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Kenneth Stern: The author of the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism opposes its use as demanded by the groups that have been attacking the Labour Party.

I have mentioned in previous articles on the Labour anti-Semitism row that the author of the IHRA working definition of it is on the record as having rejected the use to which organisations like the Board of Deputies of British Jews are putting it.

His name is Kenneth Stern and he know better than the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, any right-wing Labour MP and the Israeli government. If you don’t accept that, your opinion is not worth our time.

Here are his reasons:

According to the latest hysterical criteria of the Israel lobby* and their camp followers, the original drafter of the so-called IHRA definition of antisemitism, an avowed Zionist, should himself be categorised as an antisemite, or perhaps a “kapo”. For that is the conclusion one must reach if one accepts the assertion that anyone who challenges any aspect of the holy writ that the IHRA definition has become is an antisemite.

The drafter of what later became popularly known as the EUMC or IHRA definition of antisemitism,including its associated examples, was the U.S. attorney Kenneth S. Stern. However, in written evidence submitted to the US congress last year, Stern charged that his original definition had been used for an entirely different purpose to that for which it had been designed. According to Stern it had originally been designed as a ”working definition” for the purpose of trying to standardise data collection about the incidence of antisemitic hate crime in different countries. It had never been intended that it be used as legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech. Yet that is how it has now come to be used. In the same document Stern specifically condemns as inappropriate the use of the definition for such purposes, mentioning in particular the curbing of free speech in UK universities, and referencing Manchester and Bristol universities as examples. Here is what he writes:

“The EUMC “working definition” was recently adopted in the United Kingdom, and applied to campus. An “Israel Apartheid Week” event was cancelled as violating the definition. A Holocaust survivor was required to change the title of a campus talk, and the university [Manchester] mandated it be recorded, after an Israeli diplomat [ambassador Regev] complained that the title violated the definition.[See here]. Perhaps most egregious, an off-campus group citing the definition called on a university to conduct an inquiry of a professor (who received her PhD from Columbia) for antisemitism, based on an article she had written years before. The university [Bristol] then conducted the inquiry. And while it ultimately found no basis to discipline the professor, the exercise itself was chilling and McCarthy-like. [square brackets added]”

Of course the groups which were behind this “McCarthy-like” repression of free speech condemned by Stern are the very same ones which are now engaged in the current vendetta against Corbyn. For example in the case of the Bristol University lecturer who was subjected to an inquiry into false accusations of antisemitism, it was the misnamed Campaign Against Antisemitism, in reality an aggressively pro-Israel lobby group, which had called for her to be sacked unless she recanted.

* I use the term “Israel Lobby” as a shorthand for those who use false or wildly exaggerated charges of antisemitism against the Labour party as a cover for their real goals which are (a) to make pro-Palestinian activism impossible within the Labour Party, and (b) to ensure that Corbyn is removed as leader of the Labour party. In reality, as Moshe Machover has repeatedly pointed out, this is a loose coalition of rather different political groups from the centre-right to the far right, some of which are connected to pro-Israel and rightwing Jewish organisations, but some of which have no particular connection or interest in either Judaism or the Israel-Palestine conflict, but are simply using the antisemitism hysteria as a means to attack the Corbyn political project. Some have suggested that the term “anti-Palestinian Lobby” might be a more appropriate terminology.

Oh, it had to be the CAA behind an aggressive attempt at censorship of free speech!

Mr Stern continues:

Imagine a definition designed for Palestinians. If “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist” is antisemitism, then shouldn’t “Denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination, and denying Palestine the right to exist” be anti-Palestinianism? Would they then ask administrators to police and possibly punish campus events by pro-Israel groups who oppose the two state solution, or claim the Palestinian people are a myth?

The full article is well worth reading and may be found here: Why the man who drafted the IHRA definition condemns its use :: Jewish Voice for Labour

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