Dozens of British rabbis call out Labour Party on its antisemitism definition
UK rabbis slam Labour for denying it is antisemitic to compare Israel’s policy with Nazis’
Sixty-eight rabbis from across the religious denominational spectrum in the United Kingdom sent an open letter Monday to the opposition Labour Party to protest a code of conduct regarding antisemitism that its national executive committee (NEC) is set to approve Tuesday.
In the letter, published in The Guardian, the rabbis stated: “It is not the Labour party’s place to rewrite a definition of antisemitism,” which has been accepted by the British government, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh assembly, “but above all else, accepted by the vast majority of Jewish people in Britain and globally.”
That definition is the one written by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The NEC, however, has significantly watered down the original. It reportedly omits at least four aspects of what constitutes antisemitism, including accusing Jews of “being more loyal to Israel” than their own country; claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavor”; applying a “double standard” on Israel; and comparing “contemporary Israeli policy” to that of the Nazis.
The rabbis, who represent over 30,000 Jewish households according to a report in the Jewish paper The JC, charged the leadership with arrogance because it has “chosen to ignore those who understand antisemitism the best, the Jewish community,” while claiming to know what’s best for them.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has called the NEC vote “a watershed moment,” according to The JC, suggesting that “other groups might also legitimately ask if they will be next in having the prejudice they are subject to, defined for them.”
Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby, however, claimed in a letter to party MPs that only “one part of one example” in the IHRA definition wasn’t put into the Labour code, reported The JC. All the rest was either directly quoted or “strongly referenced,” said the senior party official.
But a strong advance rebuke was dealt to the party leadership by the rank-and-file MPs of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) when they voted overwhelmingly Monday night to adopt the whole IHRA definition unreservedly.
One MP later told The JC: “The PLP has sent a clear message to Jeremy Corbyn and the NEC. We have shown ourselves to be on the side of mainstream Jewish opinion. The NEC has the chance to see sense on Tuesday and throw out the new code. Or else we risk losing the Jewish vote almost completely going forwards.”