Labour accused of ignoring IHRA antisemitism definition after dismissing two complaints with identical responses

Party says neither complaint was valid in boiler plate replies that used the same language


Labour has been accused of ignoring the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, after dismissals of complaints against two members, including a senior union official, accused of breaching it.

The party rejected complaints against Professor David Miller of Bristol University and Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

The charges levelled included that they were breaching the IHRA definition, whose examples of potential Jew-hate include “making… stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective” and “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel”.

The party adopted the definition only after a high-profile, long standoff with its Jewish supporters last summer.

During a talk Prof Miller gave late last year, he described the foundation of Israel as “by definition a racist endeavour, there’s no getting away from that.

“I say that in cognizance that to say something that I’ve just said is regarded by lots of people as being antisemitic. It isn’t.”

Prof Miller also said “by and large most of the allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party have been false” and called the party’s treatment of Ken Livingstone “absurd” and “a disgrace”, adding: “I don’t think anything [Mr Livingstone] said was historically inaccurate.”

A complaint against Prof Miller was dismissed last week by Labour, which told the complainant it had “determined that this does not amount to a breach of Party rules” and would there “not be taking any further action”.

 “We do understand that you may find this response disappointing. However, I can assure you that due care and consideration has been taken when reaching this conclusion.”

An identical response was given in the case of a complaint against Mr Serwotka, which was made after he appeared to imply that allegations of Labour antisemitism were an Israeli plot at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign fringe meeting at the Trades Union Conference in Manchester last September.

Mr Serwotka spoke of how “children were gunned down – unarmed innocent civilians – by the Israeli military” and then said: “Now I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I'll tell you what - one of the best forms of trying to hide from the atrocities that you are committing is to go on the offensive and to actually create a story that does not exist for people on this platform, the trade union movement or, I have to say, for the leader of the Labour Party.”

Euan Philipps, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, which made the complaint against Mr Serwotka, said: “Once again, we see the Labour Party fail to adhere to its own disciplinary processes on antisemitism.

“After a summer spent resisting the adoption of the IHRA definition it appears the party leadership is simply refusing to implement it. As a consequence, party members promoting antisemitic views are walking away without so much as a warning.”

During Prof Miller’s talk, a full recording of which was published by the Harry's Place website, the academic also appeared to dismiss the concerns of numerous Jewish students who have indicated feeling unsafe on campus due to vociferous anti-Israel protests, saying “it’s absurd if Jews genuinely feel unsafe as a result of Palestinian rights, well then you’ve got to ask questions about who they are and what they’re talking about.

He alleged that “it’s propaganda which they have been schooled with… there are organisations, Israel lobby organisations, Zionist movement organisations, some allied to the Israeli government, who have devoted huge amounts of time to do messaging to working out how to combat, in particular, BDS.”

David Toube of the think tank Quilliam Foundation, said Labour’s rejection of the complaint against Prof Miller made it “now apparent that Labour’s claim to abide by the IHRA Definition is a barefaced lie”.

He added: “Labour has now determined that Miller’s conduct ‘does not amount to a breach of Party rules’.

“A few anti-racist Labour MPs have tabled a motion warning the party it risks ‘seeming to be institutionally antisemitic’ if urgent action is not taken against hate within seven days.

“They should also discuss the case of David Miller.”

When his remarks were reported by the JC, Prof Miller insisted he “gave a nuanced response which accepted the evidence of actual and clumsy or mistaken antisemitism in the context of the campaign led by pro-Israel forces against Jeremy Corbyn”.

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