World Jewish News
The German government adopts International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism
25.09.2017, Jews and Society
The German government has adopted the international definition of anti-Semitism which was initiated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Germany joins Britain, Austria and Romania in officially adopting this definition.
The definition was adopted after the government's weekly meeting. Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere stressed the importance of consensus on the term in Germany, which is still plagued by various manifestations of anti-Semitism.
"We Germans are particularly vigilant when our country is threatened by an increase in anti-Semitism," he said. "History made clear to us, in the most terrible way, the horrors to which anti-Semitism can lead."
"I very much welcome the adoption of the working definition of anti-Semitism by the German government," said Felix Klein, head of the German delegation to the IHRA and the foreign ministry's special representative for relations with Jewish organizations.
He added: "In order to address the problem of anti-Semitism, it is very important to define it first, and this working definition can provide guidance on how antisemitism can manifest itself. We are proud to join Austria, Israel, Romania, Scotland and the United Kingdom in affirming that there is no place for anti-Semitism in any society and we call on other states to follow."
The adoption of the IHRA definition fulfills one of the recommendations of an independent expert commission on anti-Semitism issued in April. According to the commission report, today's anti-Semitism takes forms as different as extreme-right xenophobic fears of a global Jewish conspiracy and Israel-focused hostility toward Jews among Arabs and other Muslims.
Volker Beck, member of the commission and Green member of the Bundestag called the government decision "a first step."
He said the adoption of the definition ‘’sets out a framework.’’ "Government action on various levels – from legal prosecution to educational measures to the sensitization of the judicial system – is now more binding. We can create a common understanding in government of the problems and challenges and a evaluation framework for preventing and combating anti-Semitism."
Jewish groups in Germany and abroad welcomed the government decision because its description of anti-Semitism also applies to excessive criticism of Israel as a "Jewish collective" and not a nation like many others.
Joseph Schuster, head of the Council of Jews in Germany, hailed the government's decision. "It's as important to combat anti-Semitism dressed up as putative criticism of Israel as to fight against the old stereotypes about Jews," he said.
“It is a clear signal that anti-Semitism is not tolerated in Germany,’’ Schuster added, saying that he hoped the definition would be “heeded in schools, in the training of public servants and in the courts,” and that it would help police to categorize crimes effectively.
“Cases of anti-Semitism are all too often overlooked or even ignored by authorities due to the lack of a uniform definition of anti-Semitism,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin. “This will change dramatically with the adoption of the Working Definition, which will make it more apparent when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head.
“This is a vitally important decision undertaken by the German Government, because now the German authorities, enforcement agencies and judiciary will be able to better tackle hatred against Jews,” said European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor.
“Previously, Anti-Semitism was astoundingly defined by the perpetrator and not the victim, so now no one will be able to claim their statements and actions against Jews as individuals, the Jewish People collectively or the Jewish State falls outside of clear definitions of hatred.”
He expressed the hope that other EU member states will adopt the IHRA definition.
Germans are heading to the polls on Sunday to elect the Bundestag, the federal parliament, an election which will ultimately decide whether Chancellor Angela Merkel has another four years in power.
Opinion polls have consistently pointed to Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister-party the Christian Social Union (CSU) gaining around 36 percent of the vote, hence making it very likely that Merkel will return to power.
Polls have shown that the parties' closest rival, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), has failed to gain momentum and it is currently in second place with around 22 percent of the vote.
The anti-immigration, anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) party could come in third place with around 11 percent of the vote — gaining more than the 5 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament for the first time — as could the pro-business Free Democrats party (FDP), seen gaining around 10 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, The Left (Die Linke) party is also seen gaining around 10 percent of the vote while the Greens are seen with 8 percent of the vote.