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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondAs we have heard, an integral part of monitoring antisemitism, is having a definition of what should and should not be identified as an antisemitic expression or incident. Over the years, attempts have been made by various bodies to create a standardized working definition of antisemitism that would serve as a guiding definition not only for the monitoring of the phenomenon, but also for policy making and for legislation attempting to confront and combat it. There is today an internationally recognized working definition of antisemitism. It has been created and first adopted in 2005, by the OSCE and by the European a branch of the European Union. And now in recent years it has a revival.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsThe IHRA, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, in which 31 countries are members, adopted it and now the countries, these 31 countries, are starting to adopt, and perhaps perhaps again the OSCE. One doesn't want to be the prisoner of definitions, and the problem with antisemitism is that it has a very long history of about 2,000 years in Christian and Muslim society, And there was anti-Jewish xenophobia, a dislike of Jews in the Greek and Roman world. So it's hard to find one definition that satisfies every place, every time, every condition.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsAs for the IHRA definition let me read it to you: "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jews or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities." And then the IHRA tried to fill that out and explain it with a lot of examples. I would say that that is a good starting point. That is a reasonable effort to deal with a complicated subject.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsAnd of course it met with resistance and it met with resistance primarily not because of the definition, but because of the examples that were given, a significant number of which surfaced under a category dealing with how people perceive and judge the State of Israel. And these examples were found to be problematic by a number of delegates to the IHRA. Especially certain northern European countries they felt that they didn't want to be part of a definition dealing with Israel, but in the end that was unanimously adopted by the community of the IHRA which is 31 countries plus others, and has already been adopted as a definition by the US State department, by the British government and other institutions around Europe.

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 secondsThe working definition is not a legally binding document. It defines and details what is antisemitism, but it is not a legally binding document, which means that it can be of help, such a definition can be of help in court, in testing, in trials, in telling people that this and this is antisemitism and perhaps there are ways to struggle against it. But all in all it is still not holding in the courts.

A working definition of antisemitism

Prof. Dina Porat, Prof. Steven T. Katz

Over the years attempts have been made by various bodies to create a standardized working definition of antisemitism that would serve as a guiding definition not only for the monitoring of the phenomenon, but also for policy making and for legislation attempting to confront and combat it.

Is it important to have a working definition of antisemitism?

For the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism please see “downloads” below.


References

  • Gilman, Sander L. and Steven T. Katz, eds., Anti-semitism in Times of Crisis (New York: New York University Press, 1991).‏

  • Marcus, L. Kenneth, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

  • Langmuir, Gavin I., Towards a Definition of Anti-Semitism (Berkley: University of California Press, 1996).

  • Porat, Dina, “The International Working Definition of Antisemitism and Its Detractors,” The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, vol. 5, no. 3 (2011), pp. 93 - 101.

  • Porat, Dina, “The Road That Led to an Internationally Accepted Definition of Antisemitism,” in Charles Asher Small, ed., The Yale Papers: Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective (New York: ISGAP, 2015), pp. 19 - 32.

  • Porat, Dina and Esther Webman, Compilation booklet of the proceedings of “The Working Definition of Antisemitism - Six Years After,” (Tel Aviv: The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University, 2010).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

Yad Vashem

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