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Labour MPs and peers demand party toughen its stance on antisemitism

Parliamentary Labour Party calls for party to adopt full internationally-recognised definition of antisemitism as 68 rabbis accuse Labour leadership of acting in 'most insulting and arrogant way'

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Monday 16 July 2018 19:29 BST
Jeremy Corbyn has come under pressure to amend his party's definition of antisemitism
Jeremy Corbyn has come under pressure to amend his party's definition of antisemitism (Getty)

Labour MPs and peers have demanded their party leadership toughen its stance on antisemitism.

The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting the full version of an internationally-recognised definition of antisemitism, some parts of which were controversially left out when party leaders drew up a new code of conduct.

The PLP backed calls, led by Jewish community groups, for Labour to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, which is used by the government, local councils and a number of other organisations.

Dozens of MPs, including shadow cabinet ministers such as Sir Keir Starmer, have already called on the party leadership to listen to Jewish community representatives and adopt the full definition.

Labour has agreed to use the definition in its code of conduct but decided not to directly include four of the IHRA's 12 examples of antisemitic behaviour, amid claims they could stifle criticism of Israel.

These include comparing Israeli policies to those of the Nazis, or suggesting the creation of the Jewish state was a racist endeavour. The other two examples refer to accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country, or holding Israel to higher standards than other countries.

Party officials have insisted the examples are covered elsewhere in the code of conduct, and say the document goes further than the IHRA definition.

The PLP vote is not binding but is likely to increase pressure on Jeremy Corbyn and Jennie Formby, Labour's general secretary, to rethink their approach. The party's National Executive Committee (NEC) is expected to rubber-stamp the decision later this week.

One Labour MP who was at the PLP meeting told The Independent: "It should be obvious now to the leadership that concern about the party’s proposed policy on antisemitism goes way beyond the usual suspects. If the general secretary had bothered to show up she might have heard the arguments. Let’s hope the NEC gets us out of the mess she’s created tomorrow.”

Speaking afterwards, Luciana Berger, parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: "The motion passed at tonight's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party sends a strong signal that we adopt the IHRA definition in full, including all the specific examples it includes, and that any attempt to tinker, water down or otherwise amend it must be resisted."

The news comes as 68 rabbis representing different parts of the Jewish community accused the Labour leadership of acting "in the most insulting and arrogant way".

In a letter published in The Guardian, the rabbis, who represent communities ranging from the most liberal to the most traditional strands of British Judaism, said: “Antisemitism within sections of the Labour Party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak out with one Jewish voice.

“The Labour Party’s leadership has chosen to ignore those who understand antisemitism the best, the Jewish community. By claiming to know what’s good for our community, the Labour Party’s leadership have chosen to act in the most insulting and arrogant way.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “These are the most detailed and comprehensive guidelines on antisemitism adopted by any political party in this country. They adopt the IHRA definition and contextualise and add to the working examples to produce a practical code of conduct that a political party can apply in disciplinary cases."

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