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April 21, 2021 12:05 pm

Who’s Afraid of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism?

avatar by Liora Rez


Worshipers pray in distance from each other at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, amid coronavirus restrictions, March 26, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) includes 34 member states and numerous experts who work together to strengthen, advance, and promote Holocaust education, research, and remembrance. To effectively combat the rise in antisemitism world-wide, IHRA experts determined that the definition of antisemitism must be clarified.

The IHRA’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial built an unprecedented international consensus around the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which was formally adopted at a Plenary in Bucharest in May 2016. The definition has since been adopted by numerous countries, government agencies, and organizations around the world, including the US State Department.

The idea embodied in the IHRA definition is that to fight Jew hatred, we must first define it.

Many people recognize antisemitism only in its classical form; i.e., the public portrayal of Jews as greedy, demonic creatures who constantly conspire to control the world. However, in the past few decades, as the memory of the Holocaust has faded and social media became a primary channel of communication and source of news, antisemitism has mutated into a new form — anti-Zionism.

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By masking one’s Jew hatred as an allegedly legitimate criticism of the State of Israel, the delegitimization campaign against the State of Israel, led by the terror-linked Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has openly promoted and fostered the new antisemitism.

The IHRA definition helps categorize and identify both types of antisemitism — old and new — by creating clear guidelines and providing specific examples of each. Unsurprisingly, anti-Israel groups in Canada, the US, and the UK, have launched campaigns advocating against the growing adoption of the IHRA definition.

Why is the BDS movement and their allied groups including IfNotNow, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) so afraid of the IHRA definition? The answer is simple — it reveals their true antisemitic intent and holds them accountable for their hatred. The IHRA definition exposes their stated mission of social justice as a hoax and a cover up for promoting Jew hatred and the demonization and sometimes destruction of Israel.

To counter these antisemitic groups campaigning against the IHRA definition, especially on college campuses, more than 400 leading intellectuals, professors, and scholars from around the world have joined together in support of the IHRA definition. These academic leaders signed a letter of support, validating and reinforcing the importance of the IHRA definition, which has been adopted by nearly three dozen countries, numerous government agencies, and countless academic institutions, student governments, and non-governmental organizations.

With antisemitism spreading like wildfire in every facet of society, the IHRA definition is one of the most effective ways to expose and counter it. We must work relentlessly to amplify its power by advocating for its wide adoption by multilateral organizations, government institutions, states, universities, and school systems.

Liora Rez is the Executive Director of, a grassroots organization at the forefront of exposing antisemites and holding them accountable.

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