Jewish leaders join MPs to condemn Labour over new anti-Semitism definition in party rulebook

Posted On: 
6th July 2018

Jewish leaders have joined a chorus of anger against the Labour party after it refused to accept the internationally-agreed definition of anti-Semitism.

Luciana Berger addresses a demonstration led by Jewish groups in Parliament Square.
Credit: 
PA Images

In a surprise move, the party's new code of conduct did not 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.

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Labour's new code says "anti-Semitism is racism" and brands such conduct "unacceptable in our party and in wider society".

But it makes clear that "contentious" comments on the state of Israel "will not be treated as anti-Semitism unless accompanied by specific anti-Semitic content".

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."

Labour MPs also lined up to condemn the decision by party officials to reject the IHRA definition.

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

She said: "The Jewish community, and the Jewish Labour Movement, believe that the best working definition of anti-Semitism is the full IHRA definition, including its examples.

"If the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is good enough for the CPS, Colllege of Policing, Jewish community, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, National Union of Students, and Labour Councils across the country, then it should be good enough for the Labour Party.

"It doesn't need changing, and it's unclear for whose benefit these changes have been made. We cannot give antisemites a get out of jail free card."

But a Labour spokesman defended the 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.