Top Democrat Backs IHRA Definition to Tackle Antisemitism on 'Political Left and Political Right'

Rep. Ted Deutch is perhaps the most prominent figure yet to call on President Biden to adopt the controversial definition, which has faced stiff resistance from key liberal Zionist groups

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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Rep. Ted Deutch, center left, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 2018 delegation
Rep. Ted Deutch, center left, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 2018 delegationCredit: GPO
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON - Rep. Ted Deutch, a founding co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitsm, on Monday endorsed the adoption of the contentious International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of antisemitism in order to fight antisemitism on "both the political left and political right."

Deutch, who also chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, told the Combat Antisemitism Movement's annual summit that antisemitism left unchecked will only keep spreading, saying that "we can only effectively fight antisemitism if we are willing to call it out wherever it appears."

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The Democratic lawmaker from Florida is perhaps the most prominent figure to call on the Biden administration to adopt the definition, which has become a point of contention within the American-Jewish community. Several liberal Zionist organizations have cautioned that adopting the definition would threaten to conflate legitimate criticism of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism. Earlier this week, Kentucky became the first U.S. state to officially adopt the definition

On top of the task force calling for the Biden administration to adopt the IHRA definition on Monday, they also encouraged the "swift nomination of an Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, in accordance with Task Force-endorsed legislation which elevated the position to Ambassador."

In his speech, Deutch cited examples of antisemitism that fall under the remit of the IHRA definition, such as "when leaders accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to the interests of America" and "using longstanding stereotypes to make demonizing allegations about Jews and the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy." The congressman noted that the definition applies "whether you're a Democrat or Republican, a political operative or a Member of Congress."

He also stated that the purpose of the IHRA definition is to protect the American Jewish community and to educate the public at large, referencing Saturday Night Live's recent controversial joke on Israel's vaccine distribution, which was accused of echoing antisemitic tropes. 

"If the writers at SNL were familiar with this definition – again, developed based on the long history of antisemitism in the world – and familiar with the definition’s modern examples of what it looks like today, then they and NBC might be in a better position to understand and appreciate why so many of us were offended by last week’s unfortunate attempt at humor," he said.