EXCLUSIVE: Labour grassroots campaign to jettison IHRA definition of antisemitism

Constituency Labour Party branches are being urged to submit motions for Labour conference to replace it with the Jerusalem Declaration


Highlighted English word "anti semitism" and its definition in the dictionary.

A grassroots campaign has been launched to drop the internationally recognised definition of antisemitism at Labour’s annual party conference.

Constituency Labour Party branches are being urged to submit motions for Labour conference to replace the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance with the Jerusalem Declaration.

The move comes despite warnings from the Community Security Trust that adopting the Declaration could hamper efforts to tackle antisemitism.

Labour activists are being urged on hard-left websites to attend this year’s party conference, being held in Brighton in September, while CLPs are being called on to submit motions to debate and vote on replacing the IHRA definition.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism has been endorsed by the European Parliament and adopted by the UK government, all devolved administrations as well as all mainstream political parties, many universities, police forces and councils across the UK.

Labour adopted IHRA in full 2018 following a bitter internal battle in which then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that not all of the examples cited by the code were potentially antisemitic.

The definition has seen a backlash among some academics and hard-left Labour activists who claim it has been used to “chill” free speech on campus.

They want it replaced with the Jerusalem Declaration, which was written by 200 academics and is now being hailed as a potential alternative to universities that have adopted IHRA.

An academic working group at the University College London is expected to propose a new definition to its university council next month, sparking fears of a ‘domino effect’ across universities that could leave Jewish students exposed to greater hostility on campus.

A model motion has now been sent to CLPs which states: “Unlike the IHRA, the JD, whilst not without its flaws, is about antisemitism not anti-Zionism.”

The Labour Left Alliance Network is among the sites promoting the model motion which needs to be submitted by CLPs by September 13 if it is to be debated and voted on at Labour’s conference.

It wants to “jettison” the IHRA definition in favour of the Declaration which, the motion  declares, would provide “clear guidance to identify antisemitism while protecting free expression”.

The resolution also calls for a campaign for “freedom of speech, which includes the right to call out Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians as racist, discriminatory and oppressive.”

The motion claims the adoption of IHRA in full “has not brought an end to the ongoing claims that the Labour Party is riddled with antisemites”.

“In fact,” it adds, “The opposite has occurred. It has encouraged the leadership of the Labour Party to accelerate the expulsion and suspension of critics of the Israeli state and Zionism.”

It also accuses the government of seeking to “shut down free speech and academic freedom” on campus by threatening to cut funding for universities that refuse to adopt IHRA.  In its Queen’s Speech, the government this month outlined plans for a bill to protect free speech on campus.

Fury over the views of controversial Bristol University academic David Miller, who called for an “end” to Zionism, has thrown the issue back into the spotlight.

Academics from across the country have rallied to Prof Miller’s cause despite complaints about his comments from Jewish Union students and MPs from both sides of the House.

Dave Rich, CST director of policy, has warned in the JC that while IHRA has become the “standard guide to defining and identifying antisemitism” the Declaration was drawn up without widespread consultation of Jewish community organisations.

He branded the alternative unwieldy to use and far more limited in its scope than the 11 examples of possible antisemitism detailed by the IHRA definition.

While IHRA warns against comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, the Declaration suggests such comparisons are “contentious” but not antisemitic.

And while IHRA says it could be antisemitic to deny Jewish people their right to self-determination, the Declaration suggests that arguing for the elimination of Israel would not be antisemitic provided the “collective rights” of Jews are respected in any future arrangement.

The Declaration defines antisemitism as “discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews, or Jewish institutions as Jewish”.

However critics warn this risks missing all but the most obvious cases, as much antisemitic abuse harnesses the shorthand of tropes or assumed knowledge.

Writing previously in the JC, Mr Rich said: “Calling this a definition of antisemitism and suggesting it could replace a widely-accepted practical tool used by investigators and hate crime monitors, is irresponsible and risks setting back genuine efforts to tackle antisemitism.”




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