Call on King County Council to reject the IHRA definition and take action to combat antisemitism!

While we applaud King County Council’s commitment to denouncing antisemitism, we urge the Council to reject the inclusion of the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in their any future proclamation, as it undermines the fight against antisemitism, threatens First Amendment rights, and directly targets speech and action for Palestinian rights. We also ask that the King County Council take action including:

  • Researching and understanding the dangers of and controversies surrounding the IHRA definition;

  • Holding conversations about fighting and dismantling antisemitism with a diverse cross-section of the King County Jewish community across race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, and political affiliation;

  • Building an understanding of antisemitism, including what it is, how to fight it, and how to create safety for Jews, which aligns with King County’s nationally recognized and historically significant commitment to Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) and that does not isolate antisemitism from other oppressions.

Join us, a group of King County community members and constituents from across the political spectrum united by our shared concerns about rising antisemitism and attacks on free speech and democracy across the globe, in this call.  

Why is IHRA dangerous, controversial, and a threat to first amendment rights?

1. Antisemitism is on the rise. The IHRA definition does not make Jewish people safer.

  • The IHRA definition conflates antisemitism with critique of Israel and any speech on Palestine, distracting from who is actually carrying out violent acts of bigotry: right-wing white supremacists.

  • The IHRA definition lacks concrete examples of actual antisemitic speech and imagery.

  • No other form of discrimination has a fixed definition. Defining antisemitism as separate from other forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression further isolates Jews, damaging our ability to work in close partnership with other oppressed groups towards equity, social justice, and human rights for all.

  • The real fight against antisemitism must be joined to the fight against all forms of racism, xenophobia, hatred, and bigotry.

  • Jews are already protected against antisemitism by existing laws, such as US civil rights law.

  • On January 4, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights delayed a vote to codify the IHRA definition for civil rights investigations and instead affirmed its commitment to using existing civil rights law to protect students of all religious backgrounds from discrimination, issuing a related fact sheet.

  • Where it has been adopted, the IHRA definition has not led to a decrease in antisemitic violence or speech. Instead, right-wing leaders have used it as cover for their own antisemitism, as in the cases of the Trump administration (which oversaw a rapid rise in antisemitic terror attacks and other hate crimes), the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán, and the Polish government and their long-term, state-sponsored Holocaust revisionism.

2. There is broad opposition to the adoption of the IHRA definition, within and beyond Jewish communities.

3. The IHRA definition threatens first amendment rights and protected free speech.

  • By conflating criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism, the IHRA definition suppresses efforts to hold the Israeli government accountable for human rights violations.

  • Many proponents of the definition openly support its use as a censorship tool. The definition is most often wielded to silence Palestinian human rights advocates, who are frequently and falsely smeared as antisemitic solely for their speech in support of Palestinian rights.

  • The IHRA definition has been weaponized locally to silence and condemn Jewish Studies scholars who question Israel's policies and military action, and has been implicated in many more instances of censorship, dismissal, and other retaliatory measures against Palestinians and Palestine advocates in the U.S., Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, and the U.K.