USA – American Bar Association pushed to reject common definition of antisemitism

ABA - The American Bar Association
ABA - The American Bar Association

Washington D.C., DC – The American Bar Association has been called upon by progressive activists to pump the brakes on a new resolution condemning antisemitism, arguing it creates a “chilling” effect on free speech and is anti-Palestinian.

The ABA’s House of Delegates is slated to convene on Feb. 6 to vote on Resolution 514, which “urges federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments in the United States to condemn antisemitism, as referred to in The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism,” the ABA said on Jan. 24.

But ahead of the vote, multiple groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Council on American Islamic Relations, issued a statement on Jan. 18 that condemned antisemitism but argued the IHRA is “dangerously chilling fundamental rights of free speech, freedom of assembly and protest, and academic freedom.”

Resolution 514 unpacks several manifestations of antisemitism from the IHRA definition, which includes unfairly targeting Israel through “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” “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,” and targeting Jewish people on the basis of “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

The ABA’s report furthers that the U.S. State Department uses the IHRA standard for antisemitism and encourages “other governments and international organizations to use it as well.” The IHRA definition is defended in the report as a “broadly endorsed definition” of antisemitism.

“In an era of rapidly rising global antisemitism, now is not the time to discard one of the most fundamental and critical tools in the arsenal to combat it,” the ABA resolution reads.

However, the ACLU letter countered that IHRA’s definition as a “consensus” could be “nothing further from the truth,” citing experts such as Kenneth Stern, who helped draft the working definition of antisemitism in 2005.

Other organizations critical of the resolution, including Human Rights Watch, have come out against the ABA’s proposal as a form of suppressing speech that aims to defend Palestinian people.

“The wording of the first example on ‘racist endeavour’ opens the door to labeling as antisemitic claims that Israeli government policies and practices violate the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the findings of major Israeli, Palestinian, and global human rights organizations that Israeli authorities are committing the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians,” HRW wrote.

Resolution 514 was proposed by the ABA’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, as well as its Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, its Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, its International Law Section, its Senior Lawyers Division, and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

The Washington Examiner contacted the ABA for a response.

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