September 20, 2017 — Berlin, Germany
AJC welcomes the German government decision to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism and urges immediate implementation by federal, state, and local authorities.
“Cases of antisemitism are all too often overlooked or even ignored by authorities due to the lack of a uniform definition of antisemitism. This will change dramatically with the adoption of the Working Definition, which will make it more apparent when antisemitism rears its ugly head,” said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. “This decision, coming at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, sends an important and reassuring message to the Jewish community in Germany.”
After the absence of a uniform definition of antisemitism was first raised in 2004 at the high-level OSCE Conference on Antisemitism held in Berlin, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) published the Working Definition of Antisemitism in 2005. It was drafted in close coordination with AJC, with input from a number of international experts.
The Working Definition is a clear and compact description of antisemitism in its various forms, including Holocaust denial, prejudices against Jews, and the denial of Israel’s right to exist.
“The recent case of an arson attack against a synagogue in Wuppertal, which German courts declared was not an act of antisemitism, makes clear the importance of adopting a definition of antisemitism that is all-encompassing, including the element of Israel-related antisemitism. It is still the case that many antisemitic attacks are not reported to the authorities because victims doubt that the acts will be recognized as antisemitic. Once the authorities use the Working Definition, more trust can be established between law enforcement officials and those who have experienced antisemitism,” said Berger.
“We are delighted that the German government has recognized the need for action. We expect that it will encourage other European nations to adopt the Working Definition as well,” Berger added. “Now we need to ensure that it is used in the training of government officials and educators, with a particular emphasis on police units dealing with antisemitic offenses.”
AJC Berlin has also called on the soon-to-be-elected federal government to place the fight against antisemitism high on its agenda, including the adoption of recommendations made in a recent report by the Federal Parliament’s Independent Expert Group on antisemitism. “It is essential that the newly elected government immediately implement the recommendation for a Federal Commissioner for antisemitism Affairs, who would be responsible for inter-ministerial coordination of measures to fight antisemitism as well as respond to current manifestations,” Berger continued.
Jewish organizations such as AJC and the Central Council of Jews in Germany have long called for the use of the Working Definition, and its adoption was recommended in a resolution by the German Parliament as well as in the summary conclusions of its Independent Expert Group on Antisemitism.
The Working Definition of antisemitism is already used by a growing number of countries, including Great Britain, Austria, Romania, and Israel. In May 2016, the IHRA adopted a slightly modified version of the original definition. In June 2017, the European Parliament passed a resolution endorsing the IHRA Working Definition, calling on all EU member states to adopt it.