Jewish leaders have welcomed Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s decision to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, hours after the Labour Party’s ruling body refused to do so.
The West Yorkshire councillors voted to adopt the IHRA working definition with all its examples on Tuesday night, after a debate in which vociferous criticism of Israel was nevertheless voiced. Most of the definition’s examples relate to Israel.
Among the minority to vote against the definition’s adoption was former Liberal Democrat MP David Ward, who once likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to Nazi actions against Jews, in an entry he made in a Holocaust remembrance book.
The definition’s adoption marked a dramatic departure for a city once declared an “Israel-free zone” by former Bradford West MP George Galloway, comments that prompted a public visit by the Israeli ambassador.
The motion, which was proposed by Labour councillor David Green, noted “concern” at the rise of hate crime, adding: “It is legitimate to criticise the policies and practices of Israel but not if this involves using tropes and imagery of anti-Semitism.”
A Board of Deputies spokesperson said the Bradford vote was “a very welcome move” before adding: “While we would disagree with some of the unfair criticism of some Israeli government policies expressed in the debate, this served to prove that it is possible to criticise Israel whilst being resolutely opposed to anti-Semitism.”
Green said there had been “a lot of misinformation” about the motion and the Council’s intentions ahead of the debate, saying: “Our amendment clarified that by adopting the definition we were not seeking to close down free speech on the Israeli government, that legitimate criticism of Israel could still be made.”
The vote was welcomed by 19-year old LSE student James Slater, who hails from Bradford. “Very proud of my home city tonight,” he tweeted. “Definitely the right thing to do and a step in rebuilding trust with the Jewish community.”
Green, who has a Jewish father, said he brought the motion because “it was the right thing to do,” adding: “I think it was important given the current climate across the country, and the increase in anti-Semitism.
“In Bradford we’ve historically fought off the far-right and far-left, and while we don’t have a large Jewish community, we have a lot to thank our Jewish forebears for.”
The point he made in the debate, he said, was that “Israel has not created anti-Semitism, actually anti-Semitism created the need for Zionism and the State of Israel,” adding: “I do believe that some of the policies of Netanyahu and his government are racist, and that the nation-state bill is a dangerous step for a democracy, but I don’t believe in binary positions. That creates extremism.”