Gordon Brown urges Jeremy Corbyn to 'unanimously and unequivocally' adopt anti-Semitism definition

Posted On: 
2nd September 2018

Gordon Brown has urged Jeremy Corbyn to "unanimously, unequivocally and immediately" adopt an international defnition of anti-Semitism to undo the "hurt" caused to the Jewish community.

The former prime minister said Labour had 'a duty to listen to the voices' of people who had faced discrimination
Credit: 
PA

The party's top ruling body will this week decide whether or not to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Jewish abuse alongside its examples of discrimination.

Labour's National Executive Committee re-opened talks on its code of conduct over the summer after heavy criticism from Jewish groups and some of Labour's own MPs over a decision not to include all of the IHRA's examples of abuse.

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Some in the party have argued that the IHRA definition stifles legitimate criticism of Israeli policy.

But Mr Brown made an impassioned intervention into the debate on Sunday, telling delegates at the Jewish Labour Movement conference that the party needed to take swift action to close down the row or risk further "hurt".

"It is time to say that this wrong must and can be righted," he said. "This injustice has got to be remedied. This stain has got to be removed.

"This sore that exists and the harm that has been done and the hurt that it is caused has got to be undone and it's got to be undone immediately. And it's got to be undone and seen to be undone in the next few days."

The former prime minister also dismissed claims that the IHRA definition would inhibit scrutiny of the Israeli government, and he urged the party's leadership to do much more to heed the concerns of Jewish people.

"I tell you: fighting racism is not in competition with our values. It's the very foundation of our values," he said.

"Some say, but yes - but surely you should have the power to amend, and you should take the sections you like and delete the sections you don't like.

"And I say this: listen to the people who've experienced and who've suffered the persecution.

"Listen to the people who have experienced and suffered the discrimination. Would you produce, as any party, a document on sexism and sexual violence produced by men without consulting the women of the party about what they really feel and getting their advice?

"Would you produce a document on racism without consulting the black community. Would you produce a document on homophobia without fully consulting the LGB community?

"No. The Labour Party has a duty to listen to the voices of those people who know."

On the IHRA definition, Mr Brown warned: "Amend it, change it, delete parts, rip it up and you destroy the unanimity that is essential to fight antisemitism."

The ex-Labour leader also hit out at "far left" attacks on Jewish people, saying that those who "who should know better" can "fall for this idea that there is a Jewish capitalist conspiracy to run the world".

MCDONNELL: WE WILL PROTECT JEWISH MEMBERS

The plea from the Labour heavyweight came as Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell rejected a stinging attack on Jeremy Corbyn from Britain's former chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

The peer on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of the Labour leader, who he has compared to former Conservative MP Enoch Powell, author of the incendiary 'Rivers of Blood' speech on immigration.

Asked whether he regretted making a personal attack on Mr Corbyn, Lord Sacks told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "Absolutely not. I've been in public life for over thirty years. I doubt that I've made a single party political statement in all those thirty years. I had to issue a warning."

He added: "Anti-Semitism has returned to mainland Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. Anyone who befriends Hamas and Hizbollah, anyone who uses the term Zionist loosely without great care is in danger of engulfing Britain in the kind of flames of hatred that have reappeared throughout Europe and is massively irresponsible. "

But while Mr McDonnell said he found the former chief rabbi's "brutally honest" intervention "quite distressing", he rejected the suggestion that Mr Corbyn had blamed Israel "for everything that's happened in the Middle East".

He said the Labour leader had "specifically distinguished Zionists from the Jewish population itself", and "made it absolutely clear we will protect Jewish members of our party from any form of abuse and anti-Semitism and we will take action as well".

Mr McDonnell added: "I just say to Lord Sacks - you've got it wrong. Come and talk to us. If you sat down with Jeremy Corbyn I believe you would reach a level of agreement that would help us go forward."

The Shadow Chancellor also said he wanted to see Labour's row over anti-Semitism "resolved", and predicted an "historic agreement" when the NEC meets this week.

"Let me put it as straightforwardly as I can - I think all sides will be satisfied with the proposals that are being discussed," he said.

Mr McDonnell added: "I think the NEC are wise enough to come to that understanding and then we can get on with the serious business of full engagement with the Jewish community, tackling anti-Semitism in our society, and yes, as best we can bringing people together. We're going to resolve this matter and I hope we're going to do it quickly and move on."