Albania first Muslim majority state to adopt IHRA antisemitism definition

Balkan country is first Muslim-majority counties to adopt formally adopt IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Police stand guard during an anti-government protest in front of the Parliament in Tirana, Albania May 25, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA)
Police stand guard during an anti-government protest in front of the Parliament in Tirana, Albania May 25, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA)
The Albanian parliament has endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, making the country one of the first Muslim-majority countries to adopt the definition.
The IHRA, an intergovernmental organization with 34 member countries, established an international consensus on a working definition of antisemitism.
Thursday’s decision comes ahead of the upcoming Balkans Forum Against Antisemitism, which is being organized by Albania’s parliament, the Combat Antisemitism Movement and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The conference begins next Wednesday. It seeks to create a united front for Balkan countries to work together against antisemitism.
The list of participants includes Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, parliament speakers from Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia and officials from the UN, US, UK and Israel.
“It is good news that we, the Albanians and the peoples of the Western Balkans, a region that has suffered more than any other part of the world, the consequences of ethno-centrist and religious-centrist views and attitudes, join this emancipatory action of contemporary civilization: the fight against antisemitism,” said Gramoz Ruci, the speaker of Albania’s parliament.
“All nations that throughout history have protected Jews from extermination and support them today against stigma have a right to be proud,” he said. “But we Albanians have more reasons to be proud, because Albania is the only country in Europe where all Jews were taken under protection and rescued during World War II. Our homeland, Albania, in difficult times has served as a substitute soil for Jews.”
Albania’s parliament initiated the process, Robert Zinger of the Combat Antisemitism Movement said, adding that the country’s cultural tradition of hospitality provided protection for Jews during the Holocaust.
“This step is very significant... and is a sign that different minorities can respect each other,” he said. “Jews lived here in peace for hundreds of years, and the Albanian parliament’s adoption of the IHRA antisemitism definition will be a sign for other moderate Muslim countries to join and adopt it too.”
“I had the privilege of working for seven years with the president of the World Jewish Congress, [former US] ambassador [to Austria] Ronald Lauder, a wonderful man and a proud Jew who has devoted much of his life to the war on antisemitism,” Zinger said. “My first visit to Albania was as part of a delegation he headed. We were both deeply impressed by the warm welcome from the country’s leaders. We were also happy to organize an event in tribute to the Albanian people within the framework of the United Nations in New York.”
Combat Antisemitism Movement director Sacha Roytman-Dratwa congratulated the Albanian parliament for having adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. He expressed hope that other countries, including Muslim-majority states, would act similarly.
“At a time when antisemitism is increasing across the world, the IHRA definition has never been more important,” Roytman-Dratwa said. “Not only does it spell out exactly what Jew-hatred looks like, but adopting IHRA’s definition makes clear that antisemitism has no place in free, democratic and tolerant societies such as Albania.”