Links to IHRA Definition “to Build a Greater Understanding and Awareness of Antisemitism”

Following in the footsteps of Tacoma, Bellevue, Mill Creek, and, Snohomish County; the King County Council today passed a proclamation today, condemning antisemitism. The proclamation was introduced by Councilmember Reagan Dunn and enjoyed support from the entirety of the council. Promoted by the American Jewish Committee and other mainstream Jewish organizations, the council statement comes in response to a disturbing rise in antisemitic incidents in the United States and around the world. The council’s proclamation recognizes the recent increase in anti-Jewish bigotry, noting that “in 2018, reports of antisemitic incidents were up 60% in Washington State from the previous year.” According to the ADL “crimes targeting the Jewish community consistently constitute over half of all religion-based crimes.” Adding to the sense of urgency, seven Jews were murdered outside of a Jerusalem synagogue this past Friday as the content of the statement was being hashed out in council chambers.

A small number of individuals, some associated with groups hostile to the existence of the Jewish state, like Jewish Voice for Peace, and Falastiniyat, lobbied against the integration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which is widely used as the benchmark for identifying and combating antisemitism.

Last Friday, University of Washington Jewish studies professor Liora Halperin expressed concern in a Seattle Times op-ed that a strong IHRA-inclusive council statement might somehow hinder her and other like-minded individuals from freely engaging in what she maintains as principled “criticism of Israel”. Others see Halperin’s endorsement of age-worn tropes such as the myth of Jewish supremacy, as blatantly antisemitic, with or without the IHRA definition.

While not explicitly integrating the IHRA definition into the text of the proclamation, the council linked the statement to the Puget Sound Jewish Community Statement on Antisemitism, which utilizes the IHRA definition as the standard by which antisemitism and antisemitic acts are defined.

Update 02/02/23: While the final product was less than what the mainstream Jewish community had lobbied for, Jewish organizations such as AJC and The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle issued statements thanking the council and seeing the proclamation as a positive step. AJC issued a statement saying “American Jewish Committee (AJC) Seattle applauds the King County Council for taking steps to address antisemitism in the region”. The statement goes on to note “We believe that yesterday’s proclamation should have explicitly included the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, a definition widely recognized as the gold standard”.

The response of anti-Zionist activists was muted once the content of the final proclamation became known. One of those activists angrily posted to Twitter that “substituting the Seatle JCRC definition of antisemitism for the IHRA definition doesn’t change their proclamation at all, since the JCRC definition contains the IHRA definition…”.

Related Articles

Why IHRA is Important (ADL)

Puget Sound Jewish Community Statement on Antisemitism

Puget Sound Should Adopt IHRA definition (Seattle Times op-ed)