FSOI tells the EU ‘Do not adopt the IHRA definition’

The Austrian Government is pressing the EU to adopt an EU Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism which includes adopting the flawed IHRA definition. The EU antisemitism Coordinator Katharina Von Schnurbein and Commissioner Vera Jourova have announced their support for this initiative.

Free Speech on Israel has written to the EU Ambassadors who sit on COREPER II, the committee that will consider this proposal.

COREPER II in session
COREPER II in session

FSOI logo

 

Your Excellency

I am writing to you in connection with the proposal that we believe is to be presented at the forthcoming meeting of COREPER II, to request the European Council to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitional package.

That document is a source of concern and controversy to many groups which are Jewish or Jewish-led (like Free Speech on Israel). In our view it will set back the efforts to counter antisemitism precisely at the point at which neo-fascist elements are growing in strength across Europe. Continue reading “FSOI tells the EU ‘Do not adopt the IHRA definition’”

FSOI protests against abusive use of IHRA definition by GMB

Free Speech on Israel has sent Peter Gregson, a GMB union shop steward,  a letter of support. Peter is being unfairly disciplined by his union for allegedly antisemitic statements on the basis of an inaccurate interpretation of the IHRA definition.

To whom it may concern

Re GMB complaint against Peter Gregson

We have been forwarded copies of the letters sent by Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary to Peter Gregson on 6 November and 20 November 2018.

Peter Gregson
Peter Gregson

Free Speech on Israel is a Jewish led and largely Jewish group concerned that antisemitic incidents are identified accurately and dealt with but that inaccurate accusations are not used to silence needed discussion of events concerning Israel and Palestine

Free Speech on Israel has explained at length elsewhere how the IHRA definition of antisemitism is unsuitable and does not assist us in identifying antisemitism and challenging it. Leading human rights lawyers have shown how it is poorly worded, ambiguous and use of it could breach an individual’s rights under both UK and European human rights law. Hugh Tomlinson QC, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and Sir Geoffrey Bindman have all clearly identified the serious flaws in the document. Continue reading “FSOI protests against abusive use of IHRA definition by GMB”

Tower Hamlets Council must respect right to free speech

Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity Campaign issued this press release about the lobby of and petition to Tower Hamlets Council on 21 November. The lobby, supported by FSOI,  and the petition called on the Council to both challenge antisemitism and respect the right to free speech and safeguard Palestinian solidarity.

Banners at the lobby outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall
Banners at the lobby outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall

On Wednesday 21st November, a group of  residents from Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity Campaign presented a petition to the full council meeting, requesting that the council ‘Safeguard Palestinian Solidarity’ and addressed the Council in support of the petition. This was in response to the recent adoption of the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, without any caveat that would enable Palestinians and their supporters to continue to speak out freely about harmful actions of the Israeli government. Continue reading “Tower Hamlets Council must respect right to free speech”

Lambeth Council misled on antisemitism definition; threatening free speech

  • Lambeth Council amends IHRA definition on antisemitism but do not tell anyone
  • Leader Lib Peck insists that definition must be adopted unamended
  • Peck denies that definition threatens free speech but strips out all free speech protection

On Wednesday 10 October Labour led Lambeth Council adopted the IHRA definition on antisemitism without debate. They ignored pleas from a deputation of local Jews who addressed the Council about their concerns that the definition would undermine free speech on Palestine and Israel. They requested the Council to adopt a free speech declaration alongside the definition. Continue reading “Lambeth Council misled on antisemitism definition; threatening free speech”

Police ban “antisemitic” banner outside Labour Conference

Police were so angry with campaigner Pete Gregson displaying his Latuff banner at Conference that they almost arrested him. However, they were not bothered about all the other banners on display.

banner banned by police with this image that Pete used
The image Pete used on his 2m x 2m banner that the police banned

First PC 1773 had a go. Mr Gregson, a Labour activist of some 30 years standing, had spent 3 days at home making the banner using his own A4 printer and sticky-backed plastic, no small feat. He’d travelled down from Edinburgh the night before just to promote his petition at tinyurl.com/israelihra and was up at one of the entrances to Liverpool Dock on Sunday at 8.30am, with his banner erected, handing out flyers as 3,000 delegates and visitors arrived . Continue reading “Police ban “antisemitic” banner outside Labour Conference”

What is – and what it is not – Antisemitic Misconduct:

This declaration has been prepared by Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel as a contribution to the Labour Party’s consultation on its Code of Conduct on Antisemitism. It also has a wider significance.

Antisemitic misconduct page one imageThere has been extended controversy over the adoption by the Labour Party of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. It has been widely recognised that the wording of that definition is so loose that it requires extensive interpretation if it is to be even potentially helpful for disciplinary purposes.

Our submission is based on an understanding of the nature of antisemitism which we believe avoids the obscurities and ambiguities of the IHRA working definition:

Antisemitism is a form of racism. It consists in prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews as Jews. It may take the form of denial of rights; direct, indirect or institutional discrimination; prejudice-based behaviour; verbal or written statements; or violence. Such manifestations draw on stereotypes – characteristics which all Jews are presumed to share. Continue reading “What is – and what it is not – Antisemitic Misconduct:”

Labour, Antisemitism and the news

A new report from the Media Reform Coalition, based on research by Dr Justin Schlosberg from Birkbeck’s Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, has found significant inaccuracies or misleading coverage in news surrounding antisemitism in the Labour party. Two thirds of the TV news segments analysed contained reporting errors or substantive distortion.

In an in-depth case study of 260 articles and news segments from the UK’s largest news providers (including the BBC, Guardian, Sky News, the Daily Telegraph, The Times and the Huffington Post), the research found 29 examples of false statements or claims, six of them on BBC TV news programmes. A further 66 clear-cut instances of misleading or distorted coverage were identified, including omission of essential facts or right of reply, and contentious claims repeated by journalists without verification or qualification. Continue reading “Labour, Antisemitism and the news”

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”