Expert Opinion On the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’

Ullrich: ‘inconsistent, contradictory and formulated very vaguely’. The ‘use of the Working Definition of Antisemitism cannot be recommended.’

A broadly accepted definition of anti-Semitism is needed to serve as a foundation for developing counter-strategies. In 2016, in order to combat anti-Semitism, which is on the rise in many countries, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted the Working Definition of Antisemitism, prompting its increased use.

The IHRA, formerly the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) today consists of 33 mostly European and North American member countries. Initiated in 1998, this supranational organisation aims at ‘international political coordination […] to strengthen the moral commitment of societies and to combat growing Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism’; to this end, it aims to supply knowledge to support ‘policymakers and educational multipliers in their efforts to develop effective curricula’.(1)

Even though the working definition is largely accepted and applied, objections have been raised concerning the criteria used in this document. Consequently, the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung and medico international have commissioned an expert opinion analysing this definition. The report was produced by the well-known anti-Semitism expert Dr. Peter Ullrich, sociologist and cultural theorist of the Institute for the Research of Antisemitism at the Technical University of Berlin.

The expert opinion has now been published in English and German – for full report see download on the right (PDF)

His analysis of the IHRA ‘Working Definition’ reveals its severe deficits. According to Ullrich, it is ‘inconsistent, contradictory and formulated very vaguely. It does not satisfy the requirements of a good definition.'(2) While emphasizing some antisemitic phenomena (most in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict) and levels of analysis, the ‘Working Definition’ largely omits other essential ones, especially the context of right wing and Christian extremism.

Mainly due to its technical weaknesses, the deficient practice of its application, its nevertheless partly binding legal status and its potential for instrumentalization, the use of the Working Definition of Antisemitism cannot be recommended.'(3)



(1)   International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Countries & Membership

(2)    Peter Ullrich, Expert Opinion an the ‚Working Definition of Antisemitism‘ of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, p.3

(3)    Ibid., Executive Summary