Defining Antisemitism

January 2021

Combating Antisemitism

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., reaffirms its support for and adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, including all 11 accompanying illustrative examples. Hadassah also joins with IHRA and other antisemitism experts in formally adopting the spelling antisemitism — without a hyphen or capital S — to ensure clarity of meaning for the term used to signify modern Jew-hatred.

Hadassah is a proud partner of The Combat Antisemitism Movement, and National President of Hadassah, Rhoda Smolow, is co-chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ Task Force to Combat Antisemitism. In 2019, Hadassah affirmed an American Zionist Movement resolution supporting the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. In December 2020, the Hadassah National Board passed a motion to formally adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and the accompanying illustrative examples, as have numerous other organizations and governments at the municipal, state, national and international levels.

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., joins with our partners in encouraging all governments, organizations and institutions to adopt the definition and examples that follow, as a means of combating the scourges of antisemitism and racism in all their manifestations.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, as adopted in May 2016, states:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews.  Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

To guide the IHRA in its work, it set forth the following examples to serve as illustrations of antisemitism:

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not  exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the  Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded    of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property — such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries — are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews. Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

Hadassah's Policy Statements represent the organization's official stance on a wide variety of issues facing our nation, Israel and other international matters of concern. Policy Statements are debated and voted on at national meetings by Hadassah’s national board and delegates from our membership. Once approved, statements become official policies of the organization and serve to define Hadassah's overall agenda and advocacy priorities. Hadassah, as a charitable organization classified under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is prohibited from any direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, candidates for public office.