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Jewish Labour Movement chair Jeremy Newmark with former Labour leader Tony Blair in 2010 [Image: Facebook].

We all know the Jewish Labour Movement is pushing for a change to Labour Party rules, in a bid to make it harder for members to engage in hate behaviour.

Readers of This Site will know that This Writer has been accused of anti-Semitism, but I don’t see anything wrong with the wording of the motion that will go before the Labour Party conference.

It seems to me that the questionable aspects are all around the enforcement of the rule change – and the Jewish Labour Movement could very easily find itself in a hole of its own devising.

Because hate speech is something of which anybody can be found guilty.

That’s one reason why This Writer believes the JLM should not be given the responsibility of explaining enforcement of this proposed rule change to constituencies (if it is passed), as has been suggested. A single-issue group like the JLM cannot help but show bias towards its own subject matter – and may betray bias against other advocating organisations, such as those in favour of Palestinians (obviously).

The motion as it now stands is not about anti-Semitism, but about hate speech and behaviour, so it would be wrong for concerns about anti-Semitism to predominate. The Labour member who has received the most abuse is Diane Abbott, who is a black woman and not (to my knowledge) Jewish. How would the JLM address the unpleasantness she has experienced?

I’m not sure that a counter-motion with words that explicitly protect “legitimate political discourse” about Israel or Zionism, as I see nothing in the JLM motion to prevent that.

If the JLM were to go on to demand codes of conduct that define criticism of Israel and Zionism as anti-Semitic, then it occurs to me that such a move should be opposed – but at the appropriate time.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism as including criticism of Israel and Zionism is the principle reason people of good conscience cannot accept it, and any move for the Labour Party to adopt it should also be rejected.

That being said, it would be inappropriate to attack the existence of Israel itself. It is the actions of that nation’s government that would be subject to legitimate criticism.

Similarly, with Zionism, there is nothing wrong with the aspiration for Jewish people to have a homeland – but if questionable methods are used to achieve that end, then they should be subject to reasonable criticism.

Any nation or ideology should be subject to criticism under the same criteria.

These are my views, and I believe any rational, impartial onlooker would take the same position.

But I have been accused of anti-Semitism. Comments about JLM leader Jeremy Newmark in the source article suggest possible reasons for that to have happened and I would advise readers – especially those who are likely to be voting at the Labour Conference – to read them carefully.

This issue is not going away, because agitators within the Labour Movement won’t let it.

It is the responsibility of all Labour members to ensure that good sense prevails.

An Israel lobby group in the Labour Party is trying to pass a rules change at the main UK opposition party’s conference, which starts this weekend.

The Jewish Labour Movement – which is closely linked to the Israeli embassy – claims the motion aims to “create a zero-tolerance environment for anti-Semitism” in the party.

But critics charge that the Jewish Labour Movement, which has been at the center of politically motivated exaggerations of anti-Semitism, is merely aiming to make it easier to push Palestine solidarity activists out of the party.

Jewish activists in Labour have told The Electronic Intifada that, although not as bad as the original version, the new rule could still endanger free speech on Israel.

Jewish Voice for Labour is a new group which will launch at the conference.

It rejects attempts by the Jewish Labour Movement “to extend the scope of the term ‘anti-Semitism’ beyond its meaning of hatred and bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians.”

Leah Levane, a Labour activist in South East England, was due to speak at the conference in favor of an alternative that would explicitly protect “words or actions regarding Israel or Zionism that are part of legitimate political discourse.”

Jewish Voice for Labour activists have recommended that conference delegates back the alternative motion.

Jewish Voice for Labour media officer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi told The Electronic Intifada that even in the watered-down version, “the notion that ‘the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions’ should be taken into account when someone is accused of breaching party codes of conduct is alarming.”

Should the rule change be approved, Wimborne-Idrissi said, the Jewish Labour Movement is likely to push for new “codes of conduct” that define criticisms of Israel or Zionism as “anti-Semitism.”

This would be done by incorporating the controversial “IHRA definition” of anti-Semitism, which Israel lobby groups have pushed legislatures and institutions around the world to adopt.

Source: Is the Israel lobby rewriting the Labour Party’s rule book? | The Electronic Intifada


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