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Sat, 15 August 2020

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Ed Balls urges Labour to adopt full anti-Semitism definition as ‘worrying’ row rumbles on

Ed Balls urges Labour to adopt full anti-Semitism definition as ‘worrying’ row rumbles on
3 min read

Ed Balls has weighed in on Labour’s anti-Semitism row by calling on Jeremy Corbyn to fully accept an internationally-agreed definition of anti-semitism.

The former Shadow Chancellor said the controversy over anti-Jewish racism in the party had left him feeling “gloomy and worried”.

The issue resurfaced last month following a decision by Labour’s National Executive Committee not to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, along with its examples of abuse.

That move sparked a backlash from angry Labour backbenchers and a string of Jewish community groups.

Mr Corbyn was meanwhile criticised this week after it emerged he organised a 2010 event in which Israel was compared to Nazi Germany. He has since apologised for sharing a platform "with people whose views I completely reject".

Mr Balls, who lost his seat in a major 2015 election upset, criticised the decision by Labour's NEC not to accept all the definitions given by the IHRA on anti-Semitism.

When asked directly in an interview with the Evening Standard whether the move was a mistake, he replied: “In short, yes.”

Pressed on why those at the top had adopted their stance, the former MP added: "No idea, although the news [that Mr Corbyn hosted the Commons event in 2010] is suggestive."

The former frontbencher, who has carved out a career as a TV personality since leaving frontline politics, is also working with Conservative peer Lord Pickles to erect a memorial and learning centre outside Parliament to honour the victims of the Holocaust.

He said: "I would much rather the Labour Party was debating how we can remember and ensure there is never a repetition of the catastrophe of the Holocaust and I think that would be a more constructive way to spend our time than a row about anti-Semitism.

"I find it very worrying at the moment."

Labour has said it will continue to consult with Jewish groups on its code of conduct, which it says "expands on and contextualises" the IHRA text. The party says it has taken issue only with "one half of one of the IHRA's 11 examples" concerning criticism of Israel.

The party faced further controversy this week when a recording emerged of NEC member Peter Willsman accusing Jewish critics of the party of being "Trump fanatics", and demanding evidence from a group of 70 Rabbis of anti-Semitism in Labour.

The recording prompted pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum to withdraw its support for the veteran campaigner in upcoming NEC elections.

Mr Willsman has meanwhile apologised and been ordered to undergo equalities training, although one Labour frontbencher has said he should "consider his position" over the remarks.

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