Jeremy Corbyn has received a major boost from 36 Jewish groups worldwide, embarrassing the corporate media. The Labour leader is currently under pressure from the press, the right of his party, and the conservative Board of Deputies of British Jews. They are pushing for Labour to adopt wholesale the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism into its rule book.
Jewish groups speak out
On 17 July, 36 Jewish groups from around the world said that the IHRA definition “intentionally” equates “legitimate criticisms of Israel… with antisemitism”. And later in the day, Labour’s ruling body approved a new code of conduct that included a version of the IHRA definition without the examples that could stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.
The Labour leadership claims to have expanded on the IHRA definition, also giving new examples.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg suggested Labour’s decision had let down the “Jewish community”. And the Guardian‘s Jonathan Freedland said Labour decided “it knows better” than “every mainstream Jewish organisation in the UK”.
But now, for the first time, 36 Jewish groups (including six based in the UK) have come together in a move that strengthens the position of Corbyn and organisations that support Palestinian rights.
Their statement says the IHRA definition is “worded in such a way” as:
to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.
“Reject the IHRA definition”
Spearheaded by the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace, the groups continued:
This conflation undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law.
We urge our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition and instead take effective measures to defeat white supremacist nationalist hate and violence and to end complicity in Israel’s human rights violations. Israel does not represent us and cannot speak for us when committing crimes against Palestinians and denying their UN-stipulated rights.
“Cynical and false accusations”
The Jewish groups also insisted that the campaign to boycott Israel is in no way antisemitic:
We live in a frightening era, with growing numbers of authoritarian and xenophobic regimes worldwide, foremost among them the Trump administration, allying themselves with Israel’s far right government while making common cause with deeply antisemitic and racist white supremacist groups and parties.
From our own histories we are all too aware of the dangers of increasingly fascistic and openly racist governments and political parties. The rise in antisemitic discourse and attacks worldwide is part of that broader trend.
At a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, MPs backed a motion calling on the party to adopt the IHRA definition in full. But the statement from 36 Jewish groups worldwide suggests the leadership was right not to cave in.
– Campaign with Free Speech on Israel.
Featured image via Sophie Brown