Gordon Brown calls on Labour to 'unequivocally and immediately' adopt full IHRA antisemitism definition

Former prime minister gives speech to audience at Jewish Labour Movement conference

Tom Embury-Dennis
Sunday 02 September 2018 17:49
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Gordon Brown calls on Labour ot adopt International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism immediately

Gordon Brown has called on Labour to “unequivocally and immediately” adopt the internationally-agreed definition of antisemitism.

In a speech to a Jewish Labour Movement conference on Sunday, the former prime minister demanded a comprehensive strategy to tackle antisemitism within the Labour Party, saying the issue was about the “soul of the party”.

Mr Brown’s intervention comes ahead of a vote on Tuesday by Labour’s ruling body, in which it will decide whether to adopt all examples of antisemitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Allies of Mr Corbyn are set to attempt amendments, over fears that free speech in discussing Israel's actions with regards to its treatment of Palestinians could be damaged.

“The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism is something we should support unanimously, unequivocally and immediately,” Mr Brown told an audience in London.

“It has been brought together for one reason and for one reason only. As the document says, to advance and support education and remembrance of the Holocaust.”

Mr Brown denied any IHRA definitions of antisemitism in the document prevented criticism of Israel, saying anyone who claimed this was “not telling the truth”.

Jeremy Corbyn releases video apologising for antisemitism in the Labour party

“It’s not a foreign policy document, it’s not got some plan for the Middle East, it’s about dealing with this one thing, and one thing only, antisemitism, which it is defined as hatred of the Jews.”

On antisemitism, he said: "It is time to say that this wrong must and can be righted. This injustice had got to be remedied, this stain must be removed, the sore that exists and the harm that has been done, and the hurt it has caused, has got to be undone."

Mr Brown’s comments followed a renewed attack on Mr Corbyn by former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who said British Jews were considering leaving the country due to antisemitism in Labour.

“I know of no other occasion in these 362 years where Jews, the majority of our community, are asking ‘is this country safe to bring up our children?’” Lord Sacks said.

Asked if he knew of British Jews considering leaving Britain over the issue, Lord Sacks responded, “Of course”.

“When people hear the kind of language that’s coming out of Labour, that’s brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat,” he said.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show Lord Sacks had “got it wrong” over claims Mr Corbyn is an antisemite.

“Jeremy Corbyn has made it absolutely clear. We will protect Jewish members of our party from any form of abuse and antisemitism, and we will take action as well,” he said.

Mr Corbyn himself has defended the 2013 speech in which he suggested British Zionists do not understand "English irony". He insisted he was referring to a specific group of “pro-Israel activists” and had not used the term Zionist as a “euphemism” for Jewish people.

He claimed he was “now more careful with how I might use the term ‘Zionist’ because a once self-identifying political term has been increasingly hijacked by antisemites as code for Jews”.

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