2018 09 – definitions of antisemitism

IHRA Definition: An Appeal to Labour’s NEC

Brecon & Radnor Constituency Labour Party sent the following e mail message to Labour’s NEC

As Labour Party members, we are concerned that the Party seems to be about to adopt the full IHRA approved definition of antisemitism. As you probably know, the man who actually drafted this formula, US attorney Richard Stern, has said that it was never intended to be used as a criterion for what is or isn’t acceptable speech. It was designed as a tool for people collecting data on public attitudes towards Jews. As recently as November 2017 he gave a detailed submission to the US Congress appealing against its use as a legal definition to be applied in college campuses. Among much else he says:  ‘let’s consider definitions to protect Armenian students and Turkish students.  The former might include being supportive of the Turkish government, or denying the Armenian genocide, as items to consider. The latter would certainly say that if one says there was an Armenian genocide, that is an example of being anti-Turk’. ( https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Stern-Testimony-11.07.17.pdf)

The fact is that the confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians is one of war, covert or overt, and adopting the IHRA definition means handing control to one side in the dispute over the terms in which it can be discussed. A similar restriction on pro-Israeli speech about the Palestinians might include denying that the ‘nakba’ of 1947-8 was an act of ethnic cleansing. The Code of Conduct agreed by the NEC took account of these difficulties and it deserves wholehearted support.

We cannot imagine that adoption of the full IHRA definition will put an end to the current row which is doing so much damage to the public image of the Labour Party. It will instead result in a whole series of attacks on those who sympathise with the predicament of the Palestinians who will have great difficulty avoiding the pitfalls adoption of the definition is designed to create. The highly respected journalist Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, a still predominately Arab town in pre-1967 Israel, has said he has written some 900 articles since coming to live there and he reckons all of them, with the exception of those dealing solely with intra-Palestinian disputes, could be interpreted as being in breach of the IHRA definition ( https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2018-08-16/corbyn-labour-fail-design/)

Cook also points out that two years ago Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military, made the following comment when addressing an audience in Israel on Holocaust Day:

“If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”

Is it not a paradox that, were Golan a member of the Labour party, that statement – a rare moment of self-reflection by a senior Israeli figure – could soon justify his being vilified and hounded out of the Labour Party?

We are therefore appealing to you and your colleagues to stand firm by the principles in the existing NEC Code of Conduct.