RESOURCES

Letter Urging Inclusion of IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism in UN Action Plan

May 23, 2023

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

H.E. António Guterres
Secretary-General
United Nations, New York

H.E. Miguel Ángel Moratinos
High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations
United Nations, New York

May 17, 2023

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned Jewish communities and organizations, civil society organizations, and scholars and practitioners from around the world, write to you regarding the “UN Action Plan on monitoring antisemitism and enhancing a system-wide response” that Under Secretary-General Moratinos is presently finalizing in his capacity as the UN’s senior focal point on antisemitism since 2020.

We greatly appreciate your consistent recognition that global antisemitism is an insidious danger that harms Jewish individuals and communities, and the broader societies in which we live. We welcome your commitment to making the United Nations a more effective force for countering and combating Jew-hatred around the world.

We have long recognized that in order to combat antisemitism we must understand it. Key to these efforts is employing a clear and comprehensive definition that explains the multiple forms antisemitism may take.

It is our collective view that the non-legally binding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism is an indispensable tool to understand and fight antisemitism, and one that can be used entirely consistently with fundamental human rights standards. Indeed, any UN Action Plan must acknowledge the importance of the IHRA Working Definition to the vast majority of Jewish individuals, organizations, and communities who are the primary targets of antisemitic hatred, discrimination, and violence; are the Action Plan’s primary intended beneficiaries; and are best placed to identify manifestations of hatred and bias directed against us.

We note that the IHRA Working Definition (and its predecessor EUMC Working Definition), which was developed with the cooperation and support of Jewish communities, has provided essential guidance to governments and organizations in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere for nearly two decades in their efforts to combat antisemitism. As the annex to this letter demonstrates, it has been adopted by more than 40 nations and multilateral organizations such as the European Union and the Organization of American States. It has earned the near-unanimous endorsement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Thirty-one US states, numerous local governments, and countless businesses, universities, and organizations around the world use it to address harm to our communities. No other definition of antisemitism has been broadly adopted and utilized by practitioners, governments, and civil society. All recognize that the IHRA definition has immense value as an educational tool that offers an evaluative framework, with clear examples of the multiple forms antisemitism can take, that empowers the victims and society at large to identify forms of antisemitism that might otherwise go unrecognized. As you are aware, former UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, also recognized the unique value of the IHRA Working Definition and explicitly recommended its use as an educational and training tool in his 2019 report and 2022 action plan on antisemitism, which he prepared following wide consultations with Jewish organizations and community leaders.

We note that the IHRA Working Definition offers succinct explanations and practical examples that can help governments and individuals at all levels of society recognize antisemitism. These include conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial, as well as the demonization of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.

It is this latter aspect of the IHRA Working Definition that has elicited concern from some civil society organizations. However, we stress that its inclusion in the IHRA Working Definition is precisely what makes this tool uniquely valuable for understanding and monitoring modern day antisemitism. Indeed, forms of antisemitism that are masked as “anti-Zionism” and that deny Jews the right to self-determination are among those most frequently encountered by many Jews today, whether or not they are Zionists. This is well-documented in surveys conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in Europe and by surveys in the United States as well. So-called “alternative definitions” that have been formulated as responses to the IHRA Working Definition do not adequately or effectively clarify this form of antisemitism and are not appropriate for inclusion in the UN Action Plan. There are few if any examples of their practical use. Thus, we believe any references to these alternative definitions would only introduce greater confusion into the UN Action Plan and undermine our common efforts to combat antisemitism.

We reiterate that, contrary to the assertions of some civil society organizations, the IHRA Working Definition explicitly affirms that criticism of Israel per se is not antisemitic. We note that many of the governments that have adopted the IHRA Working Definition and consider it a useful tool have found it entirely possible to sharply criticize Israeli policies and practices. We note, further, that the IHRA Working Definition is not legally binding and does nothing to prohibit any speech, even the most hateful.

We urge you to ensure that the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is referenced positively in the forthcoming “UN Action Plan on monitoring antisemitism and enhancing a system-wide response” as an indispensable educational and monitoring tool, the value of which has been widely recognized by many key stakeholders, and one that should be used for training UN staff, among others, on how to recognize and respond to antisemitism.

Thank you for considering our views on this matter.

Please accept, Excellencies, the assurance of our highest consideration.

 

Initiating Organizations

AJC - American Jewish Committee

ADL

B’nai B’rith International

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

European Jewish Congress

Jewish Federations of North America

World Jewish Congress

 

Other Global Organizations

  1. Combat Antisemitism Movement
  2. Commonwealth Jewish Council
  3. Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC)
  4. HIAS
  5. National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ)
  6. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  7. Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
  8. World Union of Jewish Students
  9. Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO)

 

Regional Organizations

Europe

  1. European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ)
  2. B’nai B’rith Europe
  3. Conference of European Rabbis
  4. European Coalition for Israel
  5. European Union of Jewish Students
  6. European Jewish Congress
  7. Forum for Cultural Diplomacy

Latin America

  1. B’nai B’rith Latin America

North America

  1. Jewish Federations of North America
  2. Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity

 

National Communities and Organizations (by United Nations regional group)

East European Region

Albania

  1. Albania Jewish Community

Armenia

  1. Jewish Community of Armenia

Azerbaijan

  1. Baku Religious Community of European Jews

Belarus

  1. Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Associations and Communities

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bulgaria

  1. Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”
  2. Religious Community of the Jews in Bulgaria
  3. Beit Shalom Jewish Educational Foundation Bulgaria
  4. Tzedaka- Shalom foundation – OJB Shalom

Croatia

  1. Coordination Committee of the Jewish Communities in the Republic of Croatia

Czech Republic

  1. Federation of Jewish Communities in Czech Republic

Estonia

  1. Jewish Community of Estonia

Georgia

  1. Jewish Cultural and Education Fund

Hungary

  1. Mazsihisz (Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary)

Latvia

  1. Latvian Council of Jewish Communities

Lithuania

  1. Jewish Community of Lithuania

Moldova

  1. Jewish Community of Republic of Moldova

Montenegro

  1. Jewish Community of Montenegro

North Macedonia

  1. Jewish Community in the Republic of North Macedonia

Poland

  1. Jewish Community of Poland
  2. Lodge Polin of B’nai B’rith (B’nai B’rith Poland)
  3. Jewish Association Czulent

Romania

  1. B’nai B’rith Romania

Serbia

  1. Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia
  2. Terraforming

Slovakia

  1. Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia

Ukraine

  1. Jewish Confederation of Ukraine
  2. Ukranian Jewish Committee

 

Latin American and Caribbean Region

Argentina

  1. Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA)
  2. B’nai B’rith Argentina

Bolivia

  1. Circulo Israelita La Paz Bolivia

Brazil

  1. B’nai B’rith Brazil
  2. Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CONIB)

Chile

  1. B’nai B’rith Chile
  2. Comunidad Judía de Chile

Colombia

  1. B’nai B’rith Colombia

Costa Rica

  1. B’nai B’rith Costa Rica
  2. Centro Israelita Sionista de Costa Rica

Dominican Republic

  1. Centro Israelita de la República Dominicana

Ecuador

  1. B’nai B’rith Ecuador

El Salvador

  1. Comunidad Israelita de El Salvador

Guatemala

  1. B’nai B’rith Guatemala

Honduras

  1. B’nai B’rith Honduras

Mexico

  1. B’nai B’rith Mexico
  2. Comité Central de la Comunidad Judía de México
  3. Tribuna Israelita

Panama

  1. Comisión Antidifamación CAD B’nai B’rith (B’nai B’rith Panama)
  2. Congreso Judio Panameño
  3. Consejo Comunitario Hebreo de Panamá

Paraguay

  1. Comunidad Judía del Paraguay

Peru

  1. Asociación Judía del Perú
  2. B’nai B’rith Peru

Uruguay

  1. B’nai B’rith Uruguay

Venezuela

  1. B’nai B’rith Venezuela
  2. Confederación de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela

 

Western European and Others (WEOG) Region

Australia

  1. Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council
  2. B’nai B’rith Australia and New Zealand
  3. Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Austria

  1. Centropa
  2. Jewish Community Vienna (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien)

Belgium

  1. Le Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique (CCOJB)
  2. CCLJ-Belgium (Centre communautaire laïc juif David Suskind)
  3. The International Jewish Center

Canada

  1. Adas Yeshurun Herzlia
  2. B’nai Brith Canada
  3. Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)
  4. Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada
  5. The Abraham Global Peace Initiative

Denmark

  1. Jewish Community of Denmark

Finland

  1. Central Council of Jewish Communities in Finland

France

  1. B’nai B’rith France
  2. CRIF – Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France
  3. Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (LICRA)

Germany

  1. Amadeu Antonio Foundation
  2. Central Council of Jews in Germany
  3. Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany (ZWST)
  4. Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft e.V.
  5. German Union of Jewish Students (JSUD)
  6. “Jehi ˈOr” Jüdisches Bildungswerk für Demokratie – gegen Antisemitismus gUG
  7. Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA)
  8. MAKKABI Deutschland e. V.
  9. Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin
  10. Service Center for Anti-Discrimination North Rhine-Westphalia (SABRA NRW)
  11. WerteInitiative – Jewish-German Positions

Greece

  1. Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece

Ireland

  1. Jewish Representative Council of Ireland

Israel

  1. B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem
  2. Centre for Jewish Impact
  3. NGO Monitor

Italy

  1. B’nai B’rith Italy
  2. Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI)

Liechtenstein

  1. Verein Jüdische Gemeinschaft im Fürstentum Liechtenstein

Luxembourg

  1. Consistoire Israelite de Luxembourg

Malta

  1. Jewish Community of Malta

Netherlands

  1. Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap (NIK) Org. Jewish Communities in the Netherlands
  2. CIDI (Center for Information and Documentation Israel)

New Zealand

  1. Australasian Union of Jewish Students in New Zealand
  2. Beth Shalom Progressive Synagogue
  3. Council of Jewish Women Aotearoa NZ
  4. Holocaust Centre of New Zealand
  5. Nelson Jewish Community Inc
  6. New Zealand Community Security Group Trust
  7. Wellington Jewish Community Centre
  8. Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation
  9. Zionist Federation of New Zealand

Norway

  1. Det Mosaiske Trossamfunn – Jewish Community Oslo

Other

  1. Gibraltar Jewish Community

Portugal

  1. Jewish Community of Lisbon

Spain

  1. Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain

Sweden

  1. Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities
  2. Swedish Union of Jewish Youth (Judiska ungdomsförbundet i Sverige, JUS)

Switzerland

  1. Gamaraal Foundation
  2. Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities

Türkiye

  1. The Jewish Community of Türkiye (Turkey)

United Kingdom

  1. Antisemitism Policy Trust
  2. Association of Jewish Refugees
  3. Board of Deputies of British Jews
  4. BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre)
  5. Community Security Trust
  6. Jewish Leadership Council
  7. London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

United States1

  1. AMIT Children
  2. AIPAC
  3. Alliance for Academic Freedom
  4. American Friends of Likud
  5. American Zionist Movement
  6. CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis)
  7. Center for Righteousness and Integrity (CRINY)
  8. Emunah of America
  9. Endowment for Middle East Truth
  10. Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
  11. Indigenous Bridges
  12. Jewish Studies Zionist Network
  13. MERCAZ USA
  14. NA’AMAT USA
  15. North Carolina Coalition for Israel
  16. ORT America
  17. Rabbinical Assembly
  18. Rabbinical Council of America
  19. Religious Zionists of America – Mizrachi
  20. Shields of David
  21. Stop BDS on Campus
  22. Swarthmore Alumni Against Antisemitism on Campus
  23. Telluride Jewish Community
  24. Temple Sinai
  25. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
  26. United Teacher Los Angeles (UTLA) Educators Caucus for Israel
  27. Zioness Movement
  28. ZOA

 

African Region

South Africa

  1. South African Jewish Board of Deputies

 

Asia-Pacific Region

Cyprus

  1. Jewish Community of Cyprus

Japan

  1. Jewish Community of Japan

Myanmar

  1. Myanmar Jewish Community

 

Academics and Practitioners

Academics2

  1. Dr. Steven Albert, University of Pittsburgh
  2. Dr. Uzi Baram
  3. Katherine Barbieri, University of South Carolina, Department of Political Science
  4. Philip Barnett, City University of New York
  5. Volker Beck, Lehrbeauftragter/Associate Lecturer Centrum für Religionswissenschaftliche Studien CERES Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  6. Dr. Ulrike Becker, Middle East Freedom Forum, Berlin
  7. Deidre Berger, Tikvah Institut gUG
  8. Darrell Bock
  9. Geoffrey Braswell, UCSD Department of Anthropology
  10. Professor Bruce Bukiet
  11. Dr. Mehak Burza, Head, Global Holocaust and Religion Studies
  12. Dr. Ellen Cannon, Professor of Political Science and Jewish Studies, ISGAP
  13. Paul Cantz, PsyD, ABPP
  14. Professor Daniel Chernilo, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chiel
  15. Perry Dane, Rutgers Law School
  16. Morton M. Denn, Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus, City College of New York
  17. Donna Robinson Divine, Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Government, Emerita, Smith College
  18. Stanley Dubinsky, University of South Carolina
  19. Dr. Tanja Ehmann, KHSB-Berlin
  20. Miriam F. Elman, Syracuse University
  21. Irina Esterlis, Yale University
  22. Dr. Ayal Feinberg, Gratz College
  23. Terri Susan Fine, University of Central Florida
  24. Luis Fleischman, Palm Beach State College
  25. Dr. Matthew Flisfeder, The University of Winnipeg
  26. Steven Fraade, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Yale University
  27. Professor Rosa Freedman, University of Reading
  28. Ben M. Freeman
  29. Anna Geifman, Bar Ilan University
  30. Dr Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias Institute of Law Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences
  31. Dr. Avraham Goldstein, The City University of New York (CUNY)
  32. David Graizbord, University of Arizona
  33. Dr. Susan Greenberg, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Roehampton
  34. Haskel Greenfield, Distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba
  35. Marc Grimm, Deputy Professor for the Didactis of Social Science at Wuppertal University
  36. Jaime Grinberg, Montclair State University
  37. Professor Oren Gross, Irving Younger Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School
  38. Gary D. Grossman, University of Georgia
  39. Amber Gum, PhD
  40. David Halahmy, History Department Chair, Cypress College
  41. Jaroslava Halper. University of Georgia
  42. Linda Haramati, Yale School of Medicine
  43. Kent D. Harber, Rutgers University at Newark
  44. Professor Bernard Harrison, Chair Emeritus, University of Utah, University of Sussex
  45. Allan Havis, University of California San Diego
  46. Professor Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park
  47. Professor David Hirsh, Academic Director and CEO of the London Centre for the Study of Antisemitism and Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
  48. Dr. Dahn Hiuni
  49. Morten Hunke, CEFR Journal – Research and Practice, Anna-Lindh-Schule, Berlin
  50. Gunther Jikeli, Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Indiana University
  51. Alex Kamenev, University of Minnesota
  52. Professor Sergei Kan, Dartmouth College
  53. Ellen W. Kaplan, Professor Emeritus, Smith College
  54. Jonathan Katz, University of Maryland
  55. Marc Katz, Scripps College, Claremont Colleges Consortium
  56. William Katz, University of Texas at Dallas
  57. Steven G. Kellman, University of Texas at San Antonio
  58. Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam University, Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism
  59. Cary Kogan, University of Ottawa
  60. Marvin Koss, Upstate Medical University
  61. Joël Kotek, Université Libre de Bruxelles
  62. Dr. Matthias Kuntzel
  63. Joseph Kushick
  64. Norma Landau, University of California Davis
  65. Armin Lange, Professor for Antisemitism Studies, University of Vienna, and Second Temple Judaism
  66. Professor Ruth Langer, Boston College
  67. David Leffell, Yale University
  68. Diana Levin
  69. Dr. Marian Levy, University of Memphis
  70. Professor Joe Lockard, Arizona State University, English Department
  71. Professor Doron Lubinsky
  72. Dr. Lee Lukoff, Adjunct Professor, American University
  73. Dyanne Martin, Wheaton College
  74. Graeme Mason, Yale University
  75. James Mendelsohn, University of the West of England
  76. Professor Philip Mendes, Monash University
  77. Professor Evan Morris, Yale University
  78. Sebastien Mosbah-Natanson, Sorbonne Unviersite
  79. Fred Naider, Professor Emeritus College of Staten Island, CUNY
  80. Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  81. Serban Nichifor
  82. S. Ben Niku
  83. Pamela Paresky
  84. David Patterson, Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies, Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas
  85. Andrew Pessin
  86. Steven Pinker, Harvard University
  87. Professor Dina Porat, Professor Emeritus, Modern Jewish History, Tel Aviv University
  88. Professor Susan Prager, Brooklyn College, CUNY
  89. Daniel Prober, Yale University
  90. Elke Rajal
  91. Walter Reich, Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, The George Washington University
  92. Dr. Lars Rensman, University of Passau
  93. Dr. Dave Rich
  94. Mark Rosenbaum, Hawaii Pacific University, College of Business
  95. Jonathan Rosenberg
  96. Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, Indiana University, Professor of English and Jewish Studies; Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies; Director, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism
  97. Richard Ross, University of Illinois
  98. Elisha Russ-Fishbane, New York University
  99. Michael Schmitt, University of Reading
  100. Allison E.Schottenstein, Gratz College
  101. Dr. Joshua Schwartz, Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University
  102. Sheri Schwartz
  103. David Schwartzer
  104. Maurice Schweitzer, University of Pennsylvania
  105. Michael Scrivner, Professor of English, Emeritus, Wayne State University
  106. David Seidman, Northwestern University
  107. Dr. Miriam Shenkar, Ohio State University
  108. Dr. Gale Sigal, Wake Forest University
  109. Julie Simon, Scripps College, Claremont Colleges Consortium
  110. Amanda J. Smith
  111. Professor Philip Spencer
  112. Scott Spitzer, California State University, Fullerton
  113. Izabella Tabarovsky, Fellow, London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism
  114. Professor Marc Tetel, Wellesley College
  115. Ilan Troen, Brandeis University
  116. Jefferey D. Ullman, Stanford University
  117. Albert Wachtel, Professor of Creative Studies, Pitzer College
  118. Professor James Wald, Hampshire College
  119. Rivka Weinberg, Scripps College, Claremont Colleges Consortium
  120. Michael Whine, Senior Consultant, World Jewish Congress
  121. Batia Wiesenfeld
  122. Malka Zeiger Simkovich, Catholic Theological Union
  123. Professor Martin Zwick, Professor, Portland State University

RELATED ARTICLES


SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

Plans designed to keep Hamas more focused
on governing than fighting never worked
(Image: Shutterstock)

Essay: Militancy over Governance

Fighting but also learning: Israeli soldiers in Gaza (Image: IDF)

“An absolutely unique form of enemy”

New Palestinian leadership needed, but not in the mould of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas (Images: Wikimedia Commons)

Want two states? Build a better Palestinian leadership

Image: Shutterstock

Media Microscope: Doxx-land

Security forces of the Palestinian National Authority in Bethlehem (Image: Shutterstock)

Two states talk is hopeless without enforcement

Plans designed to keep Hamas more focused
on governing than fighting never worked
(Image: Shutterstock)

Essay: Militancy over Governance

Fighting but also learning: Israeli soldiers in Gaza (Image: IDF)

“An absolutely unique form of enemy”

New Palestinian leadership needed, but not in the mould of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas (Images: Wikimedia Commons)

Want two states? Build a better Palestinian leadership

Image: Shutterstock

Media Microscope: Doxx-land

Security forces of the Palestinian National Authority in Bethlehem (Image: Shutterstock)

Two states talk is hopeless without enforcement

SORT BY TOPICS