In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 60 organizations say the IHRA definition has been used to falsely label criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.
Dozens of human rights groups have urged United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) controversial definition of anti-Semitism, which has been used to suppress criticism of Israel.
In a letter published Monday, 60 human rights and human rights organizations said the UN should not use the definition in its action plan against anti-Semitism and subsequent activities.
It then asked the UN to ensure that its efforts to combat anti-Semitism do not “inadvertently encourage or endorse policies” that undermine basic human rights, including the right to speak and organize in support of Palestinian rights.
“The IHRA definition has often been used to falsely label criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic in order to cool down and sometimes suppress nonviolent protest, activism and criticism of Israel and/or Zionism, including in the US and Europe,” said the letter. said.
The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Israeli rights group B’Tselem and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) were among the signatories.
According to the IHRA’s working definition: “Antisemitism is a particular perception of Jews, which can be expressed as hatred of Jews. Rhetorical and physical displays of anti-Semitism are directed at Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, at Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The statement said the definition has been used to attack professors, students and grassroots organizations that express support for Palestinian human rights.
Citing the example of the United Kingdom, where the definition was adopted nationally, the letter highlighted two instances where universities banned several planned activities for “Israel Apartheid Week” in 2017, citing the IHRA definition.
The organizations noted that leading experts on anti-Semitism and academics specializing in Holocaust and Jewish studies have also criticized the IHRA definition, “arguing that it limits legitimate criticism of Israel and harms the fight against anti-Semitism.” “.
Instead, the groups said two definitions put forward since 2021, the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism and the Nexus Document, were better alternatives.
“While recognizing that criticism of Israel can be anti-Semitic, these alternative definitions more clearly spell out anti-Semitism and provide guidance around the contours of legitimate speech and action around Israel and Palestine,” they said.
The letter warned that if the UN were to endorse the IHRA definition “in any form,” UN officials dealing with issues related to Israel and Palestine “could be falsely accused of anti-Semitism on the basis of the IHRA definition.” “.
“The same is true of numerous UN agencies, departments, committees, panels and/or conferences whose work touches on issues related to Israel and Palestine, as well as civil society actors and human rights defenders engaged in the UN system ”, it added. .
The letter is the latest attempt by human rights activists to urge the UN not to adopt the IHRA definition. In November, more than 120 scholars called on the world body to reject the definition because of its “divisive and polarizing” effect.