On Thursday, October 19th, the Bulgarian government announced that it had adopted the working definition of anti-Semitism used by the International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA). In 2016, the 31 member states of the IHRA adopted their definition after a unanimous vote at a plenary session in Bucharest City. The IHRA was the first international body to formally adopt such a definition. Similar decisions to apply this working definition of anti-Semitism have been adopted by the governments of Germany, Romania, the United Kingdom, Scotland, and Austria. Numerous other international bodies, such as the European Parliament, have adopted the definition in some form. The European Commission also, as of April 25th, has posted the working definition of anti-Semitism on its official website.
Bulgaria was admitted as an observer country to the IHRA in December 2012, and is taking steps to become accepted as a full member. Bulgaria’s Cabinet on Wednesday conducted the vote to adopt the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism. The Cabinet also appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev as national coordinator on combatting anti-Semitism to serve as a liaison to other countries and international organizations.
The head of the European Jewish Congress, Dr. Moshe Kantor, released a statement wherein he lauded Bulgaria’s decision, saying that “It is vital that, especially as anti-Semitism is on the rise across the continent, that governments, judiciaries and law enforcement agencies have all the necessary tools to combat hatred of Jews and other minorities.” He also referred to Georgiev as a “long-time friend of the Jewish community.”
In the United States, the U.S. State Department has a definition which is very similar to that used by both the EUMC and the IHRA. The State Department’s definition, however, is only used for international monitoring, and U.S. domestic government agencies do not currently have a definition of anti-Semitism. In December 2016, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (AAA) was introduced to the U.S. Congress. The AAA would have required the U.S. Department of Education to use the State Department’s definition in evaluating intent of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. The AAA bill, which passed the Senate unanimously last December, did not have a chance to be voted on in the House before the legislative session ended. Several states are currently in the process of drafting their own versions of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.
The adopting and application of a uniform definition of anti-Semitism in both Europe and the United States will help provide the tools to the governments and institutions of countries where resurgent anti-Semitism and bigotry threatens to undermine the progress made in fighting intolerance during the 20th century. Bulgaria’s decision to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism is a wonderful step in the right direction, one that shows Bulgaria’s willingness to follow in the footsteps of other European nations, and to set a course of action for those who will come after.