El Paso, Texas, adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism

The IHRA classifies “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” among other actions, as antisemitic.

Downtown El Paso, Texas (photo credit: BRIAN WANCHO/CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Downtown El Paso, Texas
(photo credit: BRIAN WANCHO/CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The City Council of El Paso, Texas last Tuesday adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in order to “protect the safety of their Jewish and all communities“ due to increasing numbers of hate crimes in the United States, according to the office of City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tempore Rep. Peter Svarzbein.

The IHRA's non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism includes: “Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust; Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations; Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor."

Other actions the IHRA defines as problematic are: "Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation; Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis; Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” and also  “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel."

Antisemitism in the US

In 2021, 2,717 antisemitic incidents were reported in the US, a 34% increase compared to 2,026 incidents the previous year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. In Texas, 112 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021 compared to 42 incidents in 2020, an increase of 167%, making Texas one of the top five states with the highest rates of antisemitic incidents.

Svarzbein condemned the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso in which 23 people were killed and 23 were injured by a white nationalist, saying, “We see too often these days the need to stand united for all of our communities in El Paso and beyond.”

Mourners take part in a vigil near the border fence between Mexico and the U.S after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso U.S. in Ciudad Juarez (credit: REUTERS/CARLOS SANCHEZ)Mourners take part in a vigil near the border fence between Mexico and the U.S after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso U.S. in Ciudad Juarez (credit: REUTERS/CARLOS SANCHEZ)

“We are a community that respects the first amendment, freedom of religion and speech, and celebrates our diversity and the multitude of communities and cultures.”

Rep. Peter Svarzbein, City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tempore of El Paso

“I would like to thank the City Council of El Paso for adopting the non-legally binding IHRA definition of antisemitism, which states as ‘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,’” he added.

“We are a community that respects the first amendment, freedom of religion and speech, and celebrates our diversity and the multitude of communities and cultures that make El Paso home.”