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.
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.
And more questions are being raised about the role of the Israeli government in this summer’s smear campaign against Labour.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
- Huda Elmi
- IHRA definition of anti-Semitism
- Labour Party
- Jeremy Corbyn
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign
- Antony Lerman
- Jennie Formby
- Margaret Hodge
- Moshe Machover
- Emily Thornberry
- Shai Masot
- Jewish Voice for Labour
- Jon Lansman
- The Skwawkbox
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Jewish News
- Jewish Chronicle
- The Canary