On May 26, 2016, five years ago, the IHRA, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, adopted the Working Definition of Antisemitism. This definition came into being following the escalation in violent and virulent antisemitism and anti-Zionism resulting in the Durban, South Africa August 2001 UN World Conference against Racism. The urgent need for a definition of antisemitism in order to struggle against it was obvious, as well as the need for a definition of the cases when anti-Zionism was expressed while using antisemitic terms and symbols. A document was formulated by a host of organizations, institutes and individual scholars, joining efforts coordinated by the American Jewish Committee. It is a short document, which avoids never ending issues such as who is an anti-Semite, why and since when, or who is a Jew and what Judaism is. Instead it concentrates on a concise definition of antisemitism and provides concrete examples, that enable the identification and monitoring of antisemitic cases. It is a non-legally binding paper, a recommendation to work with, and as such it was adopted by the EUMC (the European Union Monitoring Center, situated in Vienna, today the FRA, Fundamental Rights Agency) and by the OSCE (the organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), in 2005.
Re-adopted by the IHRA in 2016, the WDA became internationally known, used and implemented, and adopted by more than 450 governments, parliaments, local councils, universities and sport clubs worldwide. Yet the more it made its way, the more objections were voiced, especially from academic circles, claiming that it stifles freedom of speech and criticism of Israel’s policies, while ignoring the main thrust of the definition, which is helping protect Jews and Jewish entities.
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