Comparing Israel to Nazis Is anti-Semitic, Says International Body

IHRA adopts its working definition of anti-Semitism at Israel’s request.

Image from an Iranian Holocaust denial website
Image from an Iranian Holocaust denial website Screenshot

An intergovernmental body devoted to commemorating the Holocaust adopted a definition of anti-Semitism that includes some hate speech against Israel.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, adopted the definition on May 26, according to a statement posted earlier this week on its website. The organization was launched in 1998 and has 31member states, all of them Western nations, and 11 observer countries.

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” reads the newly adopted text, which the IHRA called a “non-legally binding working definition.”

Manifestations, the 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.”

The examples section of the definition includes classic forms of Jew hatred such as “stereotypical allegations about Jews as such” and spreading conspiracy theories about Jews, as well as calls to harm Jews.

It also mentions Israel eight times, listing as examples behaviors such as “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is also listed, along with “accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”

The text closely resembles a document that had served as the European Union’s working definition of anti-Semitism before Brussels distanced itself from the definition following lobbying and criticism by pro-Palestinian activists.

Adopted in 2005 by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia – a body set up by the European Union to combat racism – it was removed in 2013 from the website of the Fundamental Rights Agency, the body that replaced the center. A spokesperson for the agency told JTA that the EU neither needed nor had a real definition for the phenomenon. She said the document had been pulled as part of maintenance work on the website.

In 2012, the prominent anti-Israel activist Ben White wrote on the website Electronic Intifada that the EU’s working definition’s “real agenda may be to stifle Palestine solidarity activism.”

IHRA adopted the working definition of anti-Semitism at Israel’s request during a plenary session in Bucharest less than three months after Romania, which is one of Israel’s staunchest allies within the European Union, assumed the IHRA's rotating chairmanship.

“By adopting this working definition, the IHRA is setting an example of responsible conduct for other international fora,” said IHRA’s chair, Mihnea Constantinescu, in a statement to media. He noted the involvement of Germany, another key supporter of Israel in the bloc, in getting the text passed.

Of IHRA’s 31 members, which include the United States and Canada, 24 are EU member states. Another two EU states are observers.