Right wing Labour MPs are furious that their party has adopted a definition of antisemitism that allows criticism of Israel. Now they are trying to label their own party—and Jeremy Corbyn personally—as antisemitic in order to get their way.
Labour’s ruling national executive committee ratified a new code of conduct that sets out guidance on antisemitism on Tuesday.
The code of conduct is precise and unequivocal in its condemnation of antisemitism.
It takes as its starting point a definition of antisemitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews”.
But crucially, it doesn’t include examples associated with the definition that restrict legitimate criticism of Israel. These include “claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”.
Because of this, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge reportedly called Corbyn, “A fucking antisemite and a racist.
“You have proved you don't want people like me in the party.”
In an article for the Guardian newspaper that followed, Hodge didn’t dare repeat the false and libellous accusation. But she didn’t withdraw or deny saying it either, instead confirming, “I stand by my action as well as my words.”
Several Labour MPs have rallied to her defence. They accuse Labour’s leadership of ignoring “the Jewish community”—though it’s not true that all Jews support Israel.
Few of those attacking Corbyn have tried to argue why it should be considered antisemitic to call Israel racist.
Silencing this legitimate criticism means denying a voice to another oppressed people—the Palestinians.
Israel was founded on racism and violence. It was only established in 1948 through a process of systematic ethnic cleansing that forced 850,000 Palestinians from their homes.
It aims to be an exclusively Jewish state and its laws keep Palestinian Arabs as second class citizens.
It would be impossible for Palestinians to fully explain their history—and what Israel still does to them—if they couldn’t call Israel racist.
This restriction has already been used to shut down Israel Apartheid Week events organised by students. And it is used to smear the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign as racist.
Now the right want to use it to associate support for the Palestinians with antisemitism. Hodge claimed that under Corbyn’s leadership, support for Palestine “has been allowed to infect the party’s approach to growing antisemitism.
”It appears to have become a legitimate price that the leadership is willing to pay for pursuing the longstanding cause of Palestinians”.
Now the Labour Party has promised a “review” into its new code of conduct.
Supporting the Palestinians means defending their right to call Israel a racist state—Labour’s leadership must not retreat.