A resolution that would have defined antisemitism and reaffirmed Montgomery County Council’s commitment to stand up to hate and extremism will not be voted on until at least September. It had been scheduled for the July 26 council meeting.
According to Councilmember Andrew Friedson, who introduced the resolution, there were some questions and concerns about the definition so the three Jewish organizations that backed the resolution asked for more time to explain it.
“It really wasn’t tabled,” Friedson. “It wasn’t like a vote count thing. There is support for it.”
Friedson said the resolution was a response to the antisemitic flyers in Kemp Mill and other instances of antisemitic graffiti, vandalism and harassment against Jewish community members.
The definition of antisemitism that was to be voted on Tuesday is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism and has been adopted by 26 states across the country.
Several members of council expressed concern that it appeared anti-free speech and that it might cast a chill over discussions about Israel.
“A growing coalition of local Jewish organizations, including American Jewish Committee, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), and the JCRC of Greater Washington have requested that the Montgomery County Council address the antisemitism definition resolution, which includes important IHRA language, in September. We believe additional time is needed to clarify to legislators and coalition partners the importance of passing this measure at a time of escalating antisemitism and hatred towards other minority groups,” the three groups explained in a joint statement.
Ron Halber, executive director of the JCRC, said, “We expect this to eventually pass.” He stressed that the definition “does not negate one’s opinion on Israel.”
“People just want to understand,” Halber said. “Why add something to the agenda that is complex for some people and not just take the time to explain it?” He added, “We want to pass this in the least contentious way possible.”
The definition reads, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Upon learning that the resolution was postposed, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a press release welcoming the “shelving” of the matter.
CAIR’s Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry said in a statement, “We thank the members of the Montgomery County Council for holding this resolution. The adoption of the IHRA’s controversial definition of antisemitism as government policy – something that was not intended by the definition’s lead drafter – would stifle free speech and make it more difficult to criticize the Israeli government’s policies of apartheid against the Palestinian people.”