Photo Credit: Avigail Eyal / TPS

The Montgomery County Council in Maryland unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday that affirms an internationally recognized definition of antisemitism that unequivocally condemns anti-Jewish hatred and how it is experienced by Jews locally and around the world.

The council affirmed the nonbinding, working definition of antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which states antisemitism “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”


The IHRA definition also details contemporary examples of expressions of antisemitism.

“Antisemitism comes from a variety of sources, the far-right, the far-left and those who have been taught to hate Jews in the name of religion,” said Alan Ronkin, director of the American Jewish Committee Washington DC branch.

“We need to respond to Jew hatred in all of its forms and force the antisemites back to the fringes of our society,” Ronkin said.

“We deeply appreciate the work of Council President Gabe Albornoz, Vice President Evan Glass, Councilmember Andrew Friedson, and their colleagues for taking a bold and unambiguous stand against antisemitism.”

The IHRA definition has been adopted by 37 nations, 27 states—including Virginia–and the District of Columbia and more than 800 other governmental bodies, educational institutions and companies.

AJC has also initiated a Call to Action Against Antisemitism in America, which provides various sectors of society the knowledge and tools to understand, respond to and prevent antisemitism.

AJC played a pivotal role in crafting the original version of the IHRA definition. The latest State of Antisemitism in America report from AJC found that one in four American Jews experienced antisemitism within the last year, while four in 10 said they altered their behavior to avoid being identified as Jewish.

An estimated 45 percent of Jews in Maryland live in Montgomery County. Although they represent only 10 percent of the county’s 1.05 million residents, 85 percent of religiously motivated hate incidents and crimes targeted Jews, according to the Montgomery County Police Department.

The latest State of Antisemitism in America report from AJC found that one in four American Jews experienced antisemitism within the last year, while four in 10 said they altered their behavior to avoid being identified as Jewish.

The resolution states that antisemitism “is a challenge to the basic principles of tolerance, pluralism, and democracy, and the shared values that bind Americans and many allies together,” and that defining antisemitism “increases awareness in the community, leading to better monitoring and reporting, more informed analyses and investigation of incidents in order to enhance public safety and policymaking.”

Examples by IHRA of what would constitute antisemitism include:
– Holocaust denial or downplaying how many Jews were killed by the Nazis and their allies
– Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
– Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews
– Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor

As the council resolution noted, antisemitism “can manifest through anti-Zionism when denying the Jewish right to existence and self-determination or employing an antisemitic trope. However, criticism of Israeli government policies or actions does not constitute antisemitism.”

The Council vote came on the heels of a spate of antisemitic incidents that have drawn national attention, including a string of antisemitic rants on social media by rapper Kanye West and a scrolling sign that read “Kanye was right about the Jews,” projected onto an office building in Jacksonville, Fla.

“The Council took an important step today in the battle against resurgent antisemitism,” Ronkin said. “We look forward to working together to fight antisemitism in all of its forms.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.