The Archbishop of Canterbury has praised the parliamentary Labour party for endorsing the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism “without any caveats or riders” and signalled that the Church of England should follow suit.
The intervention will be seen as thinly-veiled criticism of the Labour’s governing body and leadership which first refused to adopt all 11 accompanying examples and then accepting them with additional clarification on free speech.
Speaking during a pre-Rosh Hashanah video at the home of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Anglican leader reflected on the “very demanding stressful time” the Jewish community had experienced recently.
Rabbi Mirvis bemoaned said the community was “actually in a worse position” than it was this time last year, reflecting on the Labour Party’s ongoing row over anti-Semitism, which came to a head this week with the NEC’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Jew-hatred.
He said that “after three years of inaction, during which we’ve waited for the Labour party to show they are actually serious about tackling anti-Semitism, now we have found during this past summer, they haven’t even known where the starting blocks are.”
In response, Welby said he was “very pleased that the Labour Party has accepted IHRA without any riders or caveats of any kind at all”, but that he found it “hugely distressing and depressing” that the Jewish community “should have a deep sense of insecurity”.
“That is appalling, and what that says to me, is that the leaders in our nation must be very clear on giving security to the Jewish community in this country and that steps like IHRA are the beginning of a long journey.”
He added that “we, as a church need to adopt IHRA formally. I’m distressed that it should be necessary but I think it is necessary”.
Welby concluded his message by wishing the “ an increase in your sense of security and peace and assurance of your future”.
The Archbishop’s comments were immediately welcomed by Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl, who said: “I would like to express my thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his important intervention in advance of Rosh Hashanah, saying that the Church of England should adopt the IHRA Definition of antisemitism. This moral leadership is warmly welcomed by our community and is a shining example of faith communities uniting against hate.”
The Chair and Trustees of the Council of Christians and Jews thanked Welby for his new year message, and “for being so clear in his commitment to eradicate antisemitism in all its forms and to recommend adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism to the Church of England.
“He has shown leadership where it has been lacking, he has created light where there has been darkness. The Jewish community is fortunate to have such a committed, loyal, and steadfast friend.’