Labour finally agrees to fully adopt international definition of anti-Semitism after months of rows

Posted On: 
4th September 2018

Labour has finally agreed to fully accept the internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in London ahead of a meeting of the party's National Executive Committee.
Credit: 
PA Images

Following a summer-long row which has split the party, its ruling National Executive Committee endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's guidelines on Jew-hatred, along with all of its 11 illustrative examples.

The NEC sparked fury earlier this year when it rejected four of the examples, claiming they inhibited legitimate criticism of Israel.

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Following four hours of heated debate, the NEC unanimously endorsed the IHRA definition in full, alongside a separate statement making clear how it will not "undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians".

And in a major blow for Jeremy Corbyn, an accompanying statement by him setting out how criticism of Israel should still be allowed was dumped after it failed to win enough support from NEC members.

A senior party source said Mr Corbyn and his supporters had "climbed down completely".

They added: "The statement Jeremy proposed with terrible caveats got completely scrapped."

A Labour spokesperson said: "The NEC welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s statement to the meeting about action against anti-Semitism, solidarity with the Jewish community and protection of Palestinian rights, as an important contribution to the consultation on Labour’s Code of Conduct."

DISREPUTE

Critics said the addition of the note on freedom of speech on Israel risked a further anti-Semitism row.

Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said: "It is appalling that the Labour party has once again ignored the view clearly and repeatedly stated by the Jewish community: that it should adopt the full IHRA definition without additions, omissions or caveats.

"The IHRA definition has been adopted in full by 31 countries, including the UK, as well as over 130 UK local councils, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary.

"A 'freedom of expression on Israel' clause is unnecessary and totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted. Labour appears determined to provide a safe space for anti-Semites. This decision is a sad reflection on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party and the culture it has instilled."

Richard Angell, director of centre-left campaign group Progress, said: "The Jewish community made it clear and simple to Labour: pass the IHRA definition in full – no caveats, no compromises. Jeremy Corbyn and the Momentum-dominated NEC have just failed the most basic test.

"A ‘right to be racist’ protection when debating the Middle East is not just wrong, it harms the cause of peace but it will also continue a culture where Jewish people cannot feel at home in Labour. 

"Today’s decision is an insult. Labour does not know better than Jewish people about anti-Semitism. 

"The four hours it took for today’s retrograde step to appear shows there are committed anti-racists at Labour top table but those apathetic to anti-Semitism won out, again. The NEC has brought the Labour Party into disrepute."

Meanwhile, Labour MSPs at the Scottish Parliament also voted to adopt the full IHRA definition - although PoliticsHome understands that party leader Richard Leonard did not take part.