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UN postpones anti-Semitism meeting due to dispute over criticism of Israel 

June 13, 2023 at 3:55 pm

The United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations headquarters in New York City [LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images]

A UN conference on anti-Semitism scheduled for next week in Cordoba, Spain, has been postponed apparently due to an ongoing dispute over the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Jewish racism. Plans to combat anti-Semitism were due to be published at the event but pro-Israel groups have reportedly expressed anger at the world body over its stance towards the IHRA definition.

The draft plan gives equal weight to the Nexus definition of anti-Semitism and the Jerusalem declaration. Unlike the IHRA definition, neither the Nexus definition nor the Jerusalem declaration conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

“Paying disproportionate attention to Israel and treating Israel differently than other countries is not prima facie proof of anti-Semitism,” says the Nexus definition. It explains that there are numerous reasons for devoting special attention to Israel and treating Israel differently, such as the fact that some people care about Israel more; and others may pay more attention because Israel has a special relationship with the United States and receives $4 billion in American aid every year.

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In sharp contrast to the IHRA definition, the Jerusalem declaration states that, “Even if contentious, it is not anti-Semitic, in and of itself, to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid.” Seven of the eleven examples of anti-Semitism in the IHRA definition conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism. Human rights groups urged the UN in April not to adopt the IHRA document, warning that the definition has been weaponised against critics of Israel.

According to the Times of Israel, the Israeli government and several Jewish organisations have been pushing back in recent weeks against the UN Action Plan for Monitoring Anti-Semitism, after learning that the draft proposal dropped the assertion that anti-Zionism is equivalent to anti-Semitism.

Conference participants received a letter on Friday from the UN official organising the Cordoba meeting, saying that, “After very careful consideration and aiming to ensure the Action Plan is inclusive and benefits from the inputs of all stakeholders, [I] would like to allow more time for further work and finalisation of the Plan during Summer 2023.” The conference is said to have been postponed until September.