Germany upgrades IHRA's legal status

Biden administration reaffirms US support for international definition of antisemitism.

Parts of the Holocaust memorial project "Stolpersteine" (stumbling blocks) are pictured in Berlin, Germany, August 18, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE)
Parts of the Holocaust memorial project "Stolpersteine" (stumbling blocks) are pictured in Berlin, Germany, August 18, 2017.
Germany recognized the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance as an international institution on Wednesday, strengthening in law its commitment to fighting antisemitism.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country's one-year presidency of IHRA will come to a close next month, "ending a year in which denial and playing down of the Holocaust reached new, shameless lows."
Maas mentioned examples such as protesters against COVID-19-related restrictions comparing their situation to concentration camps, and someone wearing a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt storming the US Capitol last month.
"These images made us all the more determined in our work for the IHRA," Maas said.
Germany will put IHRA "on equal footing with other international organizations," Maas explained, saying this is "a signal of international cooperation."
"For only by joining forces can we take action against the growing trend to distort the historical record and discriminate," he stated.
Germany’s move came the day after the Biden administration reaffirmed US support for the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kara McDonald addressed an expert committee meeting on combating antisemitism in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday, voicing support for the definition.
“We must educate ourselves and our communities to recognize antisemitism in its many forms, so that we can call hate by its proper name and take effective action,” she said. “That is why the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, with its real-world examples, is such an invaluable tool.”
“As prior US administrations of both political stripes have done, the Biden administration embraces and champions the working definition,” McDonald continued. “We applaud the growing number of countries and international bodies that apply it, we urge all that haven’t done so to do likewise – and we commend OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights for using it.”
IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism is: “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.”
The “real-world examples” McDonald mentioned are the more controversial part of the definition, as they include extreme criticisms of Israel, such as saying that Israel is a racist endeavor or comparing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis.
Last month, several left-wing Jewish organizations, including Americans for Peace Now, J Street and the New Israel Fund, among others, came out against codifying the IHRA definition. They argued that legally adopting the IHRA definition could suppress freedom of expression, and penalize people who question "the legitimacy of Israel's founding."
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said in response that the IHRA definition of antisemitism is an important tool for fighting hatred of Jews around the world, and lamented the opposition of the left-wing Jewish groups to its legal adoption.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.