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Working Definition of Antisemitism

How do we define antisemitism?

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In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) released its first comprehensive study of antisemitism in the EU. Although it relied heavily on its focal points in the then fifteen member countries for its information, a majority of those focal points had no working definition of antisemitism and of those that did, no two were the same.

As a result the EUMC, in collaboration with key NGOs and representatives of the newly-formed Tolerance and Non-Discrimination section of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) drafted a single, comprehensive definition for use in the field. It employs plain language to enable the definition to be easily accessible to a wide range of law enforcement, justice and government officials, as well as to NGOs and experts who assist in the monitoring process.

This “working definition” was adopted in 2005 by the EUMC, now called the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and disseminated on its website and to its national monitors. Units of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) concerned with combating antisemitism also employ the definition. The US State Department’s report, Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism, released earlier this year, makes use of this definition for the purpose of its analysis.

Many Jewish community and NGO leaders involved in monitoring antisemitism remain unaware of the working definition or have been hampered by its existence to date only in English. To encourage additional usage of the definition, the European Forum on Antisemitism has commissioned translations of the working definition into numerous European languages, as well as non-European languages widely spoken in Europe. The translations were written by Jewish community leaders and/or experts in the field.

While monitoring of antisemitism has improved in a number of countries in past years, reporting remains erratic. The comparability of data is also difficult without the use of a common definition. The stronger the statistical basis, the more likely it is that public responses to antisemitism can be improved. Please feel free to circulate the definition, with the relevant translation, to authorities and experts in your own countries.

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