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Since Hamas’ massacre in Israel on October 7, Jewish communities globally have faced an increase in discrimination, harassment, and violence, underscoring the importance of recognizing and clearly defining antisemitism.
To that end, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism, or the “IHRA working definition,” and its 11 explanatory examples, is universally accepted for providing a clear and concise understanding of antisemitism as experienced by Jews today.
However, a report tracking 2023 adoptions and endorsements of the IHRA working definition released today by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), in partnership with the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, revealed that American institutions of higher learning have been noticeably lacking in their adoptions of the IHRA working definition.
Despite recent survey data showing nearly 73% of U.S. Jewish college students have experienced or witnessed antisemitism since the start of the 2023-2024 school year, CAM’s report reveals that only Boston University’s student government has adopted the IHRA working definition in 2023. These figure’s help put into context the atmosphere on college campuses that led to high-profile incidents of antisemitism on the campuses of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, The George Washington University, Cooper Union College, and Cornell University, just to name a few.
In contrast with U.S. university trends whereby the IHRA definition has received limited adoption on the student government level, seven international universities and colleges adopted the working definition in 2023, bringing the global total to 345, which includes nearly every university in the UK, whose administrations included it in their codes of conduct.
“American colleges need to be proactive in helping Jewish students feel safe and accepted on campus, when nearly three quarters of Jewish college students have been experienced antisemitism since the beginning of the school year, we must take action,” said CAM CEO Sacha Roytman. “The best path forward includes robust educational programs that raise awareness about antisemitism, including the incorporation of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, so schools as well as local, state, and federal governments can properly identify, monitor, and act on antisemitic incidents.”
This is the third annual report CAM has released on the global adoption of the IHRA working definition since the definition was first adopted in 2016. As of December 2023, a total of 1,216 entities have adopted or endorsed the IHRA working definition, including 97 new adoptions and endorsements in 2023. This surpasses the 1,200-milestone set for 2023 by CAM, a telling indicator of the far-reaching impact and influence of the definition.
At the national level, 45 countries, including the U.S. and most Western democracies, have adopted the IHRA working definition. However, the UN has again, as it has historically, completely abrogated its responsibility to protect the Jewish people. When the UN finally shared a draft plan for combating antisemitism in 2023, it was rejected by every Jewish group it shared it with for being insufficient, in large part because it didn’t adopt the IHRA working definition. It also failed to address modern antisemitism at all, instead, centering the plan around the Holocaust.
The UN’s reticence to stand up to antisemitism mirrors its outsized criticism of Israel. Similarly, in the wake of October 7, CAM has tracked a 1753% increase in far-left antisemitic incidents and a 268% increase of Islamist antisemitic incidents from Q3 to Q4 2023, almost all tied to anti-Zionist forms of antisemitism and the conflation of worldwide Jewry with the State of Israel. These incidents include violent protests at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, protestors chanting for “jihad” at London protests, and numerous accounts of far-left protestors tearing down posters advocating for the return of innocent people, including babies, being held hostage by Hamas.
Additional positive movement in 2023 came from non-federal government entities, which accounted for about half of all adoptions, an indication of the success of the IHRA working definition at the local level. When cities, counties, and other localities adopt the IHRA working definition, it can be utilized by local law enforcement to respond to antisemitism more effectively.
For example, the state of Virginia completed a successful bipartisan effort to adopt the IHRA working definition in May 2023 to use as a tool to identify instances of antisemitism and train “first responders, educators, and other public servants” on how to respond. Virginia is just one of 34 U.S. states that have so far adopted the IHRA working definition.
“The present wave of antisemitism, surging worldwide, calls for tools to confront it,” said Professor Dina Porat, founding head of the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewish History at Tel Aviv University and member of the CAM Advisory Board. “The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism offers a trustworthy, clear, and internationally-accepted such tool, the adoption of which is a statement of shared values among those struggling against evil.”
The importance of adopting the IHRA working definition was a primary focus at CAM’s annual mayoral summits in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Dortmund, Germany in 2023, which were attended by representatives of over 130 municipalities from across North America and Europe.
The full IHRA report can be found HERE.
For more information on IHRA adoptions and endorsements, please visit: ihra.combatantisemitism.org
About the Combat Antisemitism Movement
CAM is a global coalition engaging more than 800 partner organizations and four million people from a diverse array of religious, political, and cultural backgrounds in the common mission of fighting the world’s oldest hatred. CAM acts collaboratively to build a better future, free of bigotry, for Jews and all humanity.