Latin American Parliament Adopts IHRA Antisemitism Definition, Urges Member States to Do Same

Facade of the Latin American Parliament building in Panama City, Panama. Credit: Mabelin Santos/Shutterstock.
By TPS • 23 May, 2023

Jerusalem, 23 May, 2023 (TPS) — The Latin American Parliament, which represents 23 Latin American and Caribbean countries, adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism last week. It also urged each member state’s parliament to use the IHRA definition “as an active way of combating hate speech and as a tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.”

The non-binding definition was developed in 2016 by the IHRA, an intergovernmental organization based in Berlin that seeks to strengthen Holocaust education.

According to the IHRA definition, “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.”

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The definition cites 11 examples, including, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and “Applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Yifa Segal, who is the founder and former CEO of the International Legal Forum, told the Tazpit Press Service that the Latin American Parliament’s adoption of IHRA is “potentially significant.” The International Legal Forum is an international network of lawyers countering antisemitism and terror.

She explained to TPS that the definition “is meant to give tools to governments, institutions and leaders to combat antisemitism.”

Adopting IHRA’s definition is a necessary first step to combating antisemitism. But implementing IHRA’s definition has been bogged down by misunderstanding, Segal said.

“You use IHRA as a tool for interpretation in light of your existing rules,” she told TPS. The definition, Segal stressed, is “not an attempt to stifle free speech or criticism of Israel.”

For example, she said, “In the US, the issue of freedom of speech is very protected. Adopting IHRA won’t make comments a crime, but it will help understand actions or situations or motives as being antisemitic. Then you can apply your existing laws accordingly. You can use the definition to distinguish between double standards and legitimate criticism of Israel.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a nongovernmental partner of the Latin American parliament, had officially requested that the organization adopt the definition.

“This adoption has a high value because it does not come from an organization that represents governments but from their Congresses, where there are pro-government and opposition delegates from an entire continent,” stated Ariel Gelblung, director of the center’s Center for Latin America.

“In this way, the entire ideological spectrum agrees to understand that antisemitism is not a Jewish problem but just one of the societies that tolerate it,” he added.

A study by the US-based Combat Antisemitism released in January found that IHRA’s definition has been adopted by “1,116 global entities” including nations, cities, universities, non-governmental organizations, corporations and even athletic clubs.”

These institutions use the definition “as a framework for recognizing modern-day iterations of antisemitism, training and educational programs, and policymaking initiatives,” the report added.

Public figures have also called on social media companies and news services to adopt the definition as well. In 2021, Oliver Dowden, then Britain’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, wrote to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok urging them to use the definition as a basis for moderating antisemitic content.

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