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The Croatian Presidency of IHRA and IHRA's Tools in Fighting Antisemitism
Remarks by Ambassador Michèle Taylor at a 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council Side Event
March 28, 2023

The Croatian Presidency of IHRA and IHRA’s tools in Fighting Antisemitism
Human Rights Council – 52nd Session Side Event
Remarks by Ambassador Michèle Taylor

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today at this important event highlighting the crucial role of IHRA’s tools in combating antisemitism. I want to begin by recognizing Croatia’s leadership in taking on this vital cause and commend their commitment to combatting antisemitism, as well as preserving the memory of the Holocaust and its victims and educating young people about its causes and consequences.

As a daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I know all too well the dire consequences of antisemitism. Other than my two adult children, I am the only remaining Jewish member of what was once a large family that was wiped out by genocide. I have also personally experienced antisemitism in many aspects of my life, including in this building and as recently as last week. These blows often come from people from whom I least expect them and who may not even recognize that their actions or words are antisemitic. For me, my personal understanding and connection to discrimination are why I have dedicated my life to fighting it in all of its forms.

Antisemitism is widely understood to be the world’s oldest form of hate and it affects Jews most directly. But I would argue that it should be of great concern to all of us, Jew and non-Jew alike. As my friend and colleague, Deborah Lipstadt, is wont to say, “antisemitism is like the canary in the coal mine.” It is a harbinger of other forms of hate to come. Jews are often the first people in a community to be scapegoated but rarely are they the last. That is why our focus today on the IHRA tools is crucial in addressing and countering the rise of antisemitism worldwide, and we welcome the Council’s interest in combating it.

We must have a common and widely accepted understanding of antisemitism, which is manifested in many ways. If we don’t have some common agreement on what it is and what we mean when we say it, we can’t begin to truly address it. This is why the IHRA definition is critical; it provides an important practical tool for countries and organizations to use in identifying and countering antisemitism. And I want to thank my colleague, Ambassador Rusu, for your persistence and the role Romania played in its adoption. Countries have employed diverse methods to adopt and endorse the IHRA working definition; we have much to learn from one another.

Recent data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) offers a sobering reminder of the persistent threat that antisemitism poses. In 2022, the United States witnessed a 36% increase in antisemitic incidents compared to 2021. This concerning trend is not limited to the United States; we have witnessed an increase in antisemitic incidents across the globe, including within the UN system.

In the United States, various administrations, both Democrat and Republican, have enthusiastically embraced and used the IHRA working definition of antisemitism as a policy tool. Its use by government agencies, as well as at local, state, and regional levels, has been instrumental in promoting awareness, enhancing policy responses, and encouraging collaboration between different stakeholders to address the issue effectively. The most important contribution and added value of the IHRA definition lie in its ability to provide a clear and coherent understanding of antisemitism, which allows for more targeted and effective policy interventions.

Campus administrators, law enforcement bodies, and civil society organizations around the world, including in the United States, have recognized the value of the IHRA definition as an important tool. It has been used to educate on anti-Jewish bias, assess claims of antisemitism, identify whether a crime might also be categorized as a hate crime targeting Jews, and aid in determining whether certain conduct adversely affecting an individual or group may constitute antisemitic discrimination under an existing law or code.

Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have recognized the importance of the IHRA definition and its contribution to fighting antisemitism. And my home state of Georgia is currently in the process. Some good practices in this regard include incorporating the IHRA definition into educational curricula, providing training for law enforcement officers, and developing public awareness campaigns to promote understanding. By sharing these good practices from various jurisdictions, we can learn from each other and develop stronger, more effective responses to antisemitism.

As we gather here today, it is my hope that we will reaffirm our commitment to combating antisemitism in all its forms. The tools developed by IHRA, including the working definitions, offer a valuable framework for shaping public policies and strategies aimed at eradicating this age-old hatred. By exchanging good practices, promoting the use of IHRA’s tools, and engaging in ongoing dialogue, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of those affected by antisemitism and work towards a more inclusive world for everyone.

I welcome opportunities to continue to work together to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust remains a powerful force for good, inspiring us to stand up against antisemitism and all forms of hatred and discrimination. Our collective efforts can and will make a difference.

I thank you.