UPJ and ARZA welcome government’s IHRA antisemitism adoption

October 15, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Union for Progressive Judaism and The Australian Reform/Progressive Zionist Association have welcomed the Australian Government’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

Credit: Lobroart/Shutterstock

David Knoll and Brian Samuel, Co-Presidents of UPJ and Helen Shardey, President of ARZA  warmly welcomed the announcement today by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the Australian Government, people and nation will embrace the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.  The decision, importantly, is bipartisan, with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese having earlier indicated his public support for the adoption of the IHRA definition.

According to the Jewish community’s peak body, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, reported antisemitic incidents in Australia in May 2021 were two to three times higher than in May 2020.

Australian Jews should not be made to feel ashamed of their traditions or religious beliefs. Nor should they be made the butt of cruel jokes about their identity as Jews. This behaviour is un-Australian and racist. It reflects poorly on the Australian belief in “a fair go for all”.

David Knoll and Brian Samuel said: “We have become aware of a growing concern among Jewish students on Australian campuses about displaying their Jewishness.  As a result, many have stopped wearing their recognisable kippot (head coverings) and other Jewish symbols, on campuses. However, it is a relief that light has now been shone on this matter and we encourage all institutions, including schools and universities to adopt the definition of Antisemitism and be prepared to discuss its implications with students.  All Australians are entitled to a fair go, free from racism, and education based on the IHRA definition will enable a better understanding of Antisemitism, which is racism against Jewish people.”

Helen Shardey also expressed the view that “while Australians should be able to disagree with the government of Israel on elements of its policies, there is a point at which such criticism is blatantly Antisemitic. It is to be hoped that there will be a better understanding of what Antisemitism is and an acceptance of its racist intent.”

The definition is accompanied by 11 illustrative examples, seven of which relate to Israel, but which explain the way in which Antisemitism occurs in our daily lives

The definition has been accepted by the European Parliament, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea and many other countries. Australia was made a full member of the IHRA in 2019, so it is fitting that the adoption of its working definition be accepted by the Australian Government at this time.

Senator Eric Abetz

Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Eric Abetz, has also welcomed the Federal Liberal Government’s decision.

Senator Abetz is the Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel and has consistently requested the Government to adopt the definition.

The Government will adopt the following non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” 

Senator Abetz said adopting the definition was a practical, positive step toward helping identify, and to educate people about, anti-Semitism.

He said: “In order to address the problem of anti-Semitism, we need to know what anti-Semitism is and what it is not. The definition provides a clear, workable definition that will help educate and identify anti-Semitism.

The adoption of the definition is most timely given the increasing incidents of anti-Semitism and adoption puts us in league with other adoptees such as the UK, USA, France and Germany.

As Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel, I have long advocated for the government to adopt the definition and I am most pleased it has decided to move on this issue.”

The IHRA makes the distinction, however, that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

The IHRA is an intergovernmental organisation uniting governments and experts to strengthen, advance, and promote Holocaust education, remembrance, and research worldwide and to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration and the 2020 Ministerial Declaration.

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