German government supports new definition of anti-Semitism
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German government supports new definition of anti-Semitism

Term to include attacks against religious institutions, the state of Israel and non-Jews attacked for anti-Semitic reasons

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fifth from left, leads the last cabinet of the German government ahead of Germany's general elections at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP/Markus Schreiber)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fifth from left, leads the last cabinet of the German government ahead of Germany's general elections at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP/Markus Schreiber)

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.

An anti-Semitic and anti-Israel cartoon shared by an Austrian pro-Palestinian group on Facebook

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.

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