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Defiant Jennie Formby dismisses Jewish criticism of Labour's new anti-Semitism crackdown

Defiant Jennie Formby dismisses Jewish criticism of Labour's new anti-Semitism crackdown
3 min read

Labour general secretary Jennie Formby has dismissed criticism from Jewish groups and MPs of the party's latest attempts to crack down on anti-Semitism.

Critics said it was a mistake for Labour not to endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Jewish abuse.

The IHRA definition - which is recognised by the Government and Crown Prosecution Service - says Jewish people should be allowed to define what constitutes anti-Semitism.

In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council said: "It is for Jews to determine for themselves what anti-Semitism is. The UK Jewish community has adopted in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of Antisemitism, as have the British Government,  Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament, 124 local authorities across the country and numerous governments around the world.

"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 existing lack of confidence that British Jews have in their sincerity to tackle antisemitism within the Labour movement."

Speaking on behalf of the Jewish Labour Movement, Luciana Berger MP accused the party of handing anti-Semites a "get out of jail free card".

But writing for the Jewish News, Jennie Formby said the IHRA does not go far enough and insisted Labour's new rule book will be even tougher on anti-Semitism.

She said: "I have been asked why we didn’t just adopt the IHRA’s examples as they are and leave it at that. The answer is that they do not go far enough for practical use by a political party.

"Our guidelines address all of the ground covered by the IHRA examples, clarifies those that might be open to different interpretations or be seen as conflicting with other rights, and provides additional examples of anti-Semitic language and behaviour.

"For example, our guidelines include the use of derogatory terms for Jewish people such as 'kike' or 'yid', stereotypical tropes and negative physical depictions such as references to wealth and equating Jewish people with capitalists or the ruling class. These are not included in the IHRA examples. 

"We are a political party with over half-a-million members, many of whom are passionate about international politics and discuss these issues in party meetings and events. It is therefore essential that we have a code of conduct which sets out the behaviour that will not be tolerated in such discussions, ensuring that we can have debate on such important and difficult subjects in a considered and respectful way."

Labour has been hit by a number of high-profile anti-Semitism rows in recent years, with a raft of expulsions from the party.

A Labour spokesman also defended the new guidance, describing it as "the most detailed and comprehensive guidelines on anti-Semitism adopted by any political party in this country."

"They draw on the IHRA examples and other sources to provide practical examples of anti-Semitism which can be applied to complaints cases and used in political education programmes to foster deeper understanding of anti-Semitism among members," they said.

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