The governor of Texas signed into state law the establishment of a state commission to monitor antisemitism, using the definition of antisemitism drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance organization.
“Over the past several years we have seen a disturbing rise in antisemitism as Americans of the Jewish faith are one of the most targeted faith groups in America,” Greg Abbott said on Thursday at the signing ceremony for the legislation. “Antisemitism has surged even more this past year following the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. We have a duty as Texans and Americans to combat antisemitism whenever or however it arises.”
The IHRA definition has been adopted by 29 countries, the EU, and numerous local governments and institutions around the world, as a way to clearly define antisemitism in order to accurately monitor its prevalence.
Texas became the first US state to adopt the IHRA definition, and other states are also advancing similar legislation. Its new antisemitism commission will produce biennial studies on antisemitism in Texas, work with schools and institutions of higher educations to develop effective methods to combat antisemitism, and implement Holocaust and genocide courses of study and awareness programs.The Israel Foreign Ministry welcomed the passage of the law, as did the office of the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest United States.
Jewish organizations also welcomed the signing into law of the bill.
“Texas, whose Senate and House of Representatives approved the legislation with nearly unanimous bipartisan support (no legislators voted against the bills), sets an example for the rest of the country by joining the growing global coalition of countries, major cities, and institutions that have rallied behind this key instrument in addressing the urgent threat of antisemitism,” said the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. “It is essential to define antisemitism in order to combat it successfully.”
The American Jewish Committee also praised the passage of the bill, saying its approval was timely given the recent surge in antisemitic incidents in the US.
“Given the sharp uptick in antisemitism across America, we are gratified that this legislation has received overwhelmingly bipartisan support,” said Joel Schwitzer, director of AJC Dallas.
Critics of the IHRA definition focus on its inclusion of examples determining that antisemitism includes “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” applying double standards to Israel’s actions, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, and holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
Such critics have argued that the IHRA definition therefore stifles free speech and suppresses debate on Israel.
Advocates for the IHRA definition have pointed out that it explicitly states that manifestations of antisemitism “might include” targeting of the state of Israel, and that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country “cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”