Antisemitism definition at heart of Labour row 'will silence public discussion', say minority groups

Organisations representing migrants and ethnic minorities in Britain reveal their opposition to the full adoption of the IHRA guidelines

Peter Stubley
Saturday 18 August 2018 08:51
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Jeremy Corbyn releases video apologising for antisemitism in the Labour party

Eighty-four groups representing migrants and ethnic minorities have waded into the Labour antisemitism row by opposing adoption of the internationally-recognised definition.

Organisations including The Society of Black Lawyers and the Muslim Association of Britain claim that guidelines set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) would "silence" public discussion.

In a letter to The Independent they argue information about the plight of the Palestinians since the creation of Israel 1948 is already being suppressed.

"Public discussion of these facts, and a description of these injustices, would be prohibited under the IHRA’s guidelines, and therefore withholds vital knowledge from the public," the letter reads.

"This silencing has already begun. Today we can freely describe the racist policies experienced in the era of British and European colonialism ... but the colonial history of the Palestinians is continually erased.

"This is a dangerous breach of our own rights, and of the wider British public: we must all hear the full story of the Palestinians in order to make sense of the current discussions about racism and Israel."

Signatories to the letter include several Palestinian, Muslim and Arab groups such as Arab Labour, the Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK, and Muslim Worker's Association. The others range from Black Lives Matter UK and Justice for Grenfell to Pakistani Community Centre Oldham and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.

The letter, which does not mention Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour Party, comes as the Labour leader faces increasing pressure to drop his opposition to adopting the full IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Although Labour has agreed to use the definition in its new code of conduct, it has only adopted seven of the IHRA’s 11 examples of antisemitic behaviour.

That decision was widely criticised by Jewish groups and the party’s own MPs, reigniting the row over antisemitism.

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson, Momentum founder Jon Lansman and union leaders Tim Roche and Len McCluskey have all joined calls for Labour to adopt the full version.

The letter goes on to raise concerns that far right groups are trying "to deny Palestinians’ basic humanity by suppressing their entire history and current plight".

"At the same time, hard-line conservative groups in the US, such as the Middle East Forum, are providing funding and support to anti-Muslim extremist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), deliberately increasing hatred, fear, and confusion," it adds.

"These coordinated efforts by right-wing extremists are being actively encouraged by President Trump’s racism and fear-mongering, which is now aimed at dismantling UNRWA, the UN agency that protects Palestinian refugees."

The letter also refers to the Grenfell Tower fire and the Windrush scandal as examples of the "legacies of British colonialism, where racism forms an integral part of British policies, and renders our communities invisible".

It concludes: "We urgently remind politicians and public bodies of their responsibilities to uphold the principles of the Human Rights Act for every British citizen and resident in the UK equally, especially the direct victims of colonialism, racism, and discrimination.

"As migrant and BAME communities we stand as one, united against all attempts to suppress our voices and our calls for justice, freedom and equality."

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