Frequently Asked Questions
What is the IHRA?
The IHRA (formerly the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, or ITF) was founded in 1998 with 31 member countries. It was initiated in 1998 by former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. Its primary focus has been on combatting holocaust denialism.
In 2018, 40+ Jewish organisations worldwide came together to condemn the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
Is being anti-Zionist inherently antisemitic?
No. Anti-zionism does not equal antisemitism. Zionism is a political ideology. Criticising a person, organisation, or government for supporting a political ideology, including Zionism, is not inherently antisemitic. Since its inception, Jewish scholars, spiritual leaders, and communal organizations have vigorously debated, criticised, opposed, and rejected Zionism.
I am concerned about rising antisemitism, why should I oppose the IHRA definition?
We are currently experiencing an increase in all forms of antisemitism around the world, in tandem with other racisms and right-wing nationalisms. It’s imperative that we dismantle antisemitism in all its manifestations. However, conflating Zionism with the Jewish people, as the IHRA definition of antisemitism does, only entrenches antisemitism. To conflate Zionism with all Jews – many of whom are anti-Zionists struggling alongside Palestinians for their freedom and equality – is itself a harmful assumption. It is premised on the antisemitic notions that Jews are uniform in their beliefs and political commitments, and that all Jews, no matter where they live in the world, are fundamentally loyal to a foreign government, and that the “real” home for all Jews is Israel.
Who drafted the IHRA definition of Antisemitism?
Simon Wiesenthal Center: The Simon Wiesenthal center researches and educates about the Holocaust and antisemitism through the lens of Israel advocacy. They operate several “Museums of Tolerance” one of which is built atop a demolished Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem. Their Director of Government Affairs, Mark Weitzman is a member of the official US delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) where he chaired the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, spearheading its adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.
AJC: “American Jewish Committee (AJC) is a US-based, global Jewish advocacy organisation focused on “fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate, strengthening Israel’s place in the world, and defending democratic values.” The AJC commissioned the definition that became the IHRA definition. The lead author of the IHRA, Kenneth Stern, was from 1989 to 2014, the director on antisemitism, hate studies and extremism for the American Jewish Committee.
ADL: The Anti-Defamation League is a Jewish non-governmental organisation based in the United States, whose stated mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” In recent years, the ADL has sought to define all activity in support of Palestinian human rights as antisemitic and has come under scrutiny for its past activities surveiling US Muslim communities and allowing its focus on Israel advocacy to overshadow its civil rights work.
But doesn’t the IHRA definition protect legitimate criticism of Israel?
No. As many legal experts and scholars have warned, as well as Palestinian civil society, the illustrative examples included in the definition conflate criticism of Israel and antisemitism.
As outlined in the universities and councils pages of this website, the IHRA definition has been utilised on numerous occasions to restrict, cancel and suppress events critical of Israel, but not antisemitic.
Moreover, key proponents of the definition recognise it as a tool to suppress criticism of Israel. For example, as journalist Ben White has noted, Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has openly welcomed its use in efforts to sabotage Israeli Apartheid Week events on university campuses. In a 2018 interview, Weitzman specifically cited the cancellation of one such event the previous year as an example of the “practical applications of the IHRA definition”.
Moreover, Eric Pickles, the UK government’s Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, and head of the UK delegation to the IHRA, said “those who object to it [the definition] want to…be able to suggest that Israel is an apartheid state.”
The Pinsker Centre has argued that reforms are necessary to ensure the IHRA definition is being deployed on campus, in the wake of Students’ Unions issuing statements of solidarity with the Palestinian people during Israel’s May 2021 bombing of Gaza.