The Parliamentary Labour party has overwhelmingly backed the full international definition of anti-Semitism, a day after its governing body did the same.
Labour MPs and peers today voted by 205 to eight to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, and all its examples into the party’s standing orders.
This comes after Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) agreed to incorporate the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on Wednesday. However, Jewish community groups hit out after the move was accompanied by a statement that said the party will ensure the changes do “not in any way undermine freedom of expression” on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.
After Labour MPs backed the full definition with all examples on Wednesday, Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl welcomed the move, saying:: “We would like to thank the Parliamentary Labour Party which has adopted the full International Holocaust Remembrance Holocaust Alliance definition of antisemitism with all of its illustrative examples. Unlike the National Executive Committee of the party, the PLP passed the definition without any unnecessary and damaging caveats or addendums.”
Following the Labour NEC’s backing of the definition, Baroness Chakrabarti, urged Jewish critics to “come back into the room” and engage with the party over its approach to anti-Semitism, insisting the extra clause didn’t dilute the definition.
The shadow attorney general told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There was no sullying. The words were not a caveat, were not a dilution; the words are true, which is that accepting these examples, in my view, in no way negates reasonable free speech around these difficult issues around Israel and Palestine.”
The NEC statement was “about reassuring people that you can be a critic of Israel without being anti-Semitic, you just need to conduct your debate in a certain way”, she said.
She also dismissed comparisons – made by former chief rabbi Lord Sacks – between Mr Corbyn’s previous comments about Zionism with the “rivers of blood” speech made by Enoch Powell.
Insisting Mr Corbyn had been “misquoted, misrepresented and spun”, she said: “I’m a British Asian who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I remember the real Enoch Powell, before this stuff gets hyperbolised and exaggerated.
“I know what it’s like to be listening to misreports in the media that make you feel scared.”
Lady Chakrabarti said: “I say to Margaret and I say to Rabbi Sacks and I say to everybody who has been hurt by this, this is the time to come back into the room for discussion.
“We have accepted these examples. It took so long because of genuine anxieties – however misplaced – about free speech on one of the most intractable problems in the world.
“Come back into the room. I will open the door. I will put the kettle on. But come back into the room because it’s time for reasonable debate.”
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