Prominent Jewish leader Natan Sharansky publicly said on Monday that the White House and President Joe Biden should only offer one definition for antisemitism: the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition, which determines that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.
Sharansky wrote to Biden on Twitter and tweeted that "your embrace of the IHRA Working Definition is critically important and it must be given an exclusive role in the plan's implementation."
Sharansky explained that the IHRA definition is the only one that covers what he has called "The Three Ds" of modern-day antisemitism: "Delegitimization, demonization and double standards."
Sharansky, the former Israeli minister and former chairman of the Jewish Agency, is currently Chair of the Advisory Board for the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM).
Sharansky has also thanked Biden and the White House for their "prioritization of the fight against rising antisemitism. Your groundbreaking new national strategy presented last week will help foster the broad united front needed to combat this societal scourge effectively in the US."
Your embrace of @theIHRA Working Definition is critically important, and it must be given an exclusive role in the plan's implementation, as it is the only definition that covers my "three Ds" of modern-day antisemitism—delegitimization, demonization, and double standards.— Natan Sharansky (@natan_sharansky) May 29, 2023
The strategy that was launched on Thursday specifically said that it acknowledges IHRA as the main definition of antisemitism but also acknowledged the existence of other definitions such as the Nexus Document, that is more to the left of the political map regarding its attitude towards Israel and to antisemitism.
The IHRA definition is a non-legally binding statement that provides a broad and general description of antisemitism, accompanied by 11 illustrative examples that include criticism of Israel as a potential manifestation of antisemitism. The more recent Nexus definition aims to provide a clearer and more precise description of antisemitism which provides guidelines to identify when criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemitism, without stifling legitimate debate or expression. The Nexus definition has been supported by some academics and activists who consider the IHRA definition vague, ambiguous and susceptible to misuse. All of the mainstream Jewish organizations in the US have pushed for the administration to adopt the IHRA definition exclusively.
Jewish organizations express worry about Biden's antisemitism plan
As published by The Jerusalem Post on Monday, a number of more central or apolitical organizations have said they are worried about the definition of antisemitism as portrayed in the 60-page national strategy plan on combating antisemitism in the US.
One of the main legacy Jewish organizations, The World Jewish Congress (WJC), led by president Ronald Lauder, thanked the White House for the new plan, but also added some hinted criticism: “We must have concrete action, not just words,” the WJC said towards the end of its statement reacting to the White House strategy. “The inclusion of a secondary definition in addition to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism is an unnecessary distraction from the real work that needs to be done,” they said of the Nexus definition, that was included in the text referring to the different types of antisemitism.
The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), one of the newest but central groups in promoting dialogue about antisemitism, welcomed the new strategy, adding that “While the strategy rightly raises alarm about antisemitism rooted in white supremacist ideology, it does not highlight enough the threats posed by other, equally menacing and potent, manifestations of Jew-hatred, including from the far-left and the radical Islamist communities in the US.” CAM also highlighted their objection to the ‘Nexus Document.’
Other Jewish organizations have been lobbying this week for the embracement of the IHRA definition, as opposed to the Nexus document. Honest Reporting, a pro-Israel watchdog tweeted that "the IHRA definition, embraced by over 37 countries, identifies Jew-hatred in all its forms. Adopting the IHRA definition would ensure more accurate and comprehensive media coverage of antisemitism. By properly identifying it, the media can effectively identify and report on Jew-hatred, prevent bias and report responsibly."
Former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted that "there was one primary ask among centrist Jewish NGO’s of the Biden report — that it fully adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. That request was denied. Anti-Zionism is not squarely deemed antisemitism by the Biden administration and organizations like CAIR and JStreet are celebrating. Let’s not sugarcoat this stunning failure."