Israel’s bogus definition of anti-Semitism will unleash havoc in Labour

Left-wing candiate for Labour’s ruling body Huda Elmi wrote that IHRA’s defintion of anti-Semitism will raise tensions in Labour. (Twitter)

While the Israeli campaign of psychological warfare against Labour continues, the UK opposition party’s membership is increasingly disquieted by their leaders’ apparent willingness to capitulate.

The latest wave of the “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” fabrication is aimed at attempting to coerce the party into adopting the Israeli government’s preferred definition of anti-Semitism.

But Palestine solidarity activists have described the IHRA “working definition” as a flawed document, which bans key criticisms of Israeli state racism.

On Friday, 84 Black, Asian, Arab and other minority groups in the UK released an unprecedented open letter condemning the IHRA definition as part of the “silencing” of Palestinian colonial history and “a dangerous breach of our own rights, and of the wider British public.”

Antony Lerman, the founder of the Institute for Jewish Policy research, says the IHRA definition “was proposed deliberately to ‘equate criticisms of Israel with hatred of Jews.’” Lerman has written a concise history of how the document was devised and promoted by the Israeli government and its affiliated lobby groups.

Yet recent reports indicate that the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) is set to do a U-turn on its new code of conduct against anti-Semitism.

The controversial IHRA “working definition” document was already mostly adopted into the new code in July.

But one of the “examples” of anti-Semitism attached to the document, which forbids criticizing Israel as “a racist endeavor,” was rejected by the NEC on grounds of legitimate free speech.

Amid all this, the party grassroots have begun campaigning against Israeli-government-backed attempts to change Labour’s rulebook.

Activists have established a “Back the Code” website with instructions on how to campaign against the IHRA changes and join a Twitterstorm at 7pm on Monday night by tweeting using the #backneccode hashtag.

Israeli interference

And more questions are being raised about the role of the Israeli government in this summer’s smear campaign against Labour.

Party activists have sent leader Jeremy Corbyn and General Secretary Jennie Formby an open letter calling for an investigation.

The letter calls for them to look at “how much the Israeli government, or the government of any other foreign power, is interfering in the Labour Party.”

The open letter was sent to The Electronic Intifada by one of its authors and is currently circulating online.

Renowned Israeli anti-Zionist Moshé Machover – himself a target of the Labour Party witch hunt against falsely accused “anti-Semites” – is one of the signatories.

The letter asks why no such Labour investigation has been launched, despite Corbyn and his shadow foreign affairs minister Emily Thornberry calling for one last year after the revelation of an Israeli dirty tricks campaign by Al Jazeera.

Another open letter calling on the leadership to “resist calls to adopt all eleven examples accompanying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism into the party’s code of conduct,” has been signed by more than 5,000 Labour members.

Left-wing group Jewish Voice for Labour has been campaigning in local parties in defense of the code as it stands, and for the NEC to “resist pressure to adopt the full list of examples attached to the IHRA definition.”

Meanwhile, a third open letter has slammed the leadership of pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum in scathing terms, for what it characterized as a failure to stand up to “the latest iteration of the smear campaign.”

Witch hunt

In the letter, addressed to Momentum’s national coordinating group, 30 members of a local chapter in Camden, North London wrote that “if Momentum’s leadership is not prepared to stand up to the ongoing witch-hunt, it will simply create the conditions for further attacks.”

The letter was reported on by The Skwawkbox and The Electronic Intifada has spoken to one of its backers.

Under pressure, some trade union leaders – whose unions have seats on Labour’s ruling executive, the NEC – have called for Labour to adopt the definition, including all of its misleading “examples” of anti-Semitism, when it next meets at the start of September.

By way of contrast, left-wing activists and Palestine solidarity campaigners have called for the IHRA document to be dropped.

Momentum-backed candidate for NEC Huda Elmi wrote in The Independent last week that adopting the full IHRA document “will only raise tensions further” and “provide a never ending supply of rows and media stories.”

She wrote that “intense disagreement on Israel and on Zionism will continue to exist” in the party even if it adopts the IHRA document.

“We cannot contravene the right of Palestinians to freely articulate their oppression,” she continued. “Our rich history and tradition as a labour movement of standing shoulder to shoulder with Palestinians would be heavily penalized.”

After initially strongly supporting the Labour code of conduct on anti-Semitism Momentum leader Jon Lansman appeared earlier in August to be doing a U-turn.

And in a statement to The Skwakbox last week, Lansman wrote that he now supports adopting the IHRA document in full “subject to the provisions of our agreed code of conduct.”

He told the left-wing news site that he “would absolutely not support interpreting it as preventing BDS,” the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.

Last month Barnet council in North London was set to debate a motion which would have banned supporters of BDS from using council facilities, on the basis that BDS is allegedly “consistent with the IHRA’s guidance on the definition of anti-Semitism.”

The motion was knocked back to a committee meeting which will take place in October.

Smear campaign

Despite the smear campaign, the vast majority of the party’s members reject the “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” narrative. Polling in March showed that 77 percent of members believe it is being “deliberately exaggerated” or “hyped up” to damage Labour and Corbyn.

Likely frustrated by this, the Israeli government has begun to intervene more directly.

Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted to falsely accuse Corbyn of laying a wreath “on the graves [sic] of the terrorist who perpetrated the Munich massacre” and of comparing “Israel to the Nazis.”

Corbyn hit back, saying that Netanyahu’s claims were false, and slamming Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza since March, as well as Israel’s new racist “nation state” law.

Corbyn tweeted that he stood in solidarity with a Palestinian-led protest for equal rights in Tel Aviv the previous weekend.

His office later complained to the UK media’s self-regulated press watchdog IPSO over misleading recent coverage by six newspapers of an old Corbyn visit to a Palestinian conference in Tunisia.

The conference took place in 2014, but the media had attempted to turn it into a smear during last year’s general election, and repeated the attempt this month.

Corbyn had taken part in a wreath laying to pay tribute to those killed in a 1985 Israeli bombing raid on the Palestine Liberation Organization’s compound in Tunis. The raid killed 60 Palestinians and Tunisians, including many civilians.

The UK’s pro-Israel organizations – in alliance with right-wing Labour MPs – have continued their relentless media assault on the party this summer.

Without a shred of credible evidence, they have defamed the party as “institutionally anti-Semitic,” and one right-wing pro-Israel MP allegedly slandered Corbyn himself as a “fucking anti-Semite and racist.”

Most hysterically of all, three pro-Israel newspapers wrote that Corbyn as prime minister would be an “existential threat to Jewish life” in the UK.

This was so egregious a slur that one of their editors publicly denounced it as “repulsive,” in an interview with left-wing news website The Canary.

Those three papers made the aim of the smear campaign clear in a joint editorial in July when it accused Labour of endorsing something it called “political anti-Semitism targeting Israel.”

Yet another reminder that the “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” smear campaign has from its beginnings in earnest in February 2016 been about Israel – and Israel only.

It has nothing to do with protecting Jews from anti-Semitism.




good article. Just one point. Those who see in Labouràs dead Antisemitism Code of COnduct an alternative are sadly mistaken. It is based on the IHRA definition. It would simply mean a continuation of the present impasse ie the attacks on Palestine supporters.

Len McLuskey is also mistaken to believe that if Labour adopts the IHRA in totality we can move on. The whole point of the IHRA is that we canàt move on and wont move on.

That is why Labour Against the Witchhunt will be lobbying Labouràs NEC with a clear message ' oppose the IHRA in totality


A fine article, thank you.

Might the Labour Party agree to “temporarily” accept the IRHA recommendations conditional upon the results of a Referendum presented to the Party Membership-at-large prior to the next Labour Party Policy Convention, asking the Membership-at-large to vote to accept or to reject each individual IRHA recommendation?

Would such an approach respond to the demands of sincere critics of Labour’s current policy position, while recognizing the right of the Party’s Membership-at large to have their voices heard on such sensitive policy matters?



It should not be the duty of any political party to define antisemitism. That's a job for lexicographers. Nor should the Labour Party be forced to subscribe to a document which labels a very sizeable proportion of its members as antisemitic, something the "definition" plainly does. This maneuver should be identified for what it is- a device to ruin the Labour Party's chances of ever forming a government- and Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev should be told in no uncertain terms that Labour belongs to its members, not to his apartheid regime and its collaborators.

The spectacle of Labour's leadership temporising, conciliating and surrendering to Zionist pressure has proven both disheartening and infuriating. Further attempts at appeasement will only produce renewed attacks on Corbyn and the left. Surely they must grasp this simple truth. It's time the Zionist scoundrels were faced down and sent packing.


Well said. N Finkelstein
& J Stern Weiner summd it up well

@normfinkelstein & @jsternweiner - "#Corbyn foes cynically concoct fake #Antisemitism smear to sabotage his #progressive agenda and support for #Palestinian rights"

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).