Legal opinion blasts holes in pro-Israel definition of antisemitism

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi.

The launch on Monday of Hugh Tomlinson QC’s devastating legal opinion on the so-called IHRA definition of antisemitism marks a watershed moment in resisting Israeli-backed attempts to gag pro-Palestinian advocacy.

The definition, deliberately equating criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews, was adopted in December 2016 by the UK government and has since been vigorously promoted by pro-Israel lobbyists to local authorities, universities, Labour movement organisations and other public bodies. Its rollout has coincided with an increase in bannings and restrictions imposed on pro-Palestinian activities, especially on campus.

As explained by eminent legal figures speaking at the launch, the Opinion drives a coach and horses through the definition, exposing it as:

  • badly drafted, confusing and not legally binding, i.e. public bodies are under no legal obligation to adopt or apply it
  • putting public bodies that use it at risk of “unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion”
  • making public bodies liable to being sued if they curtail criticism of Israel that does not express hatred towards Jews.

Therefore pro-Palestinian campaigners who, for example, describe Israel as a settler-colonialist state enacting a policy of apartheid, or call for policies of boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel, cannot properly be characterised as antisemitic.

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Jews and Christians Join Forces to Counter Claims of Antisemitism

lichfield-holding-palestine-in-the-light

A month ago academics, church leaders, a rabbi and a retired diplomat spoke at an event in Lichfield Cathedral titled ‘Holding Palestine in the Light’.

The cathedral’s facebook page was instantly deluged with abusive allegations of antisemitism, some accusing it of holding a ‘hate fest’. Now the largest Jewish group in the UK that supports rights for Palestinians has partnered with Christian organisations and prominent individuals to commend the event organisers and uphold the right to advocate for Palestine.

They say in a statement:

“We find it disquieting that the Lichfield conference has been seized on by those who seek to silence criticism of Israeli policies.”

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) spokesperson Naomi Wayne said: “It is not antisemitic to point out when a nation state – in this case Israel – breaks international law and deprives an occupied people of their basic human rights.”

The full text of the statement follows.

JEWS AND CHRISTIANS FOR FREE SPEECH ON ISRAEL AND PALESTINE

We, Christians and Jews who advocate for justice for Palestinians, would like to put on record our admiration for the Dean of Lichfield, with a group of local Christians from other churches, in hosting the festival ‘Holding Palestine in the Light’ in Lichfield Cathedral last month, despite opposition from some quarters.

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