JLM 'could sue Labour over IHRA antisemitism definition'

Group 'still weighing up' taking party to court under human rights and equality law


The Jewish Labour Movement is “still weighing up” the possibility of taking legal action against the Labour Party under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Equality Act.

A meeting of the JLM’s national executive committee on Monday night involved lengthy discussion on the impact and cost, both financially and politically, of issuing legal proceedings against Jeremy Corbyn’s party over its decision not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism into the party’s code of conduct.

Any legal action against Labour would argue that by ignoring the wishes of Jewish groups, the party has violated the “Macpherson principle” that racist acts are those perceived to be racist by the victims.

JLM also submitted a separate complaint to Labour relating to a torrent of abuse levelled against Dame Margaret Hodge in Corbyn-supporting Facebook groups.

The dossier of examples included posts that campaigners said contravene the internationally accepted definition of Jew-hate but are permitted under Labour’s own definition.

It included abusive tweets made by members of three Facebook groups: We Support Jeremy Corbyn; Supporting Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell; and Jeremy Corbyn — True Socialism. Collectively the groups have 115,000 members.

Alongside claims that Dame Margaret was a “Zionist bitch” and “a Zionist remedial cancer”, there were threats of violence, including the claim: “Just added herself to the hitlist.”

Ivor Caplin, JLM chairman, said: “The people on these Facebook groups are behaving in a vile and horrible manner, and the fact is that under the Labour code of conduct, no action can be taken against them if they are party members. It’s clear that the code of conduct is not fit for purpose.”

He added: “We will consider all options including possible legal action. Nothing has yet been ruled out.”

Meanwhile, JLM lodged another formal complaint about comments a member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) made when it adopted the code of conduct last week.

During last Tuesday’s NEC meeting, Peter Willsman made a series of controversial comments, including one in which he said: “In 50 years I have never seen any antisemitism in the Labour Party. I met an Auschwitz survivor who said the same.”

Mr Willsman then asked for anyone in the room who had witnessed anti-Jewish conduct to raise their hands.

A JLM spokesperson confirmed a formal letter was sent to Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, on Monday.

In a separate complaint, Michael Rubinstein, of Manchester’s Jewish Representative Council, called for Mr Willsman’s suspension from the NEC while comments of an allegedly “antisemitic and racist” nature were investigated.

Mr Rubinstein’s letter to the party said: “I expect the Labour Party to take swift action against this member. 

“He should certainly be suspended from the NEC before he is able to influence any further policies related to racism.

“That these comments were made by someone charged with making decisions about how the Labour Party tackles antisemitism makes the matter all the more serious.”

Mr Willsman is currently standing for re-election onto the NEC as part of a slate of candidates backed by left-wing group Momentum that includes Jon Lansman and Claudia Webbe.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive