Washington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now (APN) is disappointed at the Biden administration's support of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, as expressed yesterday by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kara McDonald.
We at APN applaud the Biden administration's commitment to fighting antisemitism and are committed to doing whatever we can as part of this effort. But we believe that the IHRA Working Definition is the wrong vehicle for such action.
Our concern is not with the sentences that make up the definition itself but rather with the accompanying examples, which are regarded as an integral part of the definition. Some of these examples go far beyond what can reasonably be regarded as antisemitism. They cross the line into the realm of politics and are being used to score political points, and to quash legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies. Worse are the efforts to codify this rough, inaccurate definition of antisemitism into law across the US to legally sanction legitimate speech, which is not antisemitic.
This alarming trend was unfortunately echoed in Deputy Assistant Secretary McDonald's speech, when she said the administration applauds "the growing number of countries and international bodies that apply" IHRA and urged "all that haven't done so to do likewise."
Americans for Peace Now is proudly pro-Israel. And because we care about Israel, we denounce government policies that we believe are detrimental to Israel's future and wellbeing. Doing so is not antisemitic. And criticism of Israeli policy, including the occupation, whether by Jews or non-Jews, is not automatically antisemitic.
IHRA's definition, however, uses a broad brush to paint legitimate criticism of Israel and Israeli government policies as exactly that.
For an explanation of APN's nuanced position on IHRA, see our letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on this issue.
We urge the Biden administration to carefully examine IHRA, with attention to reservations that our organization and others have articulated, and qualify its position regarding the IHRA definition accordingly.