In its coverage of reactions by American Jewish organizations to the new U.S. national strategy to combat anti-Semitism, The Jerusalem Post quoted B’nai B’rith International’s statement on the White House’s plan of action.
While most Jewish organizations and Jewish leaders support US President Joe Biden’s unprecedented broad strategy to combat antisemitism announced last week, some have added a hint of criticism to their comments.
The strategy specifically said that it acknowledges IHRA as the main definition of antisemitism but also acknowledged the existence of other definitions such as the Nexus Document, that is more to the left of the political map regarding its attitude towards Israel and to antisemitism.
Another legacy organization, B’nai B’rith, reacted to the new plan saying that they also see a problem with the addition of the Nexus definition. B’nai B’rith President Seth J. Riklin and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said in a statement that they are “disappointed in the document’s mention of the Nexus definition of antisemitism.” They added that “we believe that definition allows the more invidious of Israel’s nemeses to hide their animus behind ‘strident’ criticism of Israel. The important and well-established IHRA definition addresses this issue in a far superior manner.”
They emphasized that “even with those concerns we are deeply satisfied that the national strategy to fight antisemitism provides an invaluable investment in promoting and realizing tolerance, safety and security for Jews across the country.”
What are the differences between the IHRA and the Nexus definitions of antisemitism?
The IHRA definition is a non-legally binding statement that provides a broad and general description of antisemitism, accompanied by 11 illustrative examples that include criticism of Israel as a potential manifestation of antisemitism. The Nexus definition is a more recent and alternative definition that aims to provide a clearer and more precise description of antisemitism, with a focus on the nexus between antisemitism and Israel or Zionism. The Nexus definition also provides guidelines to identify when criticism of Israel or opposition to it crosses the line into antisemitism, without stifling legitimate debate or expression.
Another difference is that the IHRA definition has been widely adopted and endorsed by various governments, institutions and organizations around the world, while the Nexus definition has been supported by some academics and activists who are critical of the IHRA definition for being vague, ambiguous and susceptible to misuse. The two definitions have sparked controversy and debate among different Jewish communities and groups over how to best define and combat antisemitism in the 21st century. All of the mainstream Jewish organizations in the US have pushed for the administration to adopt the IHRA definition solely.