Bus stops across London have been defaced with anti-Israel posters mocking the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, after Labour finally announced it would adopt it, albeit with a significant caveat.
At least four different sites – Elephant and Castle, Waterloo Bridge, Bloomsbury and Westminster, across the road from Parliament itself, have seen advertising hoardings on bus stops fly posted with posters saying “Israel is a racist endeavour”.
This refers to one of the examples of contemporary antisemitism given in the IHRA definition, which says calling "a state of Israel... a racist endeavour" could amount to Jew-hate.
I had to do a double take when I saw *this* on Westminster Bridge pic.twitter.com/IN41T7XYrF— Aine Lagan (@ainemichellel) September 5, 2018
JC Decaux, the advertising firm which owns a number of the defaced hoardings, confirmed that this was “vandalism – not advertising”, and that it had reported the bus stops in question and they would be “reposted soon.”
Labour initially omitted the "racist endeavour" example from the watered-down definition of antisemitism it adopted in July but adopted the full IHRA definition, including all examples, on Tuesday after a standoff with the Jewish community over the summer over its refusal.
But it was criticised by Jewish groups for including a "free speech" clause that said adopting the definition would not minimise debate on Israel.
Labour’s National Executive Committee said the clause would ensure the IHRA definition would not "in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of the Palestinians.” However, Labour Friends of Israel said it “totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted”.
Meanwhile, anti-Israel campaigners attacked the party's adoption of the entire definition, claiming that it would stifle free speech.
Saul Schneider spotted one of the posters on a bus stop in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury.
He told the JC he was “totally shocked to see this slogan on a billboard in central London.
“I see it as clear evidence that Labour’s inability/unwillingness to deal with antisemitism gives credibility to these views. So worrying that people just walk by and take it in. “
He reported it to the company that owns the site but said he had heard nothing back, and is hoping the police will take action.
Onlooker James Robertson told the JC he had seen one in Elephant and Castle, while on his lunch break.
“I was struck by it and obviously I thought this is a result of all the stuff in the news yesterday," he said.
"It must surely be a response from somebody who is dissatisfied with the Labour party adopting the full definition of antisemitism.
“I’m sure it’s gone up overnight. I think it’s very sad that the next day you get people putting up posters that are clearly inflammatory.”
Social media suggested that a group called London Palestine Action was behind the stunt, with the group tweeting photos of the defaced bus-stops along with messages such as “70 years of UK govt-approved dispossession, destruction and displacement. Israel is a #racistendeavour.”
A Transport for London spokesperson said: "These adverts are absolutely not authorised by TfL or our advertising partner JCDecaux. It is fly posting and therefore an act of vandalism which we take extremely seriously. We have instructed our contractors to remove any of these posters found on our network immediately.”