Labour’s adoption of a much-criticised code of conduct on anti-Semitism would represent “an unprecedented message of contempt” to British Jews, the Chief Rabbi has told the party’s governing body.
Ephraim Mirvis’ warning came as the full national executive committee is expected to rule on the code, which was previously endorsed by a sub-committee of the group. The intervention came as more than 60 rabbis across the religious spectrum also demanded a rethink.
The proposed code joins the government, CPS and more than 100 councils in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Antisemitism along with some of its accompanying examples of contemporary anti-Semitism – but other examples have not been fully included.
Instead, Labour have clarified some of those examples and added additional examples from other sources – provoking anger from the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council that Jews are being denied the right to define hate against them. Jeremy Corbyn has so far remained silent on the escalating row.
In a letter to NEC members that will increase pressure on the leadership ahead of today’s meeting, the Chief Rabbi said: “It is astonishing that the Labour Party presumes that it is more qualified than…the Jewish community to define antisemitism.
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“Adoption of Labour’s new alternative to the internationally accepted IHRA definition will send an unprecedented message of contempt to the Jewish community. Other groups might legitimately ask if they will be best in having the prejudice they are subject to defined for them.”
Deserving the NEC decision as a “watershed moment”, he added: “Those who votes for anything other than the full IHRA definition will be placing themselves on the wrong side of the fight against racism, antisemitism and intolerance. Please make the right decision for Britain.”
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “These are the most detailed and comprehensive guidelines on antisemitism adopted by any political party in this country. They adopt the IHRA definition and contextualise and add to the working examples to produce a practical Code of Conduct that a political party can apply in disciplinary cases.”