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Congressman introduces bill that applies IHRA definition to civil-rights law

"The legislation would provide federal officials with an objective, contemporary definition of antisemitism," said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.).

U.S. Capitol. Credit: MotionStudios/Pixaby.
U.S. Capitol. Credit: MotionStudios/Pixaby.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.) introduced H.R.7945, the “Define to Defeat Act of 2024,” on Thursday, which “would apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism to the enforcement of civil rights laws.”

“In doing so, the legislation would provide federal officials with an objective, contemporary definition of antisemitism, better helping them to assess and prosecute criminal and discriminatory incidents motivated by antisemitism,” the congressman stated.

The IHRA definition is “objective and clear, and the use of alternative definitions of antisemitism, including instead of or in addition to the IHRA definition, impairs enforcement efforts by adding multiple standards that leave room for subjective application and may fail to identify some of the most insidious modern manifestations of anti-Jewish hate,” per the bill.

If enacted, the bill would require federal agencies to use the IHRA definition of antisemitism and its contemporary examples in anti-discrimination trainings, federal juries would be instructed to use it in cases that involve Jew-hatred and it would be used in applying civil rights law.

“Following the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Jews around the world, including in America and New York, endured and continue to endure record-breaking levels of antisemitic attacks and hate,” D’Esposito stated. “My legislation would provide federal officials the tools they need to fully assess, investigate, and prosecute this criminal behavior.”

The Coalition for Jewish Values, which represents more than 2,500 Orthodox rabbis, praised the bill and called on members of Congress to support it.

“The former chief rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory, taught that ‘one of the enduring facts of history is that most antisemites do not think of themselves as antisemites,’” stated Rabbi Pesach Lerner, president emeritus of the coalition. “This is why it is so crucial that antisemitism be defined in a neutral fashion that clearly encompasses when it is couched as ‘anti-Israel’ rhetoric.”

The coalition singled out two other definitions of antisemitism, the Jerusalem Declaration and the Nexus Project, as examples of what it said clouds “the definition of antisemitism, specifically to exonerate hatred against Jews when using different facades from those used by antisemites of earlier eras.”

“The other definitions offered are actually antisemitic, in that they exist to mask antisemitism in its most potent current form,” stated Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, chair of the coalition’s rabbinic circle. “This is why it is so crucial to adopt the IHRA definition, rejecting efforts to hide the obvious connection between classical antisemitic tropes and lies said about Israel today.”

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