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UN: More Groups Address ‘Antisemitism’ Issue

Amnesty International Among 104 Urging Against Adopting Controversial Definition

United Nations Headquarters building in Manhattan, New York City, on December 21, 2021. © 2021 Sergi Reboredo / VWPics via AP Images

 (New York) – More than 100 human rights and civil rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are urging the United Nations to respect human rights in its efforts to combat antisemitism, Human Rights Watch said today.

Over 40 additional organizations added their names to an update of an April 3, 2023 open letter from Human Rights Watch and partners to Secretary-General António Guterres and the high representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Ángel Moratinos. In that letter, the groups urge the UN not to endorse or adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

This definition has been used to falsely label some criticism of Israeli government policies or advocacy for Palestinian rights antisemitic, the groups said.

The groups said antisemitism “poses real harm to Jewish communities around the world and requires meaningful action to combat it.” They said that governments and world leaders should condemn antisemitism and take steps to protect Jewish communities, including holding those responsible for hate crimes accountable.

However, they cautioned the UN leadership to ensure that its efforts to combat antisemitism “do not inadvertently embolden or endorse policies and laws that undermine fundamental human rights, including the right to speak and organize in favor of Palestinian rights and to criticize Israeli government policies.”

If the UN were to endorse or adopt the IHRA definition, governments and courts could misuse it to restrict criticism of Israeli government policies or advocacy for Palestinian rights, with a chilling effect on freedom of expression. The IHRA working definition has repeatedly been misused in this way, the groups said. They noted that there are at least two other definitions that a number of scholars say are less open to being misused: the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism and the Nexus Document.

Over the past two weeks, the number of signatories has increased to 104 from 60. The increase in support among human rights and civil rights organizations reflects growing concern about the use of the IHRA working definition and the need to ensure that the fight against antisemitism is not sidetracked

In addition to Human Rights Watch, the original signatories included the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and many others. Along with Amnesty International, Americans for Peace Now, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and Breaking the Silence were among the 104 groups that endorsed the letter on April 20.


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