60 human rights groups urge UN not to accept IHRA antisemitism definition

A group of 60 human and civil rights groups have written to the UN asking it to respect the human rights of all people, including Palestinians and their supporters, as part of its efforts to tackle antisemitism.

The organizations — including Human Rights Watch, Israeli group B’Tselem, the American Civil Liberties Union, Palestinian group Al-Haq and the International Federation for Human Rights — warned that despite “pernicious” antisemitism posing “real harm to Jewish communities around the world,” the UN should ensure its “meaningful action” against it does not “inadvertently embolden or endorse policies and laws that undermine fundamental human rights, including the right to speak and organize in support of Palestinian rights and to criticize Israeli government policies.”

The groups urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations Miguel Angel Moratinos not to “endorse or adopt” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which is that “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.”

In the letter, the signatories said the IHRA definition can be used to justify Israeli government policies against Palestinians, and to label criticism of the government, or support for Palestinian rights, as antisemitic.

They suggested that the UN consider other definitions, including the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which states that “antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish),” or the Nexus Document, which centers antisemitism around “anti-Jewish beliefs, attitudes, actions or systemic conditions.”