Support our campaign to reject the IHRA definition's adoption to the Montgomery County Council, which wrongfully and harmfully conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism and aims to stifle Palestinians and human rights advocates from talking about Palestine. Click the link to get involved.
Monday, July 25th, 2022 – In a letter to County Executive Marc Elrich and Councilmembers, a coalition of seventeen local and national organizations expressed concern about the Montgomery County Council’s plans to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) re-definition of anti-Semitism though a resolution that was originally scheduled on the consent agenda for Tuesday July 26th. Local advocates sent hundreds of emails to the Council, and while recognizing that the vote has been postponed, we maintain that it is never acceptable for elected officials to infringe on constitutionally protected free speech.
It is imperative that Councilmembers who support free speech and First Amendment rights continue to reject any future resolution which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. There should never be a choice between standing up against anti-Palestinian racism and anti-Semitism. Representatives of some of the organizations will be attending the County Council session on Tuesday with signs to highlight their concerns about free speech and the IHRA re-definition.
In the letter, the organizations wrote “on its face, this resolution seems like a straight-forward and important resolution – yet the proposed definition institutionalizes a re-definition that conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, making it difficult to fight against real hatred and bigotry.” Specifically, IHRA’s re-definition is associated with eleven examples which highlight critical statements of Israel as markers of anti-Semitism.
When President Trump adopted this definition, there was intense criticism by a number of national human rights and civil liberties groups, including the ADC, ACLU and American Association of University Professors. Editorial boards of leading newspapers (The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post) have also criticized attempts to incorporate the IHRA into law and government policy.
The IHRA re-definition has been used to target several civil society and university organizations including Amnesty International, Black Lives Matter, the American Friends Services Committee, Doctors without Borders, and Harvard’s Crimson newspaper.
But most importantly, the IHRA re-definition has been applied to target the growing Palestine solidarity movement on college campuses. For example, Hannah Shraim with Maryland 2 Palestine was placed on the Canary Mission blacklist for her activism supporting Palestinian human rights while attending the University of Maryland. She notes, “the IHRA re-definition aims to delegitimize human rights work against Israel’s illegal military occupation of the Palestinian people. By conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, it pressures and gives cover for universities to silence outspoken human rights activists whether students or faculty. The Council must reject any attempt to silence Palestinians from speaking truth to our family stories and the wider struggles of our people.”
Shelley Cohen Fudge with the DC-Metro chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace adds that “Bold action is needed to build real safety for Montgomery County’s Jewish community and for all of our communities. But the IHRA does nothing to make Jewish people safer. Its true intent is to shield the Israeli government from its human rights abuses by censoring Palestinians and advocates of Palestinian rights."
Signatories of the letter sent to the Council include the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); Anne Arundel County Muslim Council; Baltimore County Muslim Council; the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR); Defending Rights and Dissent; George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine; IfNotNow (INN) DC Chapter; Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) DC-Metro Chapter; Maryland 2 Palestine; Montgomery County Branch of the Democratic Socialists of America; Montgomery County Muslim Council; Muslim Voices; Palestine Christian Alliance for Peace; Peace Action Montgomery; University of Maryland Students for Justice in Palestine; US Campaign for Palestinian Rights; Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace
Does our work resonate with you? Interested in collaborating or joining?
Let us know!
Find out more about our campaign to end police exchanges in Maryland.
Take a look at our work in the streets.