By Nick Clark
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Fudge over antisemitism risks Palestine solidarity

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Issue 2620
Defend the right to support Palestine
Defend the right to support Palestine (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Labour Party looks almost certain to agree to a definition of antisemitism that silences criticism of Israel, at a meeting on Tuesday.

It means the left—inside and outside Labour—and anyone who supports Palestinians now faces a battle to defend the right to campaign against Israel.

After months of increasingly vicious attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) was poised on Tuesday to adopt the definition the right wants.

This says that it is antisemitic to suggest that “the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

In practice this would mean that calling Israel a racist state, or even describing the oppression of Palestinians as racist, would be seen as antisemitic.

Labour MPs and supporters of Israel have spent more than two years putting enormous pressure on Corbyn, linking his support for Palestinians to antisemitism.

Their campaign has involved disgraceful accusations of antisemitism against Corbyn—a life-long anti-racist—and a witch hunt against ordinary Labour members.


The likely defeat on the definition of antisemitism is thanks to trade union leaders and many left wing NEC members.

The leaders of four major Labour-affiliated trade unions—Unison, Unite, the GMB and Usdaw—have all called for Labour to adopt the definition and the examples of antisemitism it gives. That means their delegates on the NEC were almost certain to vote for it.

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Left wing delegates representing ordinary Labour Party members—led by Momentum founder Jon Lansman—were also likely to back the definition.

Corbyn has also made too many concessions to the idea that Labour has a serious problem with antisemitism—giving ground to the right’s claim that support for Palestine is to blame.

The only question was whether or not the definition would be adopted with or without caveats that protect some criticisms of Israel.

Some Corbyn supporters think Labour could agree that it is antisemitic to call Israel racist while keeping the right to criticise its treatment of Palestinians.

This dangerous fudge still leaves criticism of Israel vulnerable to accusations of antisemitism. In any case the right would never accept it.

They will only accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition with all its examples un-amended—and even this will not be enough for them. The IHRA definition has already been used at universities to shut down Palestine solidarity events supporting a boycott of Israel, or describing Israel as racist.

And in Barnet, north London, the Tory council is pursuing attempts to ban any supporter of the pro-Palestine BDS campaign from using its facilities—using the IHRA definition.

Once Labour accepts the definition, it will be pushed further into councils, trade unions and universities.

It can still be beaten if those who support the Palestinians are determined enough to fight it.

Mass lobby of the Labour NEC: No to IHRA examples #backNECcode, Tuesday 4 Sept, 9.15am-11.30am, Labour Party HQ, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QT. Hosted by Jewish Voice for Labour. Details here.

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