ABA's new anti-Semitism resolution ditches important definition of anti-Jewish hatred

The resolution did not include the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism due to significant lobbying efforts from various anti-Israel organizations.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world, impacting both the practice of law and legal education.

The American Bar Association (ABA) adopted an anti-Semitism resolution on Monday after striking the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Jewish hatred. 

Pro-Israel advocacy groups contend that removing the IHRA definition, which cites hatred against “Jewish community institutions and religious facilities,” is antithetical to the mission of fighting anti-Jewish bias. 

”The ABA must take a leading role in demonstrating zero tolerance towards antisemitism in all its forms and educate about the dangers of hate speech and incitement going unchecked,”  Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum, told Campyus Reform. “Especially at a time of record high antisemitism in the United States.”

The vote took place today at the ABA Midyear Conference in New Orleans.

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The stated intention of the ABA in passing Resolution 514 is to confirm that the ABA “condemns antisemitism and proposes certain measures to combat it.”

The original text of the resolution was penned by the Chair of the ABA Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice, Juan R. Thomas. 

The IHRA definition states in full: 

Civil rights organizations lobbied to remove the IHRA definition,  The Washington Examiner reports. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) contends that the IHRA definition has often been used to label “non-violent protest, activism, and speech critical of Israel and/or Zionism, including in the US and Europe.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asserts that “[t]here are many constructive forms such involvement could take; embracing the IHRA definition of antisemitism is emphatically not among them.”

Countering these efforts, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) issued a Feb. 1 letter to the ABA noting that detractors of the IHRA definition “have wildly mischaracterized its intent and impact.”

Miriam Elman, director of the Academic Engagement Network, told Campus Reform that the “IHRA definition can help to encourage robust conversations about the multifaceted nature of contemporary antisemitism.”

Elman added that these conversations are helpful when anti-Semitism is “disguised as anti-Israel and anti-Zionist animus.” 

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Reports of anti-Semitism in the United States are on the rise, as 53% of Jewish Americans reported feeling less safe than they did five years ago, according to a 2021 survey from the Pew Research Center.  An overwhelming 82% of respondents stated that supporting Israel is either “essential” or “important” to their Jewish identity, Pew reports.

College campuses are not immune to anti-Semitism. In spring 2021, the Brandeis Center Research Group surveyed the leading Jewish fraternity and sorority and found that 55% of the respondents “personally experienced an anti-Semitic verbal attack in the past 120 days” and 65% “felt unsafe” on campus.

The ABA has not yet responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment. This is a breaking story and will be updated accordingly.

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