October 10, 2021

French Senate adopts IHRA working definition of antisemitism

The French Senate has largely approved a government-backed motion for a resolution from its right-wing majority that adopts the definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Recalling that the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, voted in 2019 for a similar resolution initiated by the governing LREM group, French Minister for Citizenship Marlène Schiappa said she was “happy that the Senate is taking this same approach.”

“This is a resolution, it has no binding legal value, it does not change our law (…) but it can serve as a basis for the application of the law as well as serve as a basis for public policies,” she said, stressing that it will allow for better identification, better characterization of antisemitism.

The IHRA definition was adopted by the European Parliament and about 20 countries and supported by French president Emmanuel Macron in 2019 in an address to the annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (Crif). However, it does not have a consensus, with critics believing that it can prohibit criticism of Israel.

“The resolution specifies that the definition of antisemitism that we recommend is not contradictory with the freedom to criticize the policies carried out by the Israeli government,” said the minister.

‘’This can only be a positive element in the fight against antisemitism in France, while antisemitism is unfortunately only increasing,’’ said Crif after the vote in the Senate.

For the president of the conservative LR group, Bruno Retailleau, author of the draft resolution with his centrist counterpart Hervé Marseille, the proposed definition is “broad enough to take into account all the new expressions of antisemitism” and “strict enough not to hurt the freedom of opinion.

“Reaffirming in this chamber our commitment to this essential struggle for good living together was imperative at a time when some seek to rehabilitate Petainism and deny the right of children killed in Toulouse (in 2012 by Mohamed Merah, editor’s note) to be buried in Israel, “said Marseille in reference to controversial comments made by Eric Zemmour, a would-be candidate for the 2022 presidential election who doesn’t stop rising in opinion polls.