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Board fury over Labour refusal to adopt full IHRA antisemitism definition

TV interviews by Andrew Gwynne and Diane Abbott suggest the party believes it is better placed to define Jew-hate than the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

    Andrew Gwynne, Labour's shadow Communities Secretary
    Andrew Gwynne, Labour's shadow Communities Secretary

    The Board of Deputies has expressed its “concern” after Labour’s shadow communities secretary suggested the party was working on a “broader” definition of what constituted antisemitism.

    Mr Gwynne had appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday to claim Labour was refusing to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Jew-hate – complete with examples of antisemitism - because “we don’t think these examples go far enough”.

    His claims echoed remarks made by Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, days earlier. She suggested on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme that Jeremy Corbyn wanted to “go away and look at” the IHRA definition because of concern that it limited “criticism of the state of Israel”.

    In a statement to the JC today, the Board said it believed the “full” IHRA definition – including examples relating to criticism of Israel – “had been adopted in December 2016 and we would be concerned about any suggested regression on that point”.

    The Board also took issue with the suggestion that Labour should be allowed to decide the definition of antisemitism, saying: “It is the Jewish community who should determine what constitutes racism against us.”

    On Sunday Mr Marr had pressed Mr Gwynne on his party’s failure to adopt other areas of the IHRA definition – including those involving Jews being held collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel.

    The JC revealed last week how a rift had emerged between the Board, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Labour Party after last Tuesday’s meeting between the groups.

    Jonathan Goldstein, JLC chair, accused Labour of “a backtrack” over the adoption of the IHRA definition.

    A Board of Deputies spokesperson said: “In our joint letter of March 28 to Mr Corbyn – and then again in our meeting last week – the Board of Deputies and the JLC called on the party to circulate the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism with its examples to all members and branches.

    “We also called for a programme of education about antisemitism which should include a clear list of unacceptable language, such as the use of ‘Zio’ or ‘Zionist’ as a term of abuse, based on the full IHRA definition and on the examples included in Mr Corbyn’s own letter of March 26.

    “We had previously been led to believe that the full IHRA definition had been adopted in December 2016 and we would be concerned about any suggested regression on that point.

    “In the week after we marked the 25th anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence murder, it is worth Labour noting the principle that came out of the resultant MacPherson Inquiry – that a racist incident is ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’.

    “In principle, it is the Jewish community who should determine what constitute racism against us and this – and the above – is what we will be seeking from the Labour Party going forward.”

    On Sunday Mr Gwynne had added: “We want to work with the Board of Deputies and with the Jewish Leadership Council to write into Labour Party rules a much broader definition of antisemitism that goes beyond that, including terms like ‘Zio’ which quite frankly are abhorrent and insulting.”

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