Pitfall or Opportunity? The New Definition of Antisemitism

December 4, 2018 | 7:00pm Centre Marc Bloch

In January of this year, the German government committed itself to a new working definition of antisemitism. It is based on a definition adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Various Jewish organizations are now pleading for its consistent adoption by all state authorities.

Nonetheless, the definition is highly controversial because it cites fundamentally critical statements about the State of Israel as examples of antisemitism. Fears in Jewish communities that “criticism of Israel” only serves to make antisemitic resentments socially acceptable are countered by fears of Palestinians and left-wing Jews that the new definition might be used to discredit opponents of the Israeli occupation policy.

At the Centre Marc Bloch, the panel members presented the points of contention and examined the legal, scientific and political implications of this new definition of antisemitism. Does it make sense to establish a single definition? What opportunities and what challenges does this create? Should it also be possible to define other forms of racism in a similarly unified way?

The audience consisted of students, professors, and invited journalists. The event was part of the German Public Sphere seminar at Bard College Berlin. To ensure that all participants could speak freely, the evening followed the Chatham House Rule. Reporting was welcome, but without the mention of names and institutions. We wanted the focus to be on the arguments and not on the people who make them.

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