Jun 12, 2021


It’s ironic and worrisome: While over 450 leading organizations worldwide – including 28 leading countries, police forces, universities and even football clubs – have adopted the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) exactly five years ago, antisemitic manifestations toward Jews around the world have “run wild” in recent weeks and months.

This has been determined by researchers headed by Dr. Giovanni Quer at the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University’s Entin Faculty of Humanities.  “There appears to be quite a gap between proclaimed national policies and the ongoings in the field,” said Quer. 

The Working Definition is regarded as an effective tool for identifying antisemitism and is designed to assist courts of law, government offices, police, local authorities, universities, sports clubs and more.

The governments of the US, Canada, Germany, the UK, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Czechia, Luxemburg, Kosovo, Cyprus, Argentina, Uruguay and more; football clubs Chelsea, Bayern and Borussia Dortmund and the Global Imams Council are just a few of the prominent entities that have adopted the Working Definition. 

The Working Definition has also been adopted by many organizations around the globe, including dozens of institutions of higher education and student councils, leading religious institutions – including the prominent Moslem organization Global Imams Council and sports clubs including Chelsea in the UK and Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in Germany.  Many business corporations including Volkswagen, Daimler and Deutsch Bank have also adopted the Definition.

New reports collected by the Kantor Center’s international network over the past two weeks indicate a disturbing rise in both verbal and physical antisemitic manifestations toward Jews in different hotspots around the world. This “mixed trend” is discouraging, they said, because while the Working Definition has been widely and officially adopted, money has been allocated to ensure the security of Jewish communities and leaders make supportive declarations, hatred of Jews runs wild on the social media and in the streets of cities. 

The past two weeks especially have been characterized by displays of violence, animosity and defamation – worse than those observed during the past year’s pandemic. The reports were received from places all over the world, in particular through the international network established by the Kantor Center several years ago, which includes about 60 participants who regularly send in information about their countries of residence. 

According to the Working Definition, as phrased by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews that is 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… Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity…  frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong,’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”

Prof. Dina Porat, the Kantor Center’s former head, stressed: ”All of these have been observed in events now taking place daily all over the world.”

Quer noted that the Working Definition is in its essence a “non-legally binding document” but nevertheless a “useful tool that can facilitate the effective and accurate identification of certain expressions/activities as antisemitic in nature, as part of the global struggle against anti-Semitism. Its purpose is to assist entities authorized to enforce already existing laws and regulations – such as courts of law, government offices, police forces, parliaments etc. 

Once adopted, the Working Definition is applied in the field in many cases, facilitating lawsuits, the cancellation of demonstrations and events with antisemitic contents, fights against discrimination against Jewish students at universities and more, said Quer. Thus, for example, following its adoption, mayors and managements of academic institutions in different countries have canceled mass events with antisemitic features that were contradictory to the Working Definition. 

At the same time, Quer emphasized that the encouraging trend of the Working Definition’s expanding adoption is no guard against the growing worldwide phenomenon of “New Antisemitism” – disguised as political stances against Israel and Zionism.  “Unfortunately, over the past year we have seen a radicalization of anti-Israel standpoints, which are in fact fully and clearly antisemitic,” he added. “The reports received at the Kantor Center reveal that in many cases severe manifestations of racism and blatant are presented as ‘legitimate criticism’ of the State of Israel and its government’s policies.”

The materials used for mapping the adoption of the Working Definition were collected in cooperation with students of the Struggle Against Antisemitism Program of the School of Tourism at the University of Haifa, headed by Prof. Gabriel Malka and Dr. Elie Vinocour.