Brighton & Hove leader reassures community after fringe event
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Brighton & Hove leader reassures community after fringe event

'We are dealing with a set of deeply complex issues with very strong and differing views being expressed,' said Council Leader

Councillor Nancy Platts
Councillor Nancy Platts

Brighton & Hove City Council has sought to reassure the community after concerns were raised about an event held in premises owned by the local authority.

The Labour conference fringe event, titled “BDS, Antisemitism and a free Palestine,” in aid of the nonprofit Hebron Freedom Fund, was held in the Old Courtroom on September 24, with speeches from activists Tom Suarez, Azzam Tamimi and Miko Peled.

Brighton adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism last year, which states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

But it also includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” such as by “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” among its accompanying examples of antisemitism.

Local group Sussex Friends of Israel tweeted it was “possibly the most damning of all the events of the last few days. Not only because of the nature of the speakers and what was said but also because @BrightonHoveCC had the opportunity to make a statement of support to our community but they failed miserably.”

Sussex Jewish Representative Council expressed concern about the event, tweeting yesterday it was “hugely disappointed & offended to see that @BrightonHoveCC  and it’s leader are allowing a hate event to take place on Council property.”

It added: “It is not enough to issue empty statements and yet allow hate to flourish in our city. @BrightonHoveCC  has adopted the IHRA definition on antisemitism. The Council leader would do well to familiarise herself with it & it’s [sic] implications. This event clearly breaches it”

Last month, Council Leader Nancy Platts appealed to anyone concerned about events to get in touch and said she had circulated educational material to members, delegates and fringe organisers ahead of Labour conference.

In a statement issued this week, the Labour councillor reiterated her support for the Jewish community, adding that “antisemitism has no place” in Brighton.

“I didn’t personally receive any emails about the meeting in the Old Courtroom prior to the event, but as soon I was made aware that others had received complaints, I asked council staff to contact the organisers using exactly the same email I previously used to raise my concerns and seek assurances from event organisers,” she said.

She added: “We are dealing with a set of deeply complex issues with very strong and differing views being expressed. What’s imperative to me is that we as a society are able to balance the rights of people to speak out about issues that matter to them and enable political discourse, without it becoming hate speech.

“Our strength in Brighton & Hove is that we live together, celebrate and learn from our differences and recognise each other’s rights and freedoms. We will not accept hate speech or hate crime in Brighton & Hove and I urge people to think carefully about the events and speakers they bring to our city.  I will not allow our reputation for welcome and sanctuary to be tarnished.”

In a statement to Jewish News Tom Suarez said: “I was one of the three speakers at the event in question, a fund-raiser in support of the most rudimentary principles of human rights as enshrined in international law. As regards the smears from Sussex Friends of Israel, I will not succumb to this tactic of having to ‘defend’ myself from lies. It is, rather, they who should be held to account for their cynical abuse of the serious charge of antisemitism to silence discussion of Israel’s ongoing violation of those rudimentary human rights.”

Miko Peled added: “Being a Jewish Israeli and an anti Zionist, I want to thank Brighton Hove City Council @BrightonHoveCC for supporting free speech. These few days in Brighton represented an enormous victory for free speech and for the calls to bring peace to Palestine.

“As was stated in our promotions and was said during the event, the event we held recognised the many Jewish, Muslim, Christian and all people who contribute and stand for justice, freedom and peace in Palestine.”

Azzam Tamimi was approached for comment.

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Read Brighton & Hove City Council Leader Nancy Platts’ statement in full:

“I stand by my statement in support of the Jewish community and am clear that antisemitism has no place in our city. 

“I personally have taken action whenever concerns about conference related events have been raised with me personally. I contacted organisers asking them to review their speakers and events to ensure they are inclusive and appropriate. I have also made follow up calls and emails to organisers.

“I didn’t personally receive any emails about the meeting in the Old Courtroom prior to the event, but as soon I was made aware that others had received complaints, I asked council staff to contact the organisers using exactly the same email I previously used to raise my concerns and seek assurances from event organisers.  

“I have ensured people know how to report hate crime to the police and how to make complaints to the Labour Party where someone has identified a Labour Party member involved in such activity.

“I also wrote to the Labour Party asking them to circulate the education page on antisemitism to all delegates, visitors and fringe organisers attending conference ahead of the event.

“We are dealing with a set of deeply complex issues with very strong and differing views being expressed. What’s imperative to me is that we as a society are able to balance the rights of people to speak out about issues that matter to them and enable political discourse, without it becoming hate speech.

“Our strength in Brighton & Hove is that we live together, celebrate and learn from our differences and recognise each other’s rights and freedoms. We will not accept hate speech or hate crime in Brighton & Hove and I urge people to think carefully about the events and speakers they bring to our city.  I will not allow our reputation for welcome and sanctuary to be tarnished.”

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