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Introduction

Antisemitism from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has become an enduring feature of political discourse about Israel and Zionism – paralleling a resurgence of physical violence against Jews over the past decade.1 Many institutions that claim to represent human rights and humanitarian values instead promulgate antisemitic rhetoric and tropes; tolerate antisemitism from executives and staff, with little to no repercussions; and consistently dismiss consideration of antisemitism as a human rights issue.

This dynamic is prevalent, characterizing the most powerful organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, numerous Palestinian NGOs, and other groups from around the world.2 At the same time, antisemitic incidents continue to be met with apathy and the absence of accountability and public debate, in particular from governments that fund these NGOs and from their supporters.

Effectively confronting this NGO antisemitism first requires building consensus on the basic elements. Of major importance is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.3 As discussed in detail below, the IHRA framework, which uniquely addresses both “new” and classical antisemitism, has been adopted by tens of governments and intergovernmental organizations. It has clear value as an educational resource and a yardstick for evaluating whether a particular statement or incident is marked by antisemitism, and where hatred of Jews is expressed through anti-Israel sentiment.

In NGO Monitor’s assessment, the IHRA definition can also help address the challenges posed by deeply ingrained NGO antisemitism.

NGO Monitor recommends that governments integrate the IHRA definition into funding mechanisms, alongside similar conditions already found in budgets and grant contracts (addressing discrimination, terror, hate speech), and ensure that potential grantees are aware of and bound by these requirements. Governments also need to develop rigorous procedures for vetting of potential NGO partners and/ or grantees, as well as for complaints, investigations, and sanctions if concerns arise during the contract period.

We do not claim that such policies will erase the twisted hatred of Jews and Israel that inspire NGO antisemitism. However, implementation can make a major difference in pushing antisemitism further to the margins of acceptable discourse and in ensuring that governments are fighting, instead of enabling, antisemitic expression.