Snohomish County Council adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash., January 18, 2023—The Snohomish County Council unanimously approves resolution 2023-0072 adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism today, January 18, at its General Legislative Session

John Michael Graves, with StandWithUs, an international educational organization, spoke in favor of the resolution, sharing a time when he walked to his favorite deli with a friend only to see “end race-based murders, boycott Israel” spray painted on the side of the building. He likened this feeling to what he believed Chinese Americans felt about Covid-related Anti-Asian American discrimination. 

“Each of the students I educate have a similar story to tell,” Michael said. “Antisemitism is happening today and its perpetrators are becoming emboldened at a rate unseen in decades.”

antisemitism definition
John Michael Graves speaking before the Snohomish County Council on antisemitism on January 18, 2023. SOURCE: John Michael Graves.

Antisemitism incidents reached an all-time high in 2021—a 34% increase from 2020 making recent years the highest on record since the Anti-Defamation League began their tracking in 1979. 

The FBI’s crime statistics show that although Jews make up only 2.4% of the U.S. they are victims of around 60-63% of religious hate crimes. FBI Director Christopher Ray stated that Jews are getting “hit from all sides.” 

Last year the State of Washington recorded the highest rate of hate crimes in the last 20 years. 

Michael pointed out that “what makes antisemitism persistent is that it mutates like a virus. It mutates and manifests in ways that are harder for leaders to identify.” It once started out as vilifying Jews for the religious beliefs and traditions, then focused on race believing Jews to be inferior to pure-white Aryans, then focused on economic issues accusing Jews of being capitalists or communists, then connected to Nationalism criticizing Jews for being stateless then criticizing them for having their own state, Michael continued. 

“It comes from both the extremist far right and the extremist far left,” Michael said

antisemitism definition
Snohomish County Council Chair Jared Mead (left) with Jennifer Adut, Randy Kessler, John Michael Graves, Vice Chair Nate Nehring, and Councilwoman Megan Dunn after the signing of the “WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM” resolution on January 18, 2023.

This mutating virus Michael spoke of is exactly why the county needed to adopt the resolution where a 2023 definition of antisemitism is not the same as a 1943 definition of antisemitism. The resolution does not prohibit free speech or constitutional right, Michael pointed out, but simply adds a working definition in order to recognize hate crimes as antisemitic. 

Council members in over 40 nations, thousands of entities, and multiple U.S. states have adopted the Antisemitism definition. 

On December 13, the city of Mill Creek became the first Snohomish County city to adopt a resolution condemning antisemitism. The County Council had previously signed a proclamation condemning antisemitism on December 1.  

Kienan Briscoe

Kienan Briscoe is a 9-time award winning journalist who has worked for a variety of publications including Pulitzer Prize-finalist Puget Sound Business Journal, Sound Publishing, Game Rant, and the University of Washington's newsroom. Before making the leap to news reporting he worked as a freelance writer in New York City. He holds a degree in Journalism from Arizona State University. Journalism, to him, is one of the most important tools for informing the public and holding governments accountable to the people. When he is not reporting he enjoys writing fiction and poetry (author of three novels), playing guitar, reading classic literature, and getting outdoors.

Kienan Briscoe has 349 posts and counting. See all posts by Kienan Briscoe

One thought on “Snohomish County Council adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism

  • January 19, 2023 at 12:20 AM
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    As a Jewish Sephardi person born and raised in Seattle and formerly running a foster home in Martha Lake and totally condemn this. Local politicians should not be hitching their carts to extreme polarizing Right Wing identity politic groups like Stand with US. If you want to issue a statement about Antisemitism do so in a way that doesnt set one side of of the Jewish community fighting against the other. Work with a local jew synagogue or community group that represents local diverse values and doesnst work to divide us. Shame on you for not researching this thoroughly before sticking your feet in.

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