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60 groups urge UN to avoid IHRA antisemitism definition

Signatories include the U.S. Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, the American Civil Liberties Union, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan addresses the General Assembly plenary meeting on the situation in the Middle East. Credit: U.N. Photo/Manuel Elías.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan addresses the General Assembly plenary meeting on the situation in the Middle East. Credit: U.N. Photo/Manuel Elías.

Sixty groups that often oppose Israel urged the United Nations to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

The definition—adopted by 39 countries, including the United States and Israel—“has often been used to wrongly label criticism of Israel as antisemitic,” the groups stated.

Signatories include the U.S. Presbyterian Church, which has some 1.19 million members, and the global ministry arm of the United Methodist Church, which has a membership of more than 12 million, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Three Israeli-designated terror organizations—Al-Haq, Addameer Prisoner Support, and Human Rights Association and Defense for Children International-Palestine—also signed the letter.

“Antisemitism is a pernicious ideology that poses real harm to Jewish communities around the world and requires meaningful action to combat it,” the groups wrote. But, they added, many scholars and other experts “have challenged the definition, arguing that it restricts legitimate criticism of Israel and harms the fight against antisemitism.”

The signatories claim that by the IHRA definition’s logic, “a person dedicated to defending the rights of Tibetans could be accused of anti-Chinese racism, or a group dedicated to promoting democracy and minority rights in Saudi Arabia could be accused of Islamophobia.”

“If the U.N. endorses the IHRA definition in any shape or form, U.N. officials working on issues related to Israel and Palestine may find themselves unjustly accused of antisemitism based on the IHRA definition,” added the groups.

At an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the United Nations headquarters in January, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan accused the world body of just that. “When it comes to fighting antisemitism, sadly, the U.N. ignores its purpose,” said Erdan in the presence of the U.N. secretary-general.

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