Left-wing Labour NEC candidate Huda Elmi makes good points in the Independent article quoted below – although it is sad that some received wisdom is still being regurgitated unquestioned.
For example, we are told that there is “a real sense of alarm” in many parts of the Jewish community in the UK.
Isn’t that because of mass media attempts to stir up such alarm – with hardly any hard evidence to support them?
It is only days since Jewish businesswoman Mandy Blumenthal had her feet metaphorically swept out from under her by Victoria Derbyshire, who pointed out that there is hardly any evidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, but a wealth of proof that the party has tightened its procedures for fighting it in any case.
And this provides us with what should be our main reason for rejecting calls to adopt all the examples that support the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism: It will increase false accusations, rather than supporting the fight against real hatred of Jews because they are Jews.
Instead, Labour needs to stop looking for ways to find innocent people guilty, and try instead to exercise some sense in examining the claims that are being made – and the people making them.
If you have to twist somebody’s words to make them look bad, then they don’t have any charge to answer and the integrity of their accuser is to be questioned.
Likewise if you have to shoehorn behaviour into one of the IHRA examples in order to make them seem guilty. If it isn’t obviously an expression of hatred towards Jews for being Jews, then it probably isn’t actually one.
Here’s Huda Elmi:
The biggest contention that my fellow critics of the IHRA examples have is with a particular one that focuses on calling the state of Israel a racist endeavour. IHRA’s defenders like to say that it allows for criticism of the policies of Israel, but not of the endeavour of building the Israeli state per se (that is to say, Zionism).
But this is an impossible distinction to maintain in practice. Allowing criticism of policies but not allowing a discussion of the ideologies or political movements that are behind those policies is nonsensical. It is like saying you are allowed to criticise privatisation, because it is a policy, but you aren’t allowed to link that to neoliberalism as the ideology that upholds it.
Adopting a formal position that carries with it well documented ambiguity over key questions of free speech on Israel will only raise tensions further, create uproar and mayhem in many sections of the party and provide a never ending supply of rows and media stories that will only erode the trust of the Jewish community further.
Even Kenneth Stern, who helped author the IHRA definition, opposes its accession to concrete legal definition and a framework for tackling antisemitism. Lawyers across the political spectrum, academics and institutions see no legal merit or status to the document. In the Labour Party, it would do nothing to help clear the backlog of cases, which would only be confused further by such an unclear and imprecise set of examples.
Whether we adopt the full definition or not, intense disagreement on Israel and on Zionism will continue to exist at all levels of the party. Any proposal that does not recognise that fact will not be compatible with the need to detoxify spaces infused with the bitter atmosphere that make Jewish Labour Party members feel unsafe in the first place.
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