LONDON (Dispatches) – The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism has disproportionately impacted people of color and advocates for Palestine, leading some to lose their jobs or face censure or legal action for perceived infringements, a European rights group has warned.
Drawing on 53 case studies from Austria, Germany and the UK, the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC) said institutions in all three countries were implementing the controversial definition “as if it was law”, despite it being branded as “non-legally binding”.
The ELSC also criticized the European Commission for ignoring growing concerns with the definition.
“All of the accused were targeted for advocating for Palestinian rights, denouncing Israel’s practices and policies and/or criticizing Zionism as a political ideology,” the ELSC said in a statement, following the publication of a report titled Suppressing Palestinian Rights Advocacy through the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.
“When legally challenged, most of these allegations of anti-Semitism were dismissed as unsubstantiated.”
The report highlighted cases of academics, students and pro-Palestine rights activists who have been penalized for voicing criticism of the Zionist regime.
“Allegations of anti-Semitism that invoke the IHRA WDA, in the documented cases, are overwhelmingly targeted at Palestinians, Jewish people and organizations that advocate for Palestinian rights, suggesting that the IHRA WDA is being implemented in a discriminatory manner,” the ELSC noted.
“Even though most challenges to the implementation of the IHRA WDA were successful, the disciplinary procedures and litigation resulting from false allegations of anti-Semitism have produced a ‘chilling effect’ on the freedom of expression and assembly.”
The ELSC noted that among the 53 people interviewed for its report, 42 cases involved the targeting of groups with “members who are People of Color or the targeting of individuals who are People of Color, among whom 19 were Palestinians.
“In 11 incidents, groups identifying as Jewish or Jewish individuals were targeted, in particular those with anti-Zionist views or sympathy towards the Palestinian struggle for human rights. All the individuals and groups who were targeted in these incidents expressed sympathy towards Palestinian human rights,” the ELSC noted.