Labour party adopts antisemitism definition, caveat on criticizing Israel

Jewish communal organizations cautiously welcomed decision, criticized 'freedom of expression' caveat as 'attempt to undermine the definition’s validity.'

Rival protests as Labour's ruling body holds antisemitism talks, September 4, 2018 (Reuters)
The governing body of the UK Labour Party voted on Tuesday to adopt the full version of an internationally recognized definition of antisemitism in an effort to end a long-running controversy over its refusal to do so earlier this summer.
Labour’s National Executive Committee said however that as well as adopting in full the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), including all its examples, it would be issuing a statement to guarantee “freedom of expression” regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“The NEC has today adopted all of the IHRA examples of antisemitism, in addition to the IHRA definition which Labour adopted in 2016, alongside a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians,” the Labour Party said in a statement to the press following a meeting of the NEC on Tuesday.
“The NEC welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s statement to the meeting about action against antisemitism, solidarity with the Jewish community and protection of Palestinian rights, as an important contribution to the consultation on Labour’s code of conduct,” it added.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, a leading communal organization, welcomed the NEC’s decision but said that it had been too long in coming.
“It is very long overdue and regrettable that Labour has wasted a whole summer trying to dictate to Jews what constitutes offence against us,” said Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl .
She added that it was now “action” that matters, and insisted that the Labour Party begin seriously tackling the antisemitism problem in its midst.
“We need to see firm action taken against antisemites and those who bring the party into disrepute by denying the problem of antisemitism. Labour must resolve the outstanding cases; introduce greater transparency to the disciplinary process; tackle the culture of the problem of antisemitism and introduce education and training. In addition Jeremy Corbyn needs to apologize for past antisemitic comments and affiliations,” she said
The Jewish Leadership Council made similar comments, saying that “if Jeremy Corbyn were a competent leader, the Labour Party would have adopted this definition months ago.”
Chief Executive of the JLC, Simon Johnson, said that the organization “now look[s] forward to Labour dealing seriously, urgently and transparently with all of the outstanding disciplinary cases.”
He also argued that Labour’s “freedom of expression” statement regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict was unnecessary since the IHRA definition of antisemitism does not preclude full criticism of Israel.
“The IHRA definition does allow for vociferous criticism of Israel and Israeli policies, and does nothing to interfere with freedom of speech.”
The Campaign Against Antisemitism said that Labour’s statement on freedom of expression would constitute “an attempt to undermine the definition’s validity, despite its adoption around the world and the fact that the definition is already heavily caveated,” and that its introduction was likely due to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “fears [of] the undiluted definition because of his past actions.”
Labour has been beset by allegations of antisemitism amongst many of its members for several years, not least of whom is Corbyn.
In just the last few weeks, video footage has emerged of Corbyn saying that “Zionists” do not understand English irony, appearing in television interviews and panel debates alongside terrorists, and ostensibly participating in a commemoration service for the Palestinian terrorists behind the 1972 Munich Massacre.
Numerous other members of the Labour Party, including former mayor of London Ken Livingstone as well as numerous Labour local council members and local council candidates, have also made offensive and antisemitic comments and actions in recent years.
The UK Jewish community has vehemently protested Labour’s foot-dragging and failure to discipline and expel many of these members.
In July, the NEC controversially adopted an amended version of the IHRA definition, but omitted four critical examples from it, including accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than their home country; Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the State of Israel is a racist endeavor; and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” and applying double standards to Israel.
Jewish communal organizations and leaders took particular exception to the Labour Party’s failure to consult with them when formulating its antisemitism guidelines.