Sham: Labour’s plan to back down on IHRA

Exclusive: Jeremy Corbyn has backed moves by senior figures to write a newly amended definition of antisemitism but the planned revision will not involve implementing the definition in full


Labour Party leaders are trying to “hoodwink” the Jewish community with claims they have agreed to amend their antisemitism code of conduct to align with International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance guidelines, the JC can reveal.

Instead of adopting the full IHRA definition, they are planning to insert a new clause which opens the door to criticism of the state of Israel as a “racist endeavour”.

Jeremy Corbyn has backed moves by senior figures, including Unite union chief Len McCluskey, to write a newly amended definition of antisemitism ahead of a meeting of Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) on September 4.

There have been a series of media reports that the party will back down and implement the IHRA definition in full, in large measure due to supposed pressure from unions.

This is being spun in advance as a major compromise, and even as a retreat by Mr Corbyn’s supporters, who are desperate to stem the criticism following the decision to introduce their own code of conduct in July.

But these reports are wrong. The planned revision will not involve implementing the definition in full. Instead, they intend merely to add some — but, crucially, not all — of the previously omitted examples as described by the IHRA.

No Jewish communal bodies have been consulted over this.

Mr Corbyn’s allies have started lobbying the 32 NEC members to gain support for the amendments. A leaked list, seen by the JC, shows senior Labour insiders predicting how many NEC members will support their new plan — and how many will vote for the full IHRA definition.

The list concludes that up to 17 members are likely to vote in favour of the Corbynite amendments — including shadow frontbench MPs Rebecca Long-Bailey and Jon Trickett, BAME Labour representative Keith Vaz, Unite’s Jim Kennedy, hard-left Peter Willsman and Claudia Webbe, the chair of Labour’s disputes committee.

Among the 15 members set to back the full IHRA definition are Deputy Leader Tom Watson, constituency Labour Party representative Eddie Izzard, MPs George Howarth and Margaret Beckett and union reps from GMB and USDAW.

The vote is expected to be on a knife-edge and Mr Corbyn’s office believes it will be decided by the votes of the two left-wing Jewish NEC members, Jon Lansman and Rhea Wolfson.

Mr Corbyn’s supporters argue that the party has shown its willingness to listen to widespread anger over the initial attempt to introduce a new antisemitism code — and will adopt three of the four IHRA examples omitted from the guidelines adopted in July.

This will include an acceptance that it is antisemitic to accuse Jews of dual loyalty and to compare the actions of Israel to the Nazis.

But reports that they will now back the full definition are wrong, with Corbyn supporters refusing to accept the IHRA definition’s example of “claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

Speaking during a tour of Scotland this week, the Labour leader repeated that he was “concerned” that “open and proper debate about Israel and its foreign policy and the future for Palestinian people” faced being “shut down” if the party adopted the IHRA code with full examples.

Mr Corbyn added: “Hence there has to be that space for debate, you cannot shut that down.”

A furious Labour MP told the JC on Wednesday: “No other organisation has amended the examples. Why is the Labour Party the only organisation to want to change it?

“This is an unacceptable attempt to hoodwink both the Jewish community and senior members of our own party.”

A statement earlier this month by the UK delegation to the 31 country IHRA said: “Any ‘modified’ version of the IHRA definition that does not include all of its 11 examples is no longer the IHRA definition...If one organisation or institution can amend the wording to suit its own needs, then logically anyone else could do the same.

“We would once again revert to a world where antisemitism goes unaddressed simply because different entities cannot agree on what it is.”

Richard Angell, director of Progress – Labour’s centre-left movement – added: “The Jewish community – rabbis and Labour members alike – have said nothing short of the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition will suffice – that is what it means to stand against antisemitism.

“Being a ‘militant ally’ would mean going above and beyond that basic threshold, not falling sort with yet another fix. If the new establishment do not see this, Labour will forever struggle to rebuild its relationship with British Jews and the charge of institutional antisemitism will stick.”

In his own much criticised attack on the Jewish community last week, Unite’s Mr McCluskey also hinted at moves to come up with an amended version of one of the 11 explanatory examples that accompany the IHRA code.

He wrote: “Clearly, it would have been far better for the party to have adopted at least ten of the eleven IHRA examples in their original wording. Not doing so - and particularly without adequate consultation - was insensitive and bound to lead to misunderstanding, and also served to distract attention from the real issues at stake.

“It would be for the best if all eleven were now agreed, so the party can move on.

“However, we should not deceive ourselves that there are no free-speech problems with the eleventh example, concerning “Israel as a racist endeavour”.

“That very example has been explicitly cited by pro-Israel campaigners, including Labour MPs, in urging the government to ban “Israeli apartheid” events at colleges.”

Labour’s attempts to negotiate with the community over the IHRA definition have fallen on death ears.

Two week ago the JC revealed how Labour general secretary Jennie Formby and another close aide of Mr Corbyn had attempted to contact the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and the JLM in order to restart negotiations.

But the three groups have insisted they will not accept anything other than the full IHRA code.

The day after the Labour NEC vote on September 5th, the Parliamentary Labour Party are expected to vote overwhelmingly to adopt the full IHRA code into its own rule book.

On Wednesday a Jewish Labour Movement source told the JC: “We are still hopeful Labour antisemitism working group will recommend that the NEC adopt the IHRA definition in full.

“Anything less will not be acceptable. We have made this clear time and time again.”


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