(Little Rock, Arkansas - February 15, 2023) -- StandWithUs applauds the State of Arkansas, and lead sponsors Senator Jim Dotson and Representative Mindy McAlindon, for the unanimous passage (95-0) of Senate Bill 118 (SB 118), which codifies the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism on February 15, 2023.
Jordan Cope, Director of Policy Education for StandWithUs testified in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. StandWithUs also thanks IAC for Action and the National Jewish Advocacy Center for their work on this bill.
In adopting the IHRA Definition, Arkansas has become the ninth state to adopt the IHRA definition into law and has become a national leader in the fight against “the oldest hate.” In the US, cases of assault, harassment, and vandalism against Jews, as well as online attacks, have reached near-historic levels. Jewish students—who openly express their religious, ethnic, or national identity—often find themselves subject to discrimination, harassment and worse.
SB 118 ensures that the State of Arkansas will “take into consideration” the IHRA definition and its examples when “reviewing, investigating, or determining whether there has been a violation of any relevant policy, law, or rule prohibiting discriminatory acts,” and ensures that the definition be used in state anti-discrimination trainings “as an educational tool to familiarize state personnel with antisemitism.”
Jordan Cope commented on the necessity of defining antisemitism. “Historically, antisemitism has been so difficult to address due to its evolving nature. Having a definition on the books that clearly identifies how antisemitism manifests classically and contemporarily remains critical to defining it and mitigating its venom.”
There has been confusion—sometimes intentional—about what adopting the IHRA Definition means. Neither SB 118 nor the IHRA Definition creates a special non-discrimination class for Jewish people. The IHRA Definition is simply a guiding tool for how to identify antisemitism that may assist in the application of already-existing rules and laws where antisemitism may be involved.
Senator Jim Dotson, who spearheaded this initiative, noted in his testimony, “SB 118 is an act that would define the word antisemitism in Arkansas state statute” and would “provide state officials with an objective definition of contemporary antisemitism needed to ensure proper assessment of criminal and discriminatory incidents motivated by antisemitism.” He proposed this legislation to “ensure that incidents of antisemitic hate and bias are treated equally under the law."
Representative Mindy McAlindon thanked StandWithUs for its support and testimony. She stated, "I wanted to work with Sen. Dotson on this bill because I have seen increases in antisemitic rhetoric. As a Christian, I believe we are called to stand with Israel and defend her and her people. I was honored to have a small part in doing that in Arkansas. Thank you again!"
SB 118 clarifies confusion about what antisemitism is by adopting a definition that was drafted by leading world experts to express the needs of antisemitism’s victims. The IHRA definition has been adopted or endorsed by over 1,100 governments, institutions, and organizations, including the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, and State, governments of roughly 40 countries, the European Union and the United Nations. The IHRA Definition has been supported by both Republican and Democrat presidential administrations. Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, commends the State of Arkansas and its lead sponsors for taking this important step in defeating antisemitism. “We know that current understanding of antisemitism is insufficient without a clear definition. We need other governors, state and local legislators and organizations to adopt the IHRA Definition to help identify, report, and combat antisemitism.” Importantly, adopting the IHRA Definition does not infringe upon First Amendment (free speech) rights. People still have their own free speech rights and responsibilities to condemn incidents of hatred and bigotry, and even use them as teachable moments. Referencing the IHRA definition to confront antisemitism does not violate anyone’s constitutional rights—no one has a right to be free from criticism after promoting hate. About StandWithUs StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, nonprofit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism. Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs throughout the U.S., in Israel, the UK, Canada, South Africa, Brazil and the Netherlands. For the last eleven years, SWU has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator and Guidestar, two charity watchdog groups that assess hundreds of thousands of charities in the United States. www.standwithus.com and www.facebook.com/standwithus and www.twitter.com/standwithus and www.instagram.com/standwithus.com