Labour should ditch the IHRA working definition of antisemitism altogether

Tony Lerman argues that we should ditch the IHRA definition because it does more harm than good. It both fails to tackle antisemitism and erodes free speech on Palestine and Israel. This article is reprinted from Open Democracy by permission of the author

In politics, neutralising a toxic controversy and moving on by taking a strategic decision to retreat, withdraw or compromise, may be a prudent course of action. But if this is what members of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) are planning to do today by ditching the amendments it made to some examples of antisemitism in the guidance notes of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) ‘working definition’ of antisemitism, and embracing the entire text lock, stock and barrel, they would be party to a travesty of justice. The more the definition is held up to the light and subject to public scrutiny, the more we see holes and cracks in its flimsy fabric. Not only is there now overwhelming evidence that it’s not fit for purpose, but it also has the effect of making Jews more vulnerable to antisemitism, not less, and exacerbating the bitter arguments Jews have been having over the nature of contemporary antisemitism for the last 20 to 25 years. Arguments that are inextricably linked to the Israel-Palestine conflict and generated by two questions: Are there forms of criticism of Israel which equate to antisemitism? If so, where is the line between ‘legitimate’ criticism and criticism that spills over into antisemitic hate speech? Continue reading “Labour should ditch the IHRA working definition of antisemitism altogether”

Sacks Vs Corbyn

Why conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism makes fighting antisemitism impossible

Robert Cohen explains why Sacks’ comments are dangerous for British Jews as well as attacking Palestinian rights. Reprinted from Patheos by permission of he author

Earlier this week Rabbi Jonathan Sacks made himself look foolish, tarnishing his worldwide reputation as a man of considerable Jewish learning and wisdom by making outlandish criticism of the Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

This morning, on the BBC Andrew Marr Show, he did it again:

“He [Corbyn] implies the majority of British Jews are essentially alien to British culture…he is as great a danger as Enoch Powell.”

For younger readers and those less familiar with U.K. political history, Enoch Powell was a Conservative MP from the 1950s through to the early 70s who Andrew Marr explained to his viewers is “probably the most reviled British figure of the 20th century”. Continue reading “Sacks Vs Corbyn”

FSOI Response to Consultation on the NEC Code

Free Speech on Israel submitted this response to the consultation on the NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism on 29 August 2018

Free Speech on Israel is a predominantly Jewish Group most of whose members are members of the Labour Party. It was formed in 2016— following a series of false allegations of antisemitism made against individuals and groups campaigning for Palestinian rights—under the slogan ‘It is not Antisemitic to Oppose Zionism’.

FSOI has always recognised the existence of antisemitism both within the Labour Party and in wider society but have always argued that its prevalence inside the Labour Party has been much exaggerated: to both distract attention from Israel’s repeated breaches of international law and to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Party. Continue reading “FSOI Response to Consultation on the NEC Code”

Lambeth Council leader’s weak defence of IHRA adoption

Dear Lib Peck

I was disappointed, but regrettably not surprised, by your reply which did not address any of the issues we raised about the problems with the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Since we wrote the Guardian has published an essay by Nathan Thrall which describes how the definition was produced as a propaganda weapon in the Israeli campaign against BDS and labelling Israel as an Apartheid state. Continue reading “Lambeth Council leader’s weak defence of IHRA adoption”

How Lambeth Council is getting antisemitism and the IHRA wrong

This letter was sent to Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council, on 13 August by Jewish members of Lambeth Labour Parties.

Lib Peck’s reply to this letter and Mike Cushman’s response: Lambeth Council leader’s weak defence of IHRA adoption

Dear Lib Peck

As Jewish members of Lambeth Labour Party we are dismayed by your letter to the local shul.

Firstly there is no evidence that antisemitism ‘plagues ….our party’ as you assert. There is a problem of a few members out of half a million who have made antisemitic statements or shared material, mainly out of confusion or ignorance, but possibly on rare occasions out of malice. It is important that the Party adopts a rigorous procedure for dealing with any such abuse, which is exactly what the NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism  is carefully constructed to achieve. It is exactly what the loosely worded examples appended to  the IHRA definition do not. Continue reading “How Lambeth Council is getting antisemitism and the IHRA wrong”

Is antisemitism different from other forms of racism?

Mike Cushman asks, wherefore is this racism different from all other racisms?

Advocates of the IHRA document on antisemitism often claim that antisemitism is different from all other forms of racism because it attacks a privileged group rather than a disadvantaged group – are they right? Both Jewish and non-Jewish members of the antisemite hunting pack are fond of this claim.

The answer is, of course, no and yes.

Is antisemitism different?
Jews arriving in the East End at the start of the 20th century
Jews arriving in the East End at the start of the 20th century

Historically, at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century Britain’s Jews were largely a poor immigrant community, sweated labour in the garment factories and living in overcrowded slums. Antisemitism then was no different to the racism suffered now by Bengalis in the East End who have inherited their workplaces and location. Balfour’s 1905 Aliens act was driven by the same visceral racism that characterises all the subsequent migration legislation from the 1962 Commonwealth

East End Bengalis protesting against the racist murder of Altab Ali (source Swadhinata Trust)

Immigrants Act onwards. Jews then faced the same problems in accessing housing, jobs and fair treatment from public agencies that people of colour face now. So, in this respect – no, not different.

Continue reading “Is antisemitism different from other forms of racism?”

FSOI supports global Jewish initiative against demonising criticism of Israel

Unprecedented initiative by over 30 Jewish groups worldwide opposes equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel

  •  Jewish groups issue joint statement against misleading definition of antisemitism used to stifle criticism of Israel and undermine free speech
  • Coalition of 36 groups from 15 countries defends right to criticise and boycott Israel
  • IHRA definition undermines both Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and global struggle against antisemitism

New York, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv (July 17, 2018)  –  From South Africa to Sweden, New Zealand to Germany to Brazil, for the first time ever over thirty Jewish organisations across the globe have come together in a statement opposing attempts to use a distorted definition of antisemitism to stifle criticism of Israel. The statement, spearheaded by the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace and supported by six UK Jewish groups, condemns a growing trend of legislative campaigns to target organisations that support Palestinian rights, especially the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Continue reading “FSOI supports global Jewish initiative against demonising criticism of Israel”

The Guardian censors criticism of May and Netanyahu

Mike Cushman condemns the suppression of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu’s meeting with May as only the latest censoring of drawings of the Israeli PM in a bonfire of morality.

The Guardian, which regards itself as Britain’s leading progressive newspaper, has censored a cartoon drawing attention to the sycophantic nature of Theresa May’s relationship to Benjamin Netanyahu.

The cartoon drawn by Steve Bell, widely regarded as Britain’s outstanding political cartoonist, is based on a press agency photo of May’s meeting with Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street.

Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street on June 6, 2018
Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street on June 6, 2018 (Photo: Getty Images)

Bell replaced the fireplace with a drawing of murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar.

The Steve Bell cartoon censored for 'antisemitism'
The Steve Bell cartoon censored for ‘antisemitism’

There has been no clear statement from the Guardian as to why this sharp but fair condemnation of the insouciance of the two prime ministers is antisemitic. This has resulted in speculation that placing Razan in the fireplace (the focal centre of the press photo) has been interpreted as an insensitive allusion to the Nazi crematoria. Continue reading “The Guardian censors criticism of May and Netanyahu”

Liberty AGM warns of dangers of IHRA ‘definition of antisemitism’

Liberty LogoLiberty, Britain’s leading human rights charity, agreed a resolution deploring use of the IHRA (mis)definition of antisemitism at its AGM on 19 May.

Media Notice from Free Speech on Israel

Liberty Warns against IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Resolution passed by civil liberties body says government-adopted definition risks undermining the fight against antisemitism

  • Liberty reiterates abhorrence of antisemitism as “repellent undercurrent which persists across the social and political spectrum.”
  • Definition conflating antisemitism with criticism of Israel is “threat to freedom of expression.”
  • Public bodies urged not to adopt IHRA definition.

The Annual General Meeting of Liberty, Britain’s leading organisation concerned with civil liberties and human rights, has warned public bodies not to adopt a government-backed definition of antisemitism because it brings confusion to the fight against anti-Jewish prejudice as well as constituting a threat to freedom of expression. Continue reading “Liberty AGM warns of dangers of IHRA ‘definition of antisemitism’”

Im Tirtzu claims New Israel Fund supports ‘foreign agents’ who persecute Israeli soldiers

Jonathan Ofir describes how a  fascist group, Im Tirtzu, defames and attempts to intimidate and silence critical voices in “the only democracy in the Middle East”

This article first appeared in Mondoweiss reprinted by permission of the author

The right wing Israeli Jewish group “Im Tirtzu” has published an incitement video, featuring Adi Shosberger, who has recently called soldiers near the Gaza fence ‘terrrorists,’; and an activist from ‘Machsom Watch’ (‘Checkpoint watch’) who tells an Israeli soldier “you are a disgrace”.

Im Tirtzu video targeting New Israel Fund for allegedly persecuting Israeli soldier
Im Tirtzu video targeting New Israel Fund for allegedly persecuting Israeli soldier

The video frames these actions as a conspiracy of the progressive New Israel Fund. New Israel Fund, a global organization based in the U.S., has supported Machsom Watch, but it has no connection to Shosberger. “I have no connection to the New Israel Fund,” Shosberger writes, in Hebrew.  Continue reading “Im Tirtzu claims New Israel Fund supports ‘foreign agents’ who persecute Israeli soldiers”