White House refuses to endorse 'pro-Israel' definition of anti-Semitism

White House refuses to endorse 'pro-Israel' definition of anti-Semitism
The White House has outlined its first-ever strategy to counter anti-Semitism, stopping short of endorse the IHRA’s controversial definition which is seen as stifling criticism of Israel
2 min read
26 May, 2023
The White House acknowledge the IHRA definition but stopped short of endorsing it [Getty]

The White House has stopped short of adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) controversial definition of anti-Semitism in its plan to combat hatred against Jews in the United States.

Washington released its first-ever strategy to combat anti-Semitism on Thursday amid a rise in hate crimes in the US. However, this did not include the adoption of the IHRA definition.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has been a continuing source of controversy and debate.

Adopted by the organisation in 2016, it defines anti-Semitism not only as "a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews" but goes on to say that accusing "the State of Israel of being a racist endeavour" and "requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation" are examples of anti-Semitism.

Pro-Israel groups have pressured the Biden administration to adopt the IHRA definition, which mentioned Israel in six of the 11 examples it used to characterise anti-Semitism.

Palestinian rights groups have argued that that the IHRA definition could be used to muzzle fair criticism of Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.

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The White House skirted around this definition when setting its strategy to combat anti-Semitisim, saying it “embraced” the IHRA characterisation but also acknowledged there were other definitions. 

FBI statistics say that anti-Semitism accounted for 63 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes in the US, even though Jewish people only account for 2 percent of the population. 

The Biden administration’s strategy outlines more than 100 steps that federal agencies have promised to take within a year and more than 100 specific calls to action to combat anti-Semitism, aimed at religious communities, academic institutions, local and state governments, civil society, and the US Congress.