Antisemitism training for schools frozen after legal challenge from left-wing group

UK branch of the US-based Diaspora Alliance launches judicial review over use of IHRA definition of antisemitism


The Royal Courts of Justice, the location of the High Court (Image: Getty)

v Government plans to fund antisemitism training in schools and universities have been plunged into chaos after a campaign group blocked them in the High Court because it objected to the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

The JC can also reveal that the main backer of the campaign group, the US-based Tides Foundation, which is partly funded by billionaire George Soros, also supports groups that have blamed Israel for October 7 and supported Hamas’ “resistance”. 

Jewish organisations including the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, Chabad and the Holocaust Educational Trust had formed consortiums to tender bids for the £7 million training programme, which was announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his autumn statement last year.

But on 7 March, the day before the bidding process was due to close, an email from the Department for Education (DfE) informed all who had shown interest that the process had been frozen indefinitely.

“The department has enacted a pause to the procurement,” the email said, adding that it hoped the process would soon reopen.

The decision came a week after the UK branch of the US-based Diaspora Alliance launched a High Court judicial review of the scheme, arguing it should be scrapped because the DfE has stipulated that the training should use the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

According to the Diaspora Alliance the definition “has been used to repress free speech and silence those who campaign against Israel’s government’s actions” and was “really an attempt to create a speech code about Israel”.

The IHRA definition says that it is antisemitic to state that Israel does not have the right to exist, or to claim that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is comparable to that of Jews by the Nazis.

The Alliance’s UK director, Emily Hilton, told the JC that “the IHRA definition of antisemitism runs against those advocating for justice in Palestine”, while “to truly root out antisemitism we need a framework that doesn’t silo the fight against antisemitism from other oppression struggles, including the struggle for Palestinian human rights”.

In her view, the IHRA definition “threatens the fight against antisemitism” and therefore “the safety and wellbeing of Jews in the UK and beyond”.

Hilton and her colleagues have instructed London law firm Bindmans and two top KCs from Matrix Chambers, Phillippa Kaufmann and Danny Friedman. If the High Court grants permission for a full hearing, legal observers say the costs are likely to run to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

But the Diaspora Alliance’s main backer, Tides Foundation, whose headquarters are in San Francisco, has vast resources. According to its most recent US tax filings, in 2022 it had assets worth more than $1 billion.

Its donors include the US-Hungarian billionaire George Soros. Among its beneficiaries are Black Lives Matter and two Jewish organisations that campaign against Israel’s government, Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow.

On the day of the October 7 terrorist massacre, IfNotNow issued a statement blaming Israel for the atrocities. JVP said the same day: “Israeli apartheid and occupation – and United States complicity in that oppression – are the source of all this violence.”

In 2022, Tides Foundation gave $104,000 to Code Pink, a radical group that said on 8 October that Palestinian “resistance” to Israel was a “human right”.

Jewish organisations that hoped to be awarded the contract for the antisemitism training responded to the decision with dismay. None of those contacted by the JC wished to be quoted by name, saying they were still hopeful it would be revived.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a spokesman for one of the Jewish groups said: “Were the Diaspora Alliance to succeed in their claim, it would set the fight against antisemitism back by years.”

The DfE  told the JC: “We have paused the Tackling Antisemitism in Education procurement process while we consider and respond to points raised by some of the interested organisations.”

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