BERLIN — The German government has given its backing to a new definition of anti-Semitism intended to inform the work of schools, police and courts.
During its last Cabinet meeting before Sunday’s national election, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers expressed their support for a definition of anti-Semitism that includes attacks against religious institutions, the state of Israel and non-Jews who are attacked for anti-Semitic reasons.
Officials say the decision has no immediate legal implications but is intended to send a signal “that the German government strongly supports the fight against anti-Semitism at all levels.”
The European Jewish Congress applauded Wednesday’s decision, which follows a similar move by Britain, Austria and Romania.
The nationalist Alternative for Germany party, some of whose members have expressed anti-Semitic views, is expected to enter parliament Sunday.
In June 2016, the new international definition of anti-Semitism that mentions Israel hatred was adopted in part to replace a similar one scrapped by the European Union.
Robert Williams, a delegate of the United States at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, then told JTA that his intergovernmental agency of 31 Western nations adopted its new definition of anti-Semitism partly as a response to the 2013 removal from the website of the EU’s anti-racism agency of a definition that also mentioned demonizing Israel as an example of anti-Semitism.
Manifestations of anti-Semitism, the new definition reads, “might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collective,” though “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”
In addition to demonizing Israel, the IHRA definition also mentions classic forms of Jew hatred, such as collective stigmatization and calling for harm.