EU parliament adopts definition of anti-Semitism

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The European Parliament is the latest institutional body to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism • Jewish leaders, groups laud decision as “monumental day” • Critics allege definition hinders free speech.

The European Parliament Thursday adopted a resolution calling on its member states and their institutions to apply the working definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Most of the 28 European Union states are IHRA members, but so far, only Austria, Romania and the United Kingdom have formally adopted its definition.

The IHRA’s definition anti-Semitism, adopted in May 2016, states: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In its resolution Thursday, the European Parliament called “on the Member States and European Union Institutions and Agencies to adopt and apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism in order to strengthen judicial and law enforcement authorities in their efforts to identify and prosecute anti-Semitic attacks more efficiently and effectively and encourages the Member States to follow the example of U.K. and Austria in that regard.”

The resolution further urges member states to protect their Jewish communities and institutions from hate crime and hate speech; to support law enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute anti-Semitic attacks; to systematically and publicly condemn anti-Semitic incidents and statements; to promote education about the Holocaust in schools; and to review school textbooks to ensure that content about Jewish history and contemporary Jewish life stay clear of anti-Semitism.

Jewish groups praised the European Parliament for its move.

“This is a monumental day for the fight against hate and the protection of the rights of European Jews,” European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said in a statement.

“We are delighted that European institutions and nations are fully cognizant of the need to protect Jewish communities and we are grateful for their cooperation with the EJC to ensure that this is placed high on their agenda. The EJC continues to work with European nations and institutions at the forefront of the fight against hate, intolerance and anti-Semitism and we look forward to ensuring that this vital step is implemented across the continent.”

Kantor noted that “for too long, Jews were deemed unique, with hate defined by the perpetrators and not by the victims,” adding, “The only people who will be dismayed by this decision are those who wish to continue the culture of anti-Semitic impunity and who believe that Jews should not be afforded protection under the law.”

Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the Brussels-based American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute, lauded the resolution, saying it was “a significant step toward fighting all forms of anti-Jewish hatred, including the variety that tries to hide its ugly face behind a false veneer of respectability — so-called legitimate criticism of Israel. Those who falsely claim the working definition limits freedom of expression are demanding the freedom to deny the Jewish people the right granted to every other people, the right to self-determination.”

The IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which is not legally binding, has been criticizing for allegedly infringing on free speech.

EU parliament adopts definition of anti-Semitism

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