UK chief rabbi tears into Labour over anti-Semitism definition

The Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom warned the Labour Party it would send an “unprecedented message of contempt” for British Jews by adopting a softened version of anti-Semitism at a meeting of its top governing body on Tuesday.
by TOI STAFF | Jul 19, 2018

Labour has come under fire from UK Jewish groups over the past week for not including the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA’s) definition of anti-Semitism as part of the new code of conduct set to be approved by the party.

In a letter to Labour’s National Executive Committee, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote:

“It is astonishing that the Labour Party presumes that it is more qualified than all of the above and, in particular, the Jewish community, to define anti-Semitism.”

Labour’s version omits at least four points featured in the IHRA definition, including accusing Jews of “being more loyal to Israel” than to their own country; claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavour”; applying a “double standard” to Israel; and comparing “contemporary Israeli policy” to that of the Nazis.

The definition features mostly examples of anti-Semitic behaviours that do not concern Israel, such as calling to harm Jews or denying the Holocaust or the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

“Adoption of Labour’s new alternative to the internationally accepted IHRA definition will send an unprecedented message of contempt to the Jewish community,” wrote Mirvis. “Other groups might also legitimately ask if they will be next in having the prejudice they are subject to defined for them.

“This is a watershed moment. Those who vote for anything but the full IHRA definition will be placing themselves on the wrong side of the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance.”

Mirvis’s letter came just a day after 68 British rabbis signed an open letter decrying anti-Semitism in Labour and calling for the party to adopt the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism.

The party’s Jewish affiliate has also sharply criticised the softened version of anti-Semitism and warned that its adoption may put Labour in breach of the Equality Act, a key UK anti-discrimination law.

Legal advice from The Jewish Labour Movement argues that the party’s decision to adopt a softer definition of anti-Semitism than that used by the government means it treats Jews less favourably than other groups, The Guardian reported on Monday.

The 1999 Macpherson Report, an inquiry conducted in the wake of the racially motivated 1993 murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, argues that each group has the right to define prejudice against it.

The Jewish Labour Movement argued that by removing key clauses from its definition of anti-Semitism, Labour rejects the rights of Jews to define perceived anti-Semitism, and thus discriminates against Jews.

A spokesperson for the Labour Party rejected the accusations of bias. Labour also denied it had created a new definition of anti-Semitism. - Times of Israel



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