was spurred on by a pro-Israel lobby group active in IHRA.

An article on the IHRA website, published later that year, erroneously stated that “The working definition, including its examples, was reviewed and decided unanimously at the plenary meeting. in Bucharest by IHRA in May 2016 ”.

In June 2020, IHRA President, Ambassador Michaela Küchler of Germany, accused the IHRA member states of “agreeing” on the “text of the working definition” both the two-sentence paragraph “and the examples. go with”.

This inaccurate statement was repeated by a handbook of the European Commission on the IHRA definition, co-published by IHRA in January 2021.

These statements contradict other public statements, where IHRA welcomes the decisions of the German and French parliaments to uphold the operational definition without including examples.

Despite repeated attempts by the report’s author to seek clarity from IHRA on the status of the 11 examples, there was no response from the organization on this question.

Rights of the Palestinians

This distortion has influenced Palestinian rights advocates. For example, in early 2017, the IHRA Working Definition was leveraged to cancel pro-Palestine events on UK university campuses.

In 2018, the British Labor Party was at the center of a national controversy as pro-Israel advocacy groups, including the Jewish Labor Movement, urged the party to adopt examples of these groups. Incorrect description is integral to the IHRA definition.

However, Labor was through two sentences IHRA’s working definition, exactly as agreed by the whole of IHRA.

Al Jazeera The Lobby four-part investigation, released in January 2017, disclosure How the Jewish Labor Movement and others worked closely with the Israeli Embassy in London to influence the Labor Party to include examples that refer to Israel in its definition and representation of the party leadership is “Post Semitic” for not doing so.



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