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A bipartisan group of U.S. House of Representatives staffers received an in-depth briefing on Tuesday on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, at a Capitol Hill forum co-organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and Returning the Sparks.
The panel discussion was moderated by JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut, with speakers including CAM Advisory Board Member and former U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr and Brandeis Center President Alyza Lewin.
Congress members who joined Tuesday’s forum included Rep. Mike Lawler, a New York Republican, and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat.
The event came a week after CAM, in partnership with the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, released the 2023 IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism Adoptions and Endorsements Report, which can be read in full HERE. According to the data tallied in the study, there had been 1,216 recognitions of the definition globally as of the end of December.
“These are urgent times,” Carr said. “American Jews are afraid, even before October 7th. Over half of Jewish students feel the need to hide who they are on American campuses. The fact that this orgy of blood against Jews and Israel has caused more antisemitism tells everything you need to know.”
“The IHRA definition is a game changer, because in order to confront a threat that you have to understand the threat,” he added. “It is now adopted by more than 1,200 entities around the world, including 45 countries and hundreds of municipal governments and universities. It’s a global standard. The IHRA definition includes 11 examples of antisemitism that are the typical examples of how Jew-hatred manifests itself in our day and age. Those examples capture not only the old kind of medieval Jew-hatred, but also captures what we see on display — the new antisemitism.”
“The IHRA definition is not about censorship or punishment,” Carr noted. “If it’s protected by the First Amendment, it’s protected. The IHRA definition is purely about denying Jew-hatred.”
Lawler said, “When I went to Israel in November, we started the meeting by watching the raw footage of the terrorist attack. One thing that stuck with me, in addition to the barbaric images, was a young Palestinian man calling his parents in Gaza and saying over and over, ‘Mom and dad, I killed 10 Jews with my bare hands.’ That level of hatred is taught. If we are to combat antisemitism, it starts with education.”
“The Antisemitism Awareness Act, which I have worked closely with Elan on, if we are to deal with it on our campuses, they must be able to define it and enforce it,” he continued. “What we saw in that hearing with three university presidents, who couldn’t speak clearly — there is no ‘context needed’…the mere calling for it is a violation to bring enforcement against.”
Gottheimer emphasized, “It’s important that Democrats and Republicans stand together on this, it’s not a partisan issue. We’ve got to make sure, whoever the target of hate is, it’s not acceptable. We know after 10/7 just how much worse it’s gotten in our country. The unfortunate reality is it existed before. The question is what do we do about.”
“What has come out in this process, ever more clearly is what’s going on campus and more clearly what is going on online and how TikTok needs to be shut down in the U.S. or sold,” he added. “We know a lot more now than we did a few months ago. Frankly, we need to do more to educate more at a younger age in our schools about the Holocaust and the IHRA definition. We’re going to need to do October 7th education. This fight is going to go on every day. I called for the secretary-general of the UN to resign and the head of UNRWA to resign. And the Qataris need to apply more pressure [on Hamas].”
For more information on IHRA adoptions and endorsements, please visit: ihra.combatantisemitism.org