(New York, N.Y.) — On January 20, the United Nations General Assembly officially adopted a resolution, put forth by Israel and cosponsored by Germany, defining Holocaust denial using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. The resolution was adopted by consensus on what was the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference where Nazi leaders agreed upon the Final Solution, and just one week ahead of today’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Though non-binding, the resolution specifically identifies the U.N. General Assembly’s concern regarding “the growing prevalence of Holocaust denial or distortion through the use of information and communications technologies,” and encourages “social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion.”
The adoption of the resolution comes as the international community is confronting a significant uptick in antisemitism, which includes Holocaust denial and revisionism. In 2018, the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights released survey data showing that 80 percent of European Jews feel that antisemitism in their country had increased over the past five years, and 40 percent live in daily fear of being physically attacked. In September, the FBI reported that anti-Jewish hate crimes accounted for more than half of all religiously motivated reported hate crimes in 2020. Almost 50 percent of all antisemitic incidents in 2021 took place in Europe, according to a joint report this month from the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency. Though there were no deaths reported in 2021 in antisemitic attacks, there were increases in antisemitic incidents around the United States driven by current events, conspiracies surrounding Covid-19, and Holocaust denial and revisionism.
The veracity of the Holocaust is a matter of historical record. Museums and archives have preserved eyewitness accounts, photographs, and physical evidence of its horrors. Nonetheless, revisionists have created an industry around Holocaust denial and revisionism. It can be broken down into two primary intersecting ideas: The record of the Holocaust is false or has been exaggerated; and Jews abuse the memory of the Holocaust to garner sympathy and maintain influence. At the core of each theory is the accusation that Jews are distorting history, drawing from the idea of a powerful Jewish conspiracy that manipulates global attitudes, historical records, and international affairs. This allegation of Jewish power—even when Jews historically had little to no actual power, politically or economically—has been a core driver of antisemitism for centuries.
To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource Antisemitism Resurgent: Manifestations of Antisemitism in the 21st Century, please click here.