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Snohomish County Council adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism

By: Kienan Briscoe | Lynnwood Times | January 18, 2023

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.”

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.

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.


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