Dutch lawmakers urge adoption of international definition of antisemitism

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Dutch lawmakers urge adoption of international definition of antisemitism

Majority of politicians in the lower house of the parliament back a non-binding resolution urging the adoption of IHRA

House of representatives in the Hague, Netherlands. Source: Wikimedia  Commons.  Credit: João Pimentel Ferreira
House of representatives in the Hague, Netherlands. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Credit: João Pimentel Ferreira

 A majority of Dutch lawmakers supported a motion calling on the government to adopt an official definition for antisemitism.

The vote Tuesday in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the kingdom’s parliament, was on a non-binding resolution urging the adoption of the IHRA working definition for the hatred of Jews.

The document, named after the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, that formulated it in 2016, has since then been adopted formally by several countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and five others in the European Union, as well as the EU as a whole. But the Netherlands’ government has resisted calls to follow suit.

Of the 150 lawmakers in the Tweede Kamer, 86 voted in favour of the non-binding motion. The Ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the right-wing Party for Freedom, the country’s second largest, also supported the motion, along with the Christian-Democratic Appeal and smaller parties, such the Reformed Political Party of Kees van der Stij, who submitted the motion.

But Dutch Labour, as well as all of the other left-wing parties represented in parliament, did not support the motion.

Pro-Palestinian activists oppose the IHRA definition because it lists some examples of vitriol against Israel as forms of antisemitism, though it stipulates that criticising the Jewish state is not antisemitic.

The definition features mostly examples of antisemitic behaviours that do not concern Israel, such as calling to harm Jews or denying the Holocaust or the Jewish people’s right to self determination.

Manifestations of antisemitism, the new definition reads, “might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity,” though “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

In September, the Labour party adopted the IHRA definition amid a row over tackling antisemitism in the party. It has focused on  supporters of leader Jeremy Corbyn, who sought to introduce a softened version of the document.

NOS, the Dutch state broadcaster, called the definition “disputed” in its reporting about the vote, asserting the definition “does not clearly separate antisemitism from criticism of the Israeli government,” according to its critics.

That Dutch Labour, Green Left and D66 voted against the motion is “sad,” wrote Ronny Naftaniel, a leader of Dutch Jewry and of the Brussels-based CEJI educational group. “Primarily Dutch Labour should be ashamed of itself,” added Naftaniel, who is a longtime member of that party. “Even British Labour, which is accused of antisemitism, adopted the document,” he wrote on Twitter.

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