07 August 2018 Time to read: 2mins

From the archives: Statement by Experts of the UK Delegation to the IHRA on the Working Definition of Antisemitism

Recently the work of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has featured prominently in discourse concerning the troubling rise of antisemitic incidents in Britain. As members of the UK Delegation to the IHRA, we feel it is only appropriate for us to add our voice to this conversation in order to clarify what exactly the IHRA is and why its non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism, adopted on 26 May 2016, should be adopted widely, without amendment.

The IHRA exists to unite governments and experts from 31 Member Countries to strengthen, advance and promote Holocaust education, remembrance, and research worldwide. The UK has the proud distinction of being one of three founding members. As the only intergovernmental organisation mandated to focus solely on Holocaust-related issues including antisemitism, our network of experts was compelled in 2016 to address the global rise in antisemitic incidents by putting forth a clear ‘gold-standard’ definition of what contemporary antisemitism consists of.

The significance of this definition lies in the international cooperation that led to it. Not only was it drafted with input from many of the world’s foremost experts on antisemitism, but it was unanimously approved by government representatives from all IHRA Member Countries. Gaining this level of international consensus was no easy feat, but antisemitism is a global phenomenon and so it was very important that we persevered in order to emerge with one common definition. As a result of this IHRA effort, there is not a western or an eastern definition of antisemitism; there is not a Jewish or non-Jewish definition – but an international definition.

Any ‘modified’ version of the IHRA definition that does not include all of its 11 examples is no longer the IHRA definition. Adding or removing language undermines the months of international diplomacy and academic rigour that enabled this definition to exist. If one organisation or institution can amend the wording to suit its own needs, then logically anyone else could do the same. We would once again revert to a world where antisemitism goes unaddressed simply because different entities cannot agree on what it is.

The real everyday threats to Jewish people and their communities demand coordinated international solutions. As members of the UK delegation to the IHRA, we are pleased that our work has provided an important tool to unite policymakers and stakeholders of different nationalities and ideologies in this urgent fight.


Dr Gilly Carr

University of Cambridge

IHRA Academic Working Group

Dr Paula Cowan

University of the West of Scotland

IHRA Academic Working Group

Sir Ben Helfgott MBE

’45 Aid Society

IHRA Museums and Memorials Working Group

Karen Pollock MBE

Holocaust Educational Trust

Olivia Marks-Woldman

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

IHRA Museums and Memorials Working Group

Alex Maws

Holocaust Educational Trust

IHRA Education Working Group

Michael Newman

The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR)

IHRA Communication Working Group