Labour NEC defies Chief Rabbi to adopt new anti-Semitism code

Labour NEC defies Chief Rabbi to adopt new anti-Semitism code

Governing body of the opposition party doesn't heed community calls to abandon adoption of revised anti-Semitism definition

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

Relations between Labour and Britain’s Jewish community reached a new low today after the party’s governing body approved a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism – ignoring the Chief Rabbi’s warning doing so would send “a message of contempt”.

The national executive committee ratified an earlier decision by a sub-group to adopt the code, which includes the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism but not all of its accompanying examples of contemporary anti-Semitism . Sources indicated the NEC simultaneously called for consultation with community leaders over the full IHRA wording.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis had described the vote as a “watershed moment” as more than 60 rabbis from across the religious spectrum joined forces in an unprecedented show of unity against Labour’s code. The NEC vote also flies in the face of overwhelming opposition from the parliamentary Labour Party. Chris Williamson and Richard Burden were among just four MPs to oppose a motion brought by MPs Alex Sobel and Luciana Berger.

The government, CPS and more than 100 local authorities have previously adopted the full definition with all the examples – and Jewish community leaders insisted it was for Jews to define the hate targeting them.

Labour had argued IHRA didn’t go far enough and that its code was the “most detailed and comprehensive” adopted by any political party in Britain.

General Secretary Jennie Formby argued most of the examples are adopted “word for word”, with additions “from the UN Charter on Human Rights, the Home Affairs Select Committee report 2016, the Chakrabarti Report and other contemporary sources”.

Only one example, covering descriptions of Israel as a racist endeavour, is not referenced. Formby said the code “provides the necessary explanation to ensure legitimate criticism of Israeli policies is not silenced while not tolerating comments which deny Jewish people the right to self-determination or hold Israel to unfair standards not expected of other states”.

Joan Ryan MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “I am appalled at the NEC’s decision today which, once again, undermines the claims of Labour’s leadership that it intends to tackle the problem of anti-Semitism. The NEC has decided to prioritise the rights of those who wish to demonise and delegitimise the state of Israel over the struggle against anti-Semitism. This shameful action is antithetical to Labour’s values and its history, and we will campaign relentlessly until it is overturned and the IHRA definition and all its examples are adopted by the party.”

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