NGO Monitor Highlights Using IHRA Definition For Funding

The NGO Monitor watchdog hosted a webinar on January 26 discussing the report they realized that day on how the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism can be used to vet NGO funding.

The Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ellie Cohanim (2019-2021) explained that IHRA was first used by the United States State Department in 2010 and was formally adopted in 2016; in 2019, an executive order codified IHRA throughout executive agencies. “One of our highest priorities was really engaging all foreign governments and all of our counterparts on the working definition of anti-Semitism,” Cohanim said.

She stated that 1948 was “a marker as the end of the Holocaust and the creation of the Jewish State of Israel,” arguing that “at that point, classical anti-Semitism was forced to take a break.” The next inflection point was 1967, Cohanim said, as “despite the very young and still struggling Jewish state of Israel being attacked by Jordan, Syria and Egypt, Israel emerged as the winner of the horror.”

Israel’s victory in the Six Day War is what caused it to viewed as a Goliath instead of a David, and thus started a new anti-Semitism as “the hatred of the Jew among nations,” Cohanim stated. As an example, she pointed to Representative Rashida Tlaib’s (D-Mich.) January 19 remarks falsely accusing Israel of excluding Palestinians from the COVID-19 vaccine and therefore being a “racist” state.

Cohanim argued that IHRA is “the most important tool in the toolbox toward combating antisemitism,” since it provides the most comprehensive definition of anti-Semitism. The definition includes making stereotypical allegations about Jews (such as tropes of Jews controlling the media and the government). IHRA defines anti-Semitism when it comes to Israel as “denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination for example by claiming the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to the Nazis,” Cohanim said.

Given that governments tend to dedicate part of their budget toward grants for NGOs, Cohanim argued that’s imperative for governments to vet NGOs through the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. As an example, she pointed to the anti-Semitism controversies that have plagued the Islamic Relief Worldwide charity of late. Cohanim said that her office issued a statement in December 2020 condemning the organization and called on other governments to follow suit. On January 19, the Dutch government announced they would cease funding to Islamic Relief Worldwide over the matter.

Olga Deutsch, vice president of NGO Monitor, then highlighted examples of anti-Semitism from NGOs listed in the report. One such example was from Palestine Monitor, a news website that the Palestinian Medical Relief Society runs. Palestine Monitor published a cartoon in 2015 showing a Palestinian woman with the world “1948” carved into her arm. Another example included a poster Oxfam Belgium released in 2002, which featured an Israeli orange with blood dripping from it to call for a boycott of Israeli fruit.

“If there’s one common denominator here… it’s actually the combination of what we know of classic anti-Semitism and its more contemporary manifestations that usually come in the form of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish state narratives,” Deutsch said.

She recommended that all government branches take up measures and guidelines to properly evaluate NGOs when it comes to anti-Semitism and that funding should be suspended as part of the evaluations.

Toward the end of the webinar, Cohanim said that those who claim that IHRA silences speech are promulgating a “false flag” and an “excuse for people who want to express their anti-Semitism.” She added that “pushback” to IHRA shows its success.

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