Jeremy Corbyn set for partial climbdown over definition at heart of Labour's antisemitism row

Labour leader expected to agree to adopt three of the four examples not included directly in party's code of conduct but insists saying a state of Israel is 'racist endeavour' is not antisemitism, as he apologies for 'hurt' caused to Jewish community

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Sunday 05 August 2018 11:08 BST
Jeremy Corbyn releases video apologising for antisemitism in the Labour party

Jeremy Corbyn looks set to make a partial climbdown in the furious row over the definition of antisemitism adopted by Labour, as he attempts to put an end to the crisis engulfing his party.

The Independent understands the Labour leader is likely to agree to adopt three of the four internationally-recognised examples of antisemitism omitted from the party's new code of conduct.

However, he will continue to insist it is not necessarily antisemitic to say the existence of a state of Israel is a "racist endeavour".

It comes as Mr Corbyn apologised to Jewish people for the "hurt" caused by the dispute over Labour antisemitism.

Labour's decision not to adopt in full the widely-used International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition in its code of conduct was heavily criticised by Jewish groups and Labour MPs, reigniting the row over antisemitism in the party.

The document uses the IHRA definition and seven of the 11 accompanying examples of antisemitic behaviour but does not directly include the other four. Labour insisted these were covered elsewhere and claimed its code of conduct went further than the IHRA.

The four example not incorporated word-for-word are:

  • comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis
  • suggesting Jewish people are more loyal to Israel than their home country
  • holding Israel to different standards to other democratic countries
  • denying Jewish people have a right to self-determination – for example by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a "racist endeavour".

Mr Corbyn is understood to be ready to accept the first three examples, but appears likely to resist demands to adopt the fourth.

Jewish News quoted a source close to the Labour leader as saying: “There has been movement, as suggested in the article, on those examples that aren’t explicitly referenced in the article or included word for word in the code. The consultation is open and it looks like we’re ready to include those examples.”

Mr Corbyn hinted at a possible shift in position in a newspaper article late last week, in which he attempted to begin to rebuild the relationship between his party and the Jewish community.

Writing in The Guardian, he said the row over the IHRA definition centred on "half of one example out of 11", implying he was ready to accept the other three.

He wrote: "Our actual differences are in fact very small – they really amount to half of one example out of 11, touching on free speech in relation to Israel. It is unfortunately the case that this particular example, dealing with Israel and racism, has sometimes been used by those wanting to restrict criticism of Israel that is not antisemitic. The Commons home affairs committee acknowledged this risk when it looked at the IHRA examples.

"But I feel confident that this outstanding issue can be resolved through dialogue with community organisations, including the Jewish Labour Movement, during this month’s consultation."

Mr Corbyn said it was wrong to suggest "anti-Zionism is racism", just as people in the past had been "wrong" to suggest "Zionism is racism".

He wrote: "Hostility to the Israeli state or its policies can be expressed in racist terms and that needs to be called out. But there are also many non or anti-Zionist Jews who should not be branded as antisemites simply because they are not part of the Zionist tradition. Both traditions have always had honourable proponents in our movement."

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The Labour leader used a video message sent to all party members on Sunday to apologise for antisemitism in Labour's ranks.

He said: "People who use antisemitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name or the name of my party. You are not our supporters. And anyone who denies that this has surfaced within our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem.

"Driving antisemitism out of the party for good and working with the Jewish community to rebuild trust are vital priorities.

"I am sorry for the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people. We have been too slow in processing disciplinary cases of, mostly online, antisemitic abuse by party members."

He added: "I acknowledge there is a real problem of antisemitism that Labour is working to overcome.

"It's my responsibility to root out antisemitism in the Labour Party."

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