Background

Many NGOs that claim to promote human rights and humanitarian agendas in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict often use antisemitic themes and imagery to demonize the Jewish people and State of Israel. This “new antisemitism” is evidenced in NGO political campaigns based on the 2001 Durban Conference, including BDS and legal attacks (“lawfare”) against Israeli officials and companies that do business with Israel.

British lawyer Anthony Julius observed that this new antisemitism “became hegemonic in the 1990s and 2000s…It is to be distinguished from the ‘old antisemitism’ because it takes Israel and the Zionist project as its collective term for the Jews.” Nevertheless, it is “continuous with the ‘old antisemitism’ in its principal stratagems and tropes, while novel in its specific focus upon the Jewish State – uniquely evil and without the right to exist.” Significantly, under this new form of antisemitism, Jewish self-determination rights (Zionism) and the existence of a Jewish state per se (not specific policies or territorial disputes) are the causes of “racism,” “apartheid,” and “occupation.” This new antisemitism fuels and exacerbates hatred of and discrimination against Jews globally under the pretext of “just criticizing Israel.” It also provides a pretext to politicians, UN officials, and NGOs (including superpowers like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) to refuse to report on and condemn antisemitism and incitement against Jews.

This new antisemitism is becoming more and more prevalent in Europe, with music festivals excluding Jewish artists under the façade of BDS, and European supermarkets singling-out Israeli companies, while gladly stocking products from countries responsible for mass atrocities. These antisemitic actions are met with silence by European officials. Despite their claims to reject BDS, European governments continue to fund NGOs and institutions that promote BDS and antisemitism.

The ongoing government funding for NGOs that engage in antisemitic activities and use antisemitic rhetoric highlights the persistent double standard: Hatred of Jews is tolerated in a way that would be unthinkable for other racial, ethnic, or religious groups. Moreover, Jewish and Israeli targets are often denied the right to define what constitutes discrimination against them.

IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

In May 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a new working definition of antisemitism:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In addition, the committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial provided examples to “serve as illustrations” of the new definition. These examples include:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

As of February 2020, this working definition has 35 country members, 11 observers, and 7 permanent international partners, including the Claims Conference, the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), International Tracing Service, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), UNESCO, the UN, and the Council of Europe. The IHRA working definition has been adopted by more than 30 countries around the world, including the UK, Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, and Macedonia. The United States State Department Definition of antisemitism, adopted on June 8, 2010, is virtually identical.