The Washington Post Misleads About the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism is used by numerous entities, including local, state, federal and foreign governments, and institutions. On Nov. 1, 2022, it was adopted by the Montgomery County Council, which governs many of the suburbs in Washington D.C. Yet, Post reporting on the council’s unanimous decision to adopt the IHRA definition was often misleading.

A Nov. 1, 2022, dispatch by correspondent Katie Shepherd was short on details and long on vague accusations. Shepherd commendably noted that there has been “an increase in antisemitic incidents in the county and nationally” and pointed out that this was a key motivating factor in the resolution’s introduction.

Shepherd also pointed out that the IHRA definition has been “widely accepted by national, state and local governments.” Unfortunately, the Post uncritically repeated misleading claims about the definition, asserting that it has been “criticized as potentially inhibiting free speech and encroaching on academic freedom.” The newspaper added that the “definition includes an example of antisemitism that some believe conflates criticism of the Israeli government with bigotry.” But it does no such thing.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism was adopted to provide a “comprehensive tool to monitor, measure and ultimately combat contemporary manifestations of this age-old societal scourge.” In short: it seeks to provide a benchmark for a virus that not only mutates, but which has murdered millions in living memory.

As of March 2022, more than 865 entities have adopted the working definition—more than 200 in 2021 alone. 37 countries have adopted the definition, including most Western democracies. The United States, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Switzerland, Albania, Poland, and South Korea, among others, have formally adopted the definition. Importantly, prior to the U.S. government adopting IHRA under President Donald Trump, the Obama-era U.S. State Department accepted the definition.

In short: IHRA has been widely adopted, across both the globe and the political spectrum. And in an age of growing political polarization, one would be hard pressed to think of an issue that has found such widespread acceptance.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post omitted these relevant facts, choosing instead to give print to misleading claims.

Contrary to what is repeated by the Post, it is still entirely possible to criticize Israel. Indeed, an examination of the numerous locales, or entities, that have adopted the IHRA definition shows as much. It is not as if there isn’t criticism of Israel in the U.K. or the U.S., for example—to include on college campuses and among academics. Indeed, the IHRA definition itself notes that not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic.

As one of its foremost advocates, Kenneth Marcus, has observed, the IHRA definition of antisemitism provides not only a helpful framework, but a necessary one that helps to combat assaults on key components and aspects of Jewish life. Indeed, much of the reason behind IHRA’s adoption in the United States is to ensure that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which seeks to prevent discrimination, is extended to Jewish Americans who face a peculiar and unique threat in the form of antisemitism.

The Post’s failure to provide all the details about IHRA is particularly unfortunate. As CAMERA has documented, in 2019 the newspaper’s editorial board opposed the U.S. government’s adoption of IHRA on specious grounds. Several Post employees have also aided and abetted antisemitism.

Columnist Karen Attiah, for example, defended her decision to publish an opinion piece by the leader of the Houthi militia, whose motto is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.” Attiah did so on the grounds that the newspaper had an obligation to publish all viewpoints, “including the abusive ones.” Yet in a June 4, 2020 tweet, Attiah decried the New York Times’s decision to publish an op-ed by a sitting Republican Senator whom she disagreed with. More recently, Attiah implied that the backlash against Kanye West over his antisemitic remarks was due to the rapper being black.

Indeed, CAMERA has highlighted numerous other problematic instances of the paper not only failing to take antisemitism seriously, but even propagating that age-old hatred. On antisemitism, discerning readers shouldn’t take the Washington Post at its word.

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