Working Definition Of Antisemitism - World Jewish Congress

Defining Antisemitism

Working Definition Of Antisemitism

On 26 May 2016, the IHRA Plenary adopted its Working Definition of Antisemitism, which declares: 

“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.” 

The definition of antisemitism was originally drafted with the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), which worked with several prominent Jewish organizations to draft a comprehensive definition of antisemitism. However, in 2009 EUMC was replaced by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which decided that it would not provide a definition to any form of prejudice, including antisemitism. 

Explaining the decision, then-IHRA Chair, Romanian Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, stated, “All IHRA Member Countries share the concern that incidents of antisemitism are steadily rising and agree that the IHRA’s Member Countries and indeed the IHRA’s experts need political tools with which to fight this scourge. The IHRA’s 31 member countries -- 24 of which are EU member countries -- are committed to the Stockholm Declaration and thereby to fighting the evil of antisemitism through coordinated international political action.” 

The definition includes a list of eleven reference examples to aid the identification of antisemitism. Some critics of the definition have claimed that by including within its examples references to Israel, it unfairly labels detractors of Israeli policy as antisemites. Defenders of the definition argue that the wording leaves room for vigorous criticism of Israel’s government as it states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic” and that it is a non-legally binding definition, intended to guide and educate without limiting debate or free speech. The examples referenced within the definition of antisemitism include: 

  • 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.

The definition and examples of antisemitism have been gradually adopted by member countries and other entities across the world. Universities, municipalities, religious groups and even sports clubs are among the bodies that have formally adopted the definition thus far. 

The countries that have formally endorsed or adopted IHRA Working definition of antisemitism include: 

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has also been a strong advocate for adopting a universal definition of antisemitism, saying, “Such a definition can serve as a basis for law enforcement, as well as preventive policies.”

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