Maryland CAIR chapter opposes IHRA definition of antisemitism

Montgomery County is Maryland's most populous region, encompassing the heavily Jewish town of Silver Spring as well as several heavily populated places in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.

 Jewish Voice for Peace (photo credit: FLICKR)
Jewish Voice for Peace
(photo credit: FLICKR)

The Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on members of the Montgomery County Council on Sunday to oppose the county's resolution to formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. 

Montgomery County is Maryland's most populous region, encompassing the heavily Jewish town of Silver Spring as well as several heavily populated places in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.

"IHRA’s definition is controversial and ambiguous in several respects and leaves too much room for misinterpretation and abuse of free speech rights."

CAIR Maryland's director Zainab Chaudry 

The IHRA definition reads as follows:  “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Connection to Jewish Voice for Peace

 20 FOREIGN PARLIAMENTARIANS, in Israel as members of the Israel Allies Foundation, present Foreign Minister Yair Lapid with a resolution confirming their support for the Jewish state and the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. (credit: AVI HAYOUN) 20 FOREIGN PARLIAMENTARIANS, in Israel as members of the Israel Allies Foundation, present Foreign Minister Yair Lapid with a resolution confirming their support for the Jewish state and the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. (credit: AVI HAYOUN)
The IHRA provides examples of antisemitism which CAIR Maryland takes issue with, citing Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) as another group that unequivocally opposes the IHRA definition. As is in line with both groups' core values, they object to the examples having to do with Israel. Specifically, CAIR and JVP do not agree that: 
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel

Jewish Voice for Peace, as quoted on CAIR Maryland's website, claims that these statements pose "a direct censorship threat to Palestinians and Palestinian rights advocates. It can easily be used as a censorship tool that falsely conflates attempts to hold the Israeli government accountable with antisemitism."

CAIR Maryland's director Zainab Chaudry echoed JVP's points, saying, "IHRA’s definition is controversial and ambiguous in several respects and leaves too much room for misinterpretation and abuse of free speech rights. Codifying this framework in Montgomery County risks inviting more retaliation against human rights activists. The resolution undermines legitimate efforts to counter bigotry and hate while safeguarding Israel’s unconscionable actions from scrutiny and condemnation.” 

The Montgomery County Council is expected to vote on the resolution on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.