UK Jewish community rejects new Labour party antisemitism guidelines
The UK communal Jewish leadership has strongly criticized new guidelines for defining and tackling antisemitism in the British Labour Party, arguing that they omit key clauses included in the widely accepted definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Labour’s new guidelines, first published by the LBC radio show, are based on the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, but exclude several of key clauses.
Among those is the clause of accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations, and applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
The specific clauses in Labour’s new guidelines also omit the IHRA’s clauses that say “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” are acts of antisemitism.
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) July 5, 2018
Separate paragraphs in Labour’s new guidelines do, however, state: “The party is clear that the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as any other people,” and that “to deny that right is to treat the Jewish people unequally and is therefore a form of antisemitism.”
Labour’s new guidelines state that it is not antisemitic to use metaphors of historical misconduct to criticize Israeli policy, but noted that an earlier report on antisemitism adopted by the party recommends against “the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, together with the Jewish Leadership Council, two leading Jewish communal organizations, said in response to the leaking of the criteria that it could not understand why the Labour Party refused to adopt in full the IHRA guidelines, noting by comparison that they have been adopted by the UK government, regional UK assemblies, 124 UK local councils and numerous other international governments.
“It is impossible to understand why Labour refuses to align itself with this universal definition. Its actions only dilute the definition and further erode the lack of confidence that British Jews have in their sincerity to tackle antisemitism within the Labour movement,” the organizations said.
The UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism was also highly critical of Labour, saying that by omitting some of the IHRA guidelines Labour was seemingly legitimating some forms of antisemitism.
“The four examples that have been removed by the Labour Party are central to the understanding of post-Holocaust antisemitism and the antisemitism of the far-left that now has the Labour Party in its grip,” said the CAA.
“It is driven by the pro-Corbyn faction’s obsessive hatred of the Jewish state, and seems to be designed to give free rein to certain forms of antisemitic discourse that have no place in a liberal democratic society,” it continued, in reference to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
On Wednesday, leaders of the Jewish Labour Movement, a membership organization of the Labour Party, wrote to the general secretary of the Labour Party protesting the soon-to-be published guidelines.
“The Jewish community, and the Jewish Labour Movement believe that the best working definition of antisemitism is the full IHRA definition, including its examples,” wrote MP Luciana Berger and JLM national chairman Ivor Caplin.
“It doesn’t need changing, and it’s unclear for whose benefit these changes have been made. We cannot give antisemites a get out of jail free card.”
The Labour Party has been assailed with allegations of antisemitism in recent years, in particular following Corbyn’s election as Labour head in 2015, with numerous party members, including prominent leaders such as former London mayor Ken Livingstone, being accused of expressing antisemitic sentiments.