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April 26, 2021 8:58 am

Democrats Send Letter to Administration to Use Other Definitions of Antisemitism

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Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (right). Photo: Wiki Commons. – Several Democratic lawmakers are circulating a letter urging the Biden administration to consider using alternatives to the official International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

The letter, addressed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is being circulated by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

“Two new definitions of antisemitism have been formulated and embraced by the Jewish community since the IHRA adopted a non-legally binding definition of antisemitism in 2016,” read the letter. “While the IHRA definition can be informative, in order to most effectively combat antisemitism, we should use all of the best tools at our disposal.”

It asks Blinken to consider using the Nexus document and the Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism in addition to the IHRA one.

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“These two efforts are the work of hundreds of scholars and experts in the fields of antisemitism, Israel and Middle East Policy, and Jewish communal affairs, and have been helpful to us as we grapple with these complex issues,” continued the letter.

Progressives have long been critical of the IHRA definition, which they accused of silencing criticism of Israeli government policy. In particular, they have singled out the IHRA definition over its assertion that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

In recent weeks, progressive groups have introduced the other two definitions as alternatives to the IHRA. Critics contend, however, that the new definitions would allow anti-Zionists to advocate for the elimination of Israel without being accused of antisemitism.

The United States, a member of the IHRA, has used the IHRA definition since it was adopted in 2016. The Trump administration expanded its use to the Department of Education, and in 2019 formally directed federal agencies to consider using the definition.

Shortly after taking office, the Biden administration also adopted the IHRA definition.

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