The newly appointed antisemitism advisory board will have a say over new measures brought in under an action plan for “driving out antisemitism.”
This includes input over a code of conduct outlining what Labour members can post on social media, and over the process for handling antisemitism complaints.
Many of those appointed to it are likely to argue for restrictions on support for Palestine.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge has explicitly said that anti-Zionism—opposition to Israel’s founding ideology, which justified the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—is antisemitic. She has also linked antisemitism to the left’s “anti-American” and “anti-European” politics.
She also called former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a“fucking antisemite and a racist”.
Mark Gardner, of the Community and Security Trust charity, has previously linked the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to antisemitism.
The BDS campaign is a tactic by Palestinian activists to pressure companies to break ties with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. But Gardner has associated it with targeting Jews.
In 2014, after Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, Gardner said the National Union of Students’ endorsement of BDS “promises no end of trouble and intimidation for Jewish students.”
“Perhaps worse still, there are the mass intimidations of supermarkets that dare to sell Israeli goods, some of which have actually been forced to briefly stop trading as a result,” he wrote.
Adrian Cohen of the Jewish Leadership Council was one of the first to claim Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Palestinians would encourage antisemitism in Labour. He is also the lay chair of Labour Friends of Israel.
In 2015 he told the Times of Israel website that Corbyn’s election as leader would mean more support for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and “more support in general for BDS, all of which is going to create a difficult atmosphere for the vast majority of British Jews given their association with Israel.”
Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, applauded Labour MP Emily Thornberry in 2017 for being “consistent in stamping out antisemitism and anti-Zionism in Labour.”
The advisory board is part of Labour’s response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into accusations of antisemitism in the party.
Part of the report effectively found that “illegitimate” criticism of Israel—regardless of whether it expresses hatred towards Jews—is antisemitic. It said this is “related to Jewish ethnicity” and so can make Jewish people feel “uncomfortable and unwanted” in Labour.
Now many of those overseeing Labour’s response to antisemitism are hostile to Palestine solidarity—and will have a say over what criticism of Israel is “illegitimate.”
It’s another sign that staying in the Labour Party will mean having to keep quiet on Palestine.
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