European Jewish Congress: Labour must use its adoption of IHRA definition to root out its own institutional antisemitism

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The European Jewish Congress notes the overdue decision by the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism in full but deeply regrets the added comments made at the NEC that imply the IHRA rejects free speech on criticising Israel.

“The Labour Party’s initial refusal to adopt the full IHRA definition demonstrated a profound failure to respect and understand the Jewish community and its challenges with hate crimes,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC. “The Jewish community, like all communities, should be heavily consulted when defining anti-Jewish hatred, in line with the Equality Act and the MacPherson Principle.”

“Now that the Labour Party has adopted the IHRA definition in full, it must be used to root out antisemitism because its adoption is only a first relatively small step and not an end in itself. If the Labour Party does not root out and punish all those who contravene the definition then this will be meaningless and mere window-dressing.”

“It does the Labour Party no credit that even in adopting the IHRA definition in full, it still feels the need to condition its opposition to antisemitism on a foreign policy statement on issues three thousand miles away from Britain,” Kantor added.

“This week’s elections to the Labour National Executive Committee and specifically the election of Peter Willsman and Claudia Webbe, clearly demonstrated that Labour remains institutionally antisemitic and that this is now endemic among the grassroots membership brought into the party by Jeremy Corbyn. It is this same National Executive which will be expected to implement the IHRA, so we are certainly not filled with confidence that there will be real and practical implications of this decision on the ground.”

The adoption of the full IHRA working definition and its working examples is a matter of clear international consensus. The IHRA definition created by a body representing 31 nations has been adopted in full by governments, organisations and political parties from all over the world including the German, Austrian, Romanian and British Governments, the European Parliament, police, Crown Prosecution Service, many local councils, trades unions, etc. They have done so in the knowledge that the full definition and examples were carefully drawn up in consultation with leading experts on antisemitism and place no restrictions on freedom of speech or legitimate criticism of Israel.

“Much more needs to be done by the Party leadership to rebuild Labour’s credibility as an anti-racist party and to reassure British Jews that the Party makes no exceptions for antisemitism in any form.” Dr. Kantor added. “The necessary first step will be for Mr Corbyn to apologise for his past comments and affiliations with Jew-haters and to expedite urgently the disciplinary process against all Labour Party members accused of antisemitism.”