For those of us who believe in the need for an organization of the world’s countries committed to working together to solve tough global issues, it has been difficult to bear the U.N.’s descent into irrelevance as its human rights pillar is perversely used to attack Israel.
This is not a new development, of course, but what is alarming is that recently not only the Jewish state is under attack, but also the very definition that we commonly use to identify hate against Jews—Israelis and non-Israelis alike: the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. This broadly accepted definition of what defines Jew-hatred is recognized throughout the world as a vital tool in efforts to effectively fight against anti-Semitism by first clearly defining (along with key examples) what is anti-Semitism. If you’d like a refresher on the definition, B’nai B’rith has put it in PDF form, which you can access by clicking here.
The brazen assaults on the definition are being carried out by the (now former) U.N. Special Rapporteur on racism, E. Tendayi Achiume, and the new Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese (whose forever mandate is only focused on attacking Israel). Achiume, in one of her final reports to the U.N. General Assembly called on U.N. member states to stop using the IHRA definition and instead replace it with the so-called “Jerusalem Declaration” on anti-Semitism (or JDA).
The JDA is a definition created as a cover for anti-Semites who object to the parts of the IHRA definition that correctly identify anti-Zionist discourse (especially, denial of the rights of the Jewish people to have self-determination and offensive attempts to libel Israel as a Nazi/racist/genocidal state) as anti-Semitism. The JDA is not a serious attempt at defining Jew-hatred; it’s a political effort meant to mask it.
Albanese came to Achiume’s defense after representatives in the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee criticized the portion of Achiume’s report on the IHRA definition by claiming on Twitter that it sacrificed freedom of expression. It, of course, does no such thing. It is a definition only and has no force of law behind it.
The lone shining light through the darkness and the fog at the U.N. right now is former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed, who put the issue of anti-Semitism front and center at the U.N. by devoting the first report solely devoted to the issue and creating an action plan to confront it. Part of that action plan includes using the IHRA definition. Shaheed sparred with Albanese on Twitter over the IHRA definition and his Twitter account has since mysteriously been disabled. One can only presume that he was bombarded with hate for daring to stand up for the Jews. Shaheed also put together a statement last year with other special rapporteurs on anti-Semitism (that, again, mentioned the IHRA definition). Those rapporteurs were then harassed, and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights took that statement off of its website. Shaheed is a brave voice, but sadly he’s not even part of the U.N. system anymore.
The fact that the IHRA definition is so under attack at the moment at the U.N. clearly shows that it is an effective tool, and also shows why we must continue to fight, along with our allies like Ahmed Shaheed, to have it adopted by more institutions. Most anti-Semites do not like being called out for the hateful discourse that they spew and they know that the more the IHRA definition is universally adopted, the more likely it will be that everyone will see their anti-Semitic narratives for exactly what they are. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to gain wider adoption of the IHRA definition.