Labour must listen to Jews and adopt IHRA. Properly.
Rather than doubling down on a bad decision poorly taken, today Labour’s NEC has the chance to do the right thing, adopt the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism in its full and intact form and start mending the relationship between the Labour Party and the Jewish community.
The Chief Rabbi has asked them to.
Nearly 70 Rabbis from across all Jewish denominations, from Charedi to Liberal, via the United Synagogue and Reform movements, have asked them to.
And Labour MPs (in an overwhelming vote last night) have asked them to.
Indeed, even Yachad, an organisation which is a consistent critic of the Israeli government on settlements and its treatment of Palestinians has asked Labour to adopt the IHRA definition in full.
Its director, Hannah Weisfeld wrote in the Jewish Chronicle that: “Yachad has not once shied away from criticising the Israeli government but has always felt IHRA reflects the vast majority of Jewish opinion. It makes it explicitly clear that it does not see harsh criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
“It is entirely possible to criticise Israel and fight antisemitism at the same time,” she added.
Let’s not forget that this is an internationally-accepted definition, adopted by more than a hundred local authorities here, as well as devolved assemblies and governments, the UK Government and it’s used by the CPS in prosecuting cases of antisemitism.
Oh, and Jeremy Corbyn has already pledged that Labour would adopt it, in late 2016 — and the definition has already been used in some disciplinary cases by the Party.
Moreover, the new proposals has serious legal flaws.
The Jewish Labour Movement (of which I am a vice-chair) has sent the NEC clear legal advice, endorsed by an eminent QC from Doughty Street Chambers, that it’s new proposed definition could breach the Equality Act (one of the last laws the party passed in Government.
That’s because it ignores the Macpherson principle — that a racist incident is one perceived to be racist by the victim — but just for Jews, mind. No other minority group. Which is why we end up talking about institutional racism.
The Party can’t single out one minority group for special (discriminatory) treatment in this way and call itself a party of equality.
The answer is simple. Let Jews, like every other minority group, define their own oppression.