European Jewish Congress
EJP: As Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the German government adopts International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism
EJC in the Media
EJP: As Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the German government adopts International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism

The German government has adopted the international definition of antisemitism which was initiated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Germany joins Britain, Austria and Romania in officially adopting this definition.

The definition was adopted after the government's weekly meeting. Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere stressed the importance of consensus on the term in Germany, which is still plagued by various manifestations of antisemitism.

"We Germans are particularly vigilant when our country is threatened by an increase in antisemitism," he said. "History made clear to us, in the most terrible way, the horrors to which antisemitism can lead."

"I very much welcome the adoption of the working definition of antisemitism by the German government," said Felix Klein, head of the German delegation to the IHRA and the foreign ministry's special representative for relations with Jewish organizations.

He added: "In order to address the problem of antisemitism, it is very important to define it first, and this working definition can provide guidance on how antisemitism can manifest itself. We are proud to join Austria, Israel, Romania, Scotland and the United Kingdom in affirming that there is no place for antisemitism in any society and we call on other states to follow."

The adoption of the IHRA definition fulfills one of the recommendations of an independent expert commission on antisemitism issued in April. According to the commission report, today's antisemitism takes forms as different as extreme-right xenophobic fears of a global Jewish conspiracy and Israel-focused hostility toward Jews among Arabs and other Muslims. 

Volker Beck, member of the commission and Green member of the Bundestag called the government decision "a first step."

He said the adoption of the definition ‘’sets out a framework.’’ "Government action on various levels – from legal prosecution to educational measures to the sensitization of the judicial system – is now more binding. We can create a common understanding in government of the problems and challenges and a evaluation framework for preventing and combating antisemitism."

Jewish groups in Germany and abroad welcomed the government decision because its description of antisemitism also applies to excessive criticism of Israel as a "Jewish collective" and not a nation like many others.

Joseph Schuster, head of the Council of Jews in Germany, hailed the government's decision. "It's as important to combat antisemitism dressed up as putative criticism of Israel as to fight against the old stereotypes about Jews," he said.

“It is a clear signal that antisemitism is not tolerated in Germany,’’ Schuster added, saying that he hoped the definition would be “heeded in schools, in the training of public servants and in the courts,” and that it would help police to categorize crimes effectively.

“Cases of antisemitism are all too often overlooked or even ignored by authorities due to the lack of a uniform definition of antisemitism,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin. “This will change dramatically with the adoption of the Working Definition, which will make it more apparent when antisemitism rears its ugly head.

This is a vitally important decision undertaken by the German Government, because now the German authorities, enforcement agencies and judiciary will be able to better tackle hatred against Jews,” said European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor.

“Previously, antisemitism was astoundingly defined by the perpetrator and not the victim, so now no one will be able to claim their statements and actions against Jews as individuals, the Jewish People collectively or the Jewish State falls outside of clear definitions of hatred.”

He expressed the hope that other EU member states will adopt the IHRA definition.

Click here to read the full article in EJP

Monday, September 25, 2017
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