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Right to call Israel a racist state shut down at Harlow council

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Issue 2648
Protesting against Labours decision to adopt the IHRA definition
Protesting against Labour’s decision to adopt the IHRA definition (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A Labour council leader last week appeared to call a pro-Palestinian campaigner racist for criticising the state of Israel.

Palestine solidarity activist Adam Cochrane was repeatedly shut down by Harlow council leader Mark Ingall when presenting a petition to the council’s cabinet.

Ingall warned “this council does not tolerate racist behaviour” after Adam called Israel a “racist state”. Council managing director Brian Keane also told Adam to “watch what you say”.

“We cannot have that kind of language in the council chamber,” he said. “It may be your view but I don’t think it’s one that we should actually hear in this meeting.”

Adam and some 20other campaigners asked the council to add a caveat to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The IHRA definition includes an example of antisemitism which says it could be antisemitic to describe the state of Israel as a “racist endeavour”.

Ingall insisted that the IHRA doesn’t restrict criticism of Israel. But he didn’t explain why Adam had been stopped from calling Israel a racist state.

The IHRA definition has been used to clamp down on Palestine societies campaigning for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

The campaign to force the Labour Party to adopt the IHRA definition was accompanied with attacks on left wing party members.

Prominent activist Jackie Walker was expelled from Labour last week for saying she hadn’t found a definition of antisemitism she could “work with”.


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