Synagogue leaders in Hertfordshire have criticised the local authority’s “continuing failure” to adopt an international definition of antisemitism.
On the agenda for last week’s council meeting was a motion to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism (IHRA).
But councillors in the Liberal Democrat-led Three Rivers District Council voted to withdraw all motions about racial equality from the agenda and set up a subcommittee to discuss changes to its equality policy.
Leaders of the local United and Liberal synagogue wrote to councillors to express “concern and outrage” over the move, describing the IHRA definition as “internationally recognised and accepted” by governments around the world and UK parties.
They wrote: “We fail to understand how the neighbouring councils of Harrow and Hillingdon managed to adopt the IHRA definition in 2018, but TRDC [Three Rivers District Council] are still unable to do so.
“Surely this issue is of sufficient importance to transcend party politics?”
The letter says that it is “frankly disgraceful that racism against any group should have become a political football in this manner.”
Meanwhile, Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “We commend Northwood United Synagogue and Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue for their work on this.”
Council leader Sarah Nelmes said on Wednesday the subcommittee will consider whether to adopt definitions of antisemitism and Islamophobia “but also what more we can do as a council to address the cause and effects of hate crime.”
Councillor Nelmes added: “I regret that this has delayed our adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism along with our failure to adopt the definition in the past. We wish to ensure we treat all groups fairly and ensure that our actions do not create further divides amongst our community.
“We have now an agreed way forward that enables us, preferably, to adopt definitions of both the current main religious hate-crimes affecting our community. However, if this is not possible, it allows us to adopt the IHRA definition and, as soon as possible after, an Islamophobia definition. We want to ensure that neither is delayed any further.”
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