Madrid adopts IHRA antisemitism definition

The IHRA definition has been adopted by 29 countries, the European Union, and numerous local governments and institutions around the world.

PROTESTING OUTSIDE a meeting of the British Labour Party’s National Executive, which was set to discuss the party’s definition of antisemitism, in London in September 2018 (photo credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)
PROTESTING OUTSIDE a meeting of the British Labour Party’s National Executive, which was set to discuss the party’s definition of antisemitism, in London in September 2018
(photo credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)

The Madrid Assembly has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which will come as a blow to the prominent and widespread Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in the region and Spain at large.

In the same motion adopting the IHRA definition, the assembly also called on the national parliament to pass legislation that would deny public funding to organizations that promote antisemitic hatred as defined by IHRA.

The national parliament will now be required to hold a debate on the Madrid Assembly’s motion.

The motion, which was introduced two years ago, was passed on Thursday in a vote that was backed not only by the Center-Right People’s Party currently in power in Madrid, but significantly by the left-wing PSOE Spanish Socialist Workers Party as well, which has often sided with far-left, anti-Israel parties on such matters.

The IHRA definition has been adopted by 29 countries, the European Union, and numerous local governments and institutions around the world as a way to clearly define antisemitism in order to accurately monitor its prevalence and combat it.

Among the examples it gives are calling Israel “a racist endeavor” and applying double-standards to Israel’s actions.

The far-left Podemos party founded in 2014 has led a fierce campaign in Spain to pass legislation in regional and municipal legislatures and authorities boycotting Israel, and has often been criticized as discriminatory and antisemitic.

Provisions in legislation advanced by Podemos and its allies have included banning the municipality or local authority from entering into contracts and agreements with Israeli companies and entities, and even banning business ties and agreements with individual Spanish citizens associated with Israel or Israeli organizations and companies.

There have been successful efforts to overturn such local laws through the courts, but activists believe that the adoption of IHRA’s definition of antisemitism will help to delegitimize the BDS campaign itself.

President of the ACOM anti-BDS organization Angel Mas said that by adopting IHRA’s definition, the Madrid Assembly was sending a message that BDS organizations were not welcome in the region’s institutions and that its messages and goals were outside the bounds of reasonable dialogue.

PROTESTING OUTSIDE a meeting of the British Labour Party’s National Executive, which was set to discuss the party’s definition of antisemitism, in London in September 2018 (credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)PROTESTING OUTSIDE a meeting of the British Labour Party’s National Executive, which was set to discuss the party’s definition of antisemitism, in London in September 2018 (credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)

“BDS groups have been very legitimate in Madrid and Spain more broadly, they have been part of regional and municipal government hearings and debates where they promoted their activities, motions, and initiatives,” said Mas.

“Now that’s unthinkable, because such organizations can be said to be not legitimate,” he continued.

Although the Madrid Assembly’s motion itself cannot change funding criteria, Mas hopes that the national parliament will pass legislation to deny any public funding for BDS organizations that discriminate against Israel, Israelis, Israeli companies or those associated with them.

Such organizations have received funding from many municipal and regional authorities in the past, said Mas.

A debate in the national parliament on the Madrid Assembly’s motion could take place at the beginning of next year.

If PSOE, the ruling party nationally, were to vote in favor as it did in Madrid, there would almost certainly be a majority for it, although national political considerations would likely be different than regional ones in Madrid and adoption of legislation would be much more difficult.