Anti-Semitism  and the IHRA Definition

In September 2018 the Federal Board of the Party adopted the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Association) definition of anti-Semitism.  It did so following the recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee in its report of 2016 that government and public bodies should adopt this definition, with certain caveats.  The definition has been adopted by many universities and local authorities and the UK Government has recently putting pressure on those public bodies that haven’t to do so in the near future.

The basic working definition reads:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

The definition is normally published with examples of manifestations of anti-Semitism – some of which refer to Israel.  The Home Affairs Select Committee was concerned that the definition might lead to charges of anti-Semitism being levelled against those who criticised the actions of the Israeli government and recommended the addition of two caveats to the definition if it was to be used by UK public bodies, as follows:

24. We broadly accept the IHRA definition, but propose two additional clarifications to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism to permeate any debate. The definition should include the following statements:
1. It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
2. It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

The HASC went on to say:

25. We recommend that the IHRA definition, with our additional caveats, should be formally adopted by the UK Government, law enforcement agencies and all political parties, to assist them in determining whether or not an incident or discourse can be regarded as antisemitic.

The Lib Dem Federal Board took its cue from the Home Affairs Select Committee and adopted the definition as recommended together with the caveats.  Sadly, the UK Government and the Conservative and Labour Parties have chosen to adopt the IHRA definition without the caveats.  Some local authorities have also done the same.

There is some evidence of the IHRA definition having a chilling effect on political discourse and activity.  In 2018 the London Borough of Tower Hamlets refused to allow the Big Cycle Ride for Palestine to hold its closing rally in the borough on these grounds. In a number of universities, attempts have been made to categorise events contesting Israeli policies as anti-Semitic and, in some cases, this has led to the suspension of the event.

I would urge Lib Dem Councillors, when this matter comes before their own Councils, to follow the lead of the Federal Board and insist that the caveats are included.  The danger otherwise is that overzealous officials may seek to impede the legitimate activities of local advocacy groups and charities that stick up for the Palestinians.  A good example can be taken from Warwick District, where there is a strong local group called Justice for Palestinians, which is led mainly by Jews who are deeply concerned about Palestinian rights and international law.  This group made representations to the Council’s Executive Committee about its concerns and the Lib Dem group leader’s proposal to add the Home Affairs Select Committee caveats to the definition was adopted unanimously by the committee on behalf of the Council.

Liberal Democrats will be interested to know that this is an issue in the USA and Canada as well and Kenneth Stern, who was one of the original drafters of the definition, has more than once expressed his dismay that the definition has been misused by right wingers to try and suppress freedom of speech, most recently in the Guardian in December 2019.

* John Kelly is a member in Warwick District, Secretary of the Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, and a member of the Federal International Relations Committee.

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  • This is all a bit tortured.

    You don’t need a clarification to the IHRA to be free to criticise the government of Israel.

    And the whole “without additional evidence of antisemitic intent” is illogical. If you have such evidence then it doesn’t need to be additional to anything.

    Most of us probably have a grandparent who ignorantly holds all sorts of off colour views about whoever it might be without the slightest malign intent. This doesn’t make it OK. This demand for additional evidence of intent is unheard of when it comes to other kinds of prejudice. Ignorant and unconscious prejudice should be called out, not redefined away for want of intent.

    It is in the nature of the beast that people who want to express prejudice will test the boundaries and will dog whistle. This is how Israel became so prominent in this debate.

    So, just as the phrase ‘human adult female’ is literally unobjectionable but in practise a transphobic dog whistle, antisemites will talk about Israel and Zionism – they may even sometimes make fair points, but they will certainly take “a particular interest” in Israel and Zionism.

    Obviously, by design, dog whistles can be difficult to judge, that is the point of them. But the solution is not to grant blanket exemptions as the caveats here are attempting to do.

    If this is true, that the FB endorsed these sordid caveats, it needs to unendorse them at the first opportunity.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '20 - 1:42pm

    @ Joe Otten,

    “You don’t need a clarification to the IHRA to be free to criticise the government of Israel.”

    Maybe not, but it wouldn’t do any harm to have some clarification.

    For instance:

    “Applying double standards by requiring of it {Israel} a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

    What double standard do they have in mind?

  • Andrew Daer 15th Feb '20 - 2:14pm

    Stephen Howse – it’s true that the Labour Party’s woes over accusations of anti-Semitism have been painful to watch. However, I don’t think John Kelly’s suggestion is going to lead us into that quagmire. The caveats are designed specifically to avoid over-keen supporters of Netanyahu’s Israel seeing anti-Semitism where there is none – something the poor drafting of the IHRA code facilitates, as one of the people who wrote the code has admitted.

  • Meral Hussein-Ece 15th Feb '20 - 2:34pm

    John Kelly, thank you for a thoughtful & informative article. I really can’t see why anyone would object to accepting the caveats, which are in line with party policy, would cause any difficulty for Lib Dem councillors considering the IHRA definition, as well as the findings of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

  • Denis Mollison 15th Feb '20 - 2:53pm

    We should ditch the so-called IHRA definition. It is

    (1) useless as a definition: it has been taken to pieces in analyses by various eminent legal experts, including Hugh Tomlinson, David Feldman and Stephen Sedley

    (2) its history shows clearly that it was put forward by supporters of the government of Israel wishing to confuse opposition to that regime with anti-semitism.

    We would do far better to stick to the non-contentious simple definition – anti-Semitism is discrimination against Jews for being Jews.

    We should also recognise that, nasty as anti-semitism is, it is far less of a problem in the UK today than other racial/religious prejudices, especially those against black people and muslims; and that anti-semitism is more of a problem among supporters of right-wing than of left-wing parties.

  • Looking at Wikipedia and other sources, the term “anti-semitism” was originally applied to hatred / prejudice towards semitic peoples in general (hence the name), which would include Arabic and other related peoples. I would venture to suggest that it is likely that more hatred towards Jewish people and of course to the state of Israel would come from Arabic people, precisely because of the long dispute over land. I certainly think that the caveats are necessary in the IHRA antisemitic definition, because of the longstanding conflict between specifically Palestinians and Israelis, and I also think that some change to the term anti-semitic should be made.

    In relation to the “Israel being held to account to different standards to other democratic nations” – the various Likud Governments have consistently claimed that the several UN Resolutions demanding that Israel return lands confiscated in war, from the West Bank and from Syria, be returned. Any other country which did this would be criticised, probably by UN Resolution. The USA was criticised for invading Iraq just as an example. Israel has not enjoyed being put on the back foot by the international community in this respect, and has done all it can to reduce that process. It could be argued that the “poorly drafted” IHRA definition was part of that effort. It would be strange if there were not supporters of Israel in other countries who wished to take part in that effort too.

    Of course, the world is now in the time of Trump, who has acted as an apologist for those in Israel who wish to continue the flouting of international law…

  • Neil Fawcett 15th Feb '20 - 5:31pm

    The IHRA itself states, alongside the definition:

    “However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

    Personally I think that is pretty clear.

    I have seen lots of accusations that the definition will be used to shut down legitimate criticism of the Government of Israel.

    I haven’t seen much evidence of this happening in practice.

    I continue to see much evidence of anti-semitism, some blatant, some more subtle.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Feb '20 - 6:03pm

    See my article in Liberator Issue 392 September 2018. Not a lot has changed since then apart from Labour getting into ever greater trouble.

  • Geoffrey Dron 15th Feb '20 - 6:11pm

    The qualifications are otiose and offer far too much opportunity for allegations of anti-semitism based purely on the criticism etc., itself against the background of ‘facts’ on the ground, which are themselves contentious.

    Thus e.g. a criticism of the Israeli government (of any peruasion) for denying the right of return is itself capable of being interpreted as anti-semitic insofar as conceding the right would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

  • arthur goodman 15th Feb '20 - 8:59pm

    John Kelly has got it right. The problem with the IHRA document is that it was written for one, ,justified purpose but is being promoted for a different, unjustified purpose. (The whole document matters, both the very short “working definition” and the longer examples section.)
    It was written to capture comments, verbal or written. that might be antisemitic hiding behind criticism of Israel, or mixed in with criticism of Israel. It was not written to be used as the means of deciding whether any given comment really was antisemitic.
    That explains the conditional wording, i.e. “could, taking into account the overall context, include,”, and the strangely imprecise wording throughout a document purported to be a definition. In other words, it was written to hoover up many kinds of comment, some of which would later be found to be antisemitic and others not. Those judgments have to be made using, traditional, direct criteria such as discrimination against Jews for being Jews, or negative stereotyping of Jews.
    However, for the past few years the IHRA document has been pushed by Israel and the big Jewish communal organisations that support Israeli policy as a means of deciding whether a comment is antisemitic, merely by falling within one of the imprecise categories in the document. (By the way, I am Jewish.) Their motivation is easy to guess.They want to discourage criticism of Israeli policies by creating uncertainty as to what is legitimate criticism of Israel and what isn’t.
    The Liberal Democrat Party got it right by adopting the Home Affairs Select Committee caveats, which go a long way to preventing the misuse of the document.

  • Denis Mollison 15th Feb '20 - 9:05pm

    @Neil Fawcett
    “I have seen lots of accusations that the definition will be used to shut down legitimate criticism of the Government of Israel. I haven’t seen much evidence of this happening in practice.”

    For a carefully written and well-argued explanation, with examples of how the IHRA definition has been used to shut down free speech, I recommend:
    Gould, Rebecca Ruth, Legal Form and Legal Legitimacy: The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism As a Case Study in Censored Speech (May 14, 2018). Law Culture and the Humanities, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

  • Leon Duveen 15th Feb '20 - 9:44pm

    As a Jew & a Zionist, I have no problem criticising the Israeli Government, both present and past, for their actions in Occupied Palestine and their treatment of Palestinians both inside the Occupied Territories & inside Israel itself. I also condemn without reservation the Jewish Terrorists behind the attacks on Palestinians (the so called “Price Tag” movement)
    The problem comes when the criticism is widened to all of Israel and all Israelis.
    Just as it would be unfair to criticise or condemn all British people for the actions of the Conservative Government in how they are trying to manipulate the law to deal with those convicted of terrorist offences (specifically those linked to extremist Islamic terrorism) or all Irish Catholics because of the actions of the IRA, it is equally offensive to do so to Israelis because of the actions of some.
    The IHRA working definition on antisemitism and the examples it gives are clear and need no “clarifications” or “caveats”. To try and introduce them in how the Lib Dems accept the Working Definition is to open the door to antisemitism or worse.

  • Denis Mollison 15th Feb '20 - 11:26pm

    @Leon Duveen
    I cannot agree on the “IHRA working definition”.
    I recommend
    Stephen Sedley‘s clear demolition of it form the London Review of Books. As he says, it fails at the first hurdle, it is not a clear definition of anything.

    And it’s quite clear that the motivation is not to protect jews from anti-semitism but to shut down criticism of Israel and of Zionism.
    Part of the problem with it is its vague status: why should a “working definition” be adopted by any government on an indefinite basis. When is it going to be turned into a proper definition?
    As Rebcca Gould’s aricle that I cited above says, it now has some kind of quasi-legal status which makes it hard to question but easy to use to shut down free speech.

  • Chris Nelson 16th Feb '20 - 8:46am

    I recently had a discussion with a senior activist who was convinced that the IHRA prohibited the criticism, because they had heard so many people claiming that it does that it must have been true.

    So we read the IHRA definition in detail and confirmed that the definition does NOT in fact say that, as Neil Fawcett correctly points out. The two “caveats” actually dont alter the definition at all in my mind, as neither of those things were listed as specific examples, which in any event were always intended as a rough guide rather than as hard and fast rules. But as these “caveats” help to clarify the situation for some people I am happy for the party to have adopted them.

    As regards to poor decisions by decision makers… organisers should remember that they have a right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act 1998 – which is balanced against the public right to prevent expressions of racial or religious hatred. If they feel that an institution has got the balance wrong because they have misinterpreted the IHRA definition then they can choose to test that in a court of law.

    In practice, I’ve noticed that people can sometimes be blind to the problematic nature of some of their discourse… particularly when it comes to the unintentional use of stereotypes
    … so perhaps the reason why some of these things are being declined aren’t quite what they think it is!

  • @Stephen Howse “We already have one party in this country wasting its energies ripping itself to pieces over this – we don’t need to become another one.

    That, and I have no desire to provide any political cover for or support to antisemites, of course.”

    Completely agree.

    The Labour Party is showing its true colours over this. I’d like to think my party is better than that.

  • Of all the comments made above I would like to single out one.
    @Leon Duveen “To try and introduce ..(the caveats) .. in how the Lib Dems accept the Working Definition is to open the door to antisemitism or worse.”
    The Party already adopted the caveats when it approved the IHRA definition in September 2018. We can all pick holes in that definition, but I thought we’d come together on it as a Party and satisfied both those who were keen to see the adoption of a definition and those with legitimate concerns about free speech. I see I have provoked a handful of people who can’t abide any criticism of the way Israel as a state behaves, and others who have consistently opposed the IHRA definition altogether. That was not my intention in writing the article. My purpose was to remind everybody of the Party’s policy of endorsing the IHRA definition with the very important caveats about free speech on Israel. I have learnt from a member in Oxfordshire that there are Lib Dem Councillors actively opposing the adoption of the caveats in their Council and I think that is a matter of considerable regret.

  • Since my comments last night, I have had a chance to read Sal Brinton’s report on the FB meeting that adopted the IHRA definition –

    It seems that, I presume unintentionally, John Kelly has misled us. The FB did not adopt the two caveats from the Home Affairs Committee Report, simply noted them.

    This might seems to be mere semantics but it does make clear the the IHRA definition does not restrict legitimate criticisms of the Government of Israel, just as we (hopefully) criticise the actions on the Government of other countries.

  • Denis Mollison 16th Feb '20 - 12:23pm

    @Leon Duveen
    I think that IS mere semantics: the phrasing of Sal’s article pretty strongly implies that the Federal Board agreed with the two caveats.

    Your posting the link here reminds me that, sadly, and unlike John Kelly here, Sal did not have the courtesy to respond to the many critical comments that her post on LDV attracted.

  • To what extent does the IHRA definition protect followers of Judaism?
    Do other connected groups, such as the Palestinians, need such protection?
    Do other groups who are subject to behaviours from which they need protection need similar protection?
    Was the IHRA definition used to influence the conduct and/or outcomes of the recent general election?

  • @Leon Duveen
    I don’t think I have misled anybody about the Board’s decision. To be clear LDFP, of which I am Secretary, was initially opposed to the definition believing that there are clearer and better ones. However, we were subsequently asked to confirm that we accepted the Party’s position and did so with the caveats in the light of this minute of the meeting of 4 September 2018 which we were given at the time:
    “DECISION: FB agreed to vote first on adopting the IHRA definition and its worked examples, and then to agree that the HASC additions were a helpful tool.
    Part 1 – Re-adoption of the IHRA definition and examples. PASSED
    Part 2 – HASC additions. PASSED.”

    I think the Board’s intention was pretty clear.

  • Leon Duveen 15th Feb ’20 – 9:44pm………….The problem comes when the criticism is widened to all of Israel and all Israelis, Just as it would be unfair to criticise or condemn all British people for the actions of the Conservative Government in how they are trying to manipulate the law to deal with those convicted of terrorist offences (specifically those linked to extremist Islamic terrorism) or all Irish Catholics because of the actions of the IRA, it is equally offensive to do so to Israelis because of the actions of some………

    But wasnt’t that the very rationale that Labour is “institutionally anti-semitic” ? I know many Labour voters and not one could be described as ‘anti-semitic’ where are they all?
    Why are the actions of a tiny minority, in a political party, deemed to be the policy of the whole party and yet the actions of a democratically elected Israeli government not seen in the same way??

  • Peter Hirst 16th Feb '20 - 6:26pm

    Why didn’t they include the caveats? The right to criticise the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinian people must be enshrined in human rights legislation. Otherwise, we’ll never make progress in solving this issue.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 16th Feb '20 - 7:39pm

    Irish Catholics supporting the IRA. During the time the IRA was active only a minority of Northern Ireland Catholics voted for Sinn Fein. At the same time Sinn Fein’s electoral support in the Republic of Ireland was negligible – less than 3%. By contrast, for 20 years, the Israeli electorate have repeatedly voted for majority governments that have pursued certain policies.

    Comparing Israelis to Irish Catholics is quite incorrect.

    I would like to live in a country where all ethnic and religious minorities are given equal respect and treatment, not where some are treated significantly more favourably than others and which benefit from preferential treatment, including state funding for ethnically based self-protection groups. Unfortunately, the UK is going down the wrong path and shows no sign of changing course.

  • Former Court of Appeal judge Sir Stephen Sedley, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Geoffrey Robertson QC are among the eminent lawyer-wordsmiths who have criticised the definition as poorly drafted and imprecise. Their criticism is justified. It is a strange situation when so much ink is spilled and hot air generated over a definition that as far as I know has no legal status or effect. It seems clear from John Kelly’s comment, reciting an extract from Federal Board minutes, that the Federal Board did adopt the definition with the caveats. What I am struggling to understand is what was the point of adopting it (either with or without caveats), given that it has no legal status, that it is poorly drafted and vague and that the party’s extremely strong opposition to all prejudice and discrimination based on (inter alia) race or religion is clearly expressed in the Federal Party Constitution.

  • Bruce Meredeen 17th Feb '20 - 8:04pm

    Who are the overzealous officials to whom you refer? Which specific charities do you mean when you mention sticking up for the Palestinians?

  • Denis Mollison 17th Feb '20 - 9:04pm

    @Jo Hayes
    Hear, hear!

  • Rodney Watts 18th Feb '20 - 8:43am

    It grieves me to say that the subject of this article illustrates the recent past paucity of liberal democratic leadership, failing to make decisions based on evidence. @ Lord Tony Greaves’ piece in Liberator 2018 was absolutely right to question both the alleged Labour Anti-Semitism (AS) and the authority of the IHRA. The problem in Labour is infinitely more to do with Zionism and ‘right wing ‘ labour politics than Anti-Semitism, coupled with weak leadership. Research has shown that the poor showing of Labour in the GE was much more to do with the latter. Our stance on AS failed to have any significant effect on the now largely Conservative voting Jewish Community. It was the Liberal Jewish statesman Lord Edwin Montagu who laid out a memorandum of objections to Zionism :
    @Jo Hayes has nicely summarised the general objections to the adoption by the Party of the IHRA definition , and @ Denis Mollison, @ Jonathan Coulter, @ John Hall and @Pamela Manning have provided sound comments with evidence. It is a pity, John Kelly, that LDFP did not feel able to resist the pressure to agree to FB’s decision, in the manner that Warwick University has recently refused to adopt the IHRA definition, pointing out there is ‘no added value’ Human rights legislation, in which I played my part in the 1960’s & 1970’s is now sufficient.
    I appreciate the pressures that have been put on party leaders by the scurrilous accusations of AS by the Conservative supporting Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) and the so-called Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. It is a pity that more note was not taken of Arthur Goodman’s comments in 2017: – and whilst I am also a signatory to Jews for Justice for Palestinians, I am unable to fully agree with all of Arthur’s comment here.

  • “You don’t need a clarification…“
    Regrettably we do – both the caveats and the clarifications help to distinguish between racism against Jewish people; and justifiable criticism of the government of Israel, the illegal settlements and actions by members of the Israeli military; which contravene international law.
    Without the caveats and clarifications there is, in my opinion, just too much scope for conflating the two, leading to people avoiding taking part in debate or mistakenly saying things that could be construed as antisemitic even if that wasn’t the intention. While the IHRA definition with the caveats and clarifications could probably be improved on; it is what we Lib Dems have adopted; so this really shouldn’t be a thing.
    And the earlier comment about the previous president (in September 2018), ‘noting’ the caveats, and then going on to quote them – in my book noting means paying attention to; not ignoring or discounting.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Feb '20 - 10:38pm

    @Jo Hayes. The reason it was adopted was to try to avoid some of the problems that the Labour Party was having at the time. That included being open to attack by some pro-Israel organisations and prominent people for being anti-Semitic (the test being whether the definition had been adopted). Personally I would have resisted for a different reason: I don’t think it is reasonable (1) for everyone to have to accept without question a definition put together by a quite separate organisation with (whatever they say) no legitimacy outside their own membership; (2) even if it is accepted that the IHRA is uniquely and legitimately representative of Jewry on an international/global basis, to automatically accept a definition relating to a minority group put together by that minority group (whichever it is). What then happens of course is that other self-appointed groups demand that their own definitions relating to their own minority status are accepted in the same way. I happen to think that in the fight against discrimination and intolerance on he basis of race and ethnicity, we have a duty to work out our own definitions and policies, taking account of the totality of such groups, and common principles behind the definitions and policies. But sometimes raw politics takes precedence.

  • @Tony Greaves, I do recall gales of hot air expended on this at the time. On re-reading the article and comments above, the gist seems to be that the Home Affairs Select Committee “broadly” accepted the IHRA definition with the caveats “if” public bodies adopted the definition. Well – “broadly” accepting a vague definition and list of examples isn’t much use. I am trying to think of a use. What words mean is alway a question of law for the courts to construe, but courts only bother when it is relevant to a dispute before them. The rest of the time there is no English language police. Supposing A took B to court and antisemitism was an issue, I don’t understand how the courts could be required to apply this definition. It’s not in an Act of Parliament or any other legislation and it’s not in a dictionary. It is not going to help the court at all, because the court’s first recourse is to words, context, argument and good dictionaries. I think it is worrying if people who aren’t legislators start meddling with the ordinary English language like this. They have no authority to do that, which I think is your point about no legitimacy outside their own membership. This is a general point about how language evolves. “Anti-semitism means what I say it means” is the Humpty Dumpty approach to words. Lewis Carroll meant it as entertainment. In your opinion, should the Party revisit this?

  • John Kelly’s article has produced widespread agreement that the IHRA document is too vaguely worded to be called a definition, and fails as real test of anti-Semitism, especially where criticism of Israel is involved. Unfortunately, reluctance to adopt it can be construed as as evidence of anti-Semitic tendencies, resulting in organisations which are aware of its many flaws nevertheless signing up to it, which gives it spurious legitimacy. News that government ministers have started to try to compel councils and universities to adopt it is worrying, and should be resisted.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Feb '20 - 3:06am

    Outrageous that support of the definition by some of us, or others who have already made that support clear, here, is equated with support for the policies of the Israeli govt at present.

    Leon Duveen is my role model here. He is someone who has dedicated years to a fair approach and I have had some considerable period in the Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East. Ashe is both Jewish and a dual UK Israeli citizen, and a liberal minded individual, he criticises the current and former govts of Israel as much as he does here with our uk govt. He supports IHRA as a definition, a conclusion most of us reached ages ago, who are more concerned with the antisemitism now increasing rapidly, than concerned with the thin skins of veterans of anti Israel circa 1960s variety who lead the criticism of IHRA in this party.

    Interesting that apparently we cannot abide, or these few on the old left, cannot, the Jewish individuals who have input into a definition of the hate of them, Lord Greaves preferring we who are not Jewish, should define the hate against them.

    No wonder tco and other colleagues here cannot abide the stance of Lords such as this on issues other than this and on it too.

    It was these vitage 1960s Liberal party activists who got the Liberal party then into a bid, not anything as bad as the Labour one now, but enough to make younger middle aged members like me, born in the latter 1960s to be vigilant, not of criticism of Israel, no, my love of my free country, as my love of the Jewish citizens of it, remains strong and sure. It is my fears for the self same, that makes me determined to criticise those who think antisemitism is exagerated , I assure you on the basis of years of interest and research, antisemitism is not exagerated , and we must be careful to know this and stand with those who know it and are the ones to define it!!!!!

    Joe Otten, yes, John Kelly, no, we do not need these matters considered in this way in this party , or some of us shall think about our place within it even more than we are regarding the obsession with the EU.

  • John McHugo is absolutely right to call out anyone who suggests that standing up for Palestinians is somehow being antisemitic. Of course not. And a benefit of the caveats and clarifications – which the Liberal Democrat party did adopt – is to enable informed debate instead of individuals being at risk of perceptions of racism.
    John a Kelly was right to bring this up in the first place to reduce the risk of councils adopting the IHRA definition without the caveats; without realising the risks in doing so. This is already happening.
    I’m going to finish by remembering that this is a week where the popular media are asking us to be kind; for once I’m with them.

  • Jonathan Coulter 20th Feb '20 - 6:12pm

    @John McHugo. While I share you view of the arguments advanced by Leon, Joe and Lorenzo, you have not answered those who have argued, with evidence, that the Party should never have adopted the IHRA definition in the first place and that in the McCathyistic environment in which we are living, i.e. massive and unremitting pressure from a biased media, meetings broken up, overzealous officials (including some within the Party etc.), the ‘caveats’ provide very little protection of free speech.

  • I took a rather different approach on my Council with the whole issue of racism, and proposed a general anti race and religious (and none) hate* policy, covering all forms from anti semitism, islamaphobia etc etc. This has led to an anti hate crime initiative that is still developing around third party reporting centres and encouraging people affected to come forward.

    In other words, I was trying to focus people on combating evil, and empowering people targeted to speak out, rather than precise definitions.

    *the only reason this didn’t include LGBT+ and disability is that separate initiatives already covered that

  • Rodney Watts 20th Feb '20 - 7:03pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin. Sadly, It appears that, since my comment is the only one to mention the 1960’s, your diatribe is mainly directed at me. You falsely accuse me of being anti- Israel and it is obvious that you haven’t read the comment in entirety to realise I AM JEWISH. I am also an active supporter of human rights organisations in Israel. Do you remember writing: I do try to practice what you have preached.

    It is a pity that the issues raised in this article originated when I was not a Party member, and thus did not contribute to earlier discussion. However, I did write to Tim Farron regarding the expulsion of David Ward, who never was an anti-Semite. You write: “ I assure you on the basis of years of interest and research, anti-Semitism is not exaggerated “ Yet, you provide no evidence to back up your statement. As a professional scientist in younger years (now approaching 80) I still insist on evidence. Jamie Stern-Weiner a Jewish DPhil candidate at Oxford Uni has recently edited an ebook, which has been summarised, with a link:
    you refer to @Leon Duveen, whom I also respect, but :-
    @ Leon Duveen – You clearly care about injustices carried out by the Government of Israel and desire to see peace like Arthur and myself. However, what puzzles me is you describe yourself in an oxymoron – a LibDem Zionist. Whilst there are nuances, Zionism in practice is a racist colonialist endeavour, and therefore contrary to our principles. (See Jewish Israeli Prof Ilan Pappe’s Book ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ 2006 One World Publications.) On the other hand, your desire for a single Friends organisation seeking peace in Israel/Palestine, articulated elsewhere has merit.

  • Andrew Daer 21st Feb '20 - 6:09am

    Comment has moved slightly away from John Kelly’s original point, but Rodney Watts has rightly raised the issue of perceived as opposed to real anti-Semitism. The idea that Israel is an embattled state in a hostile world helps to deflect criticism of actions which would otherwise be more widely called out as illegal and unnacceptable abuses of Palestinian human rights. This will have been noticed by supporters of Israeli government actions, suggesting that if widespread fear and anxiety amongst the world’s Jews is rather useful to them, they might not be merely overstating it, but actually encouraging it.
    This highlights how both Palestinians and Jews are victims of the Zionist project in former Palestine, and it means that those ostensibly on the side of the Palestinians are in fact working for a better life for all Israeli citizens, and Jews in the wider world. The idea that pro-Palestinian equates to anti-Jew is utterly ridiculous.

  • Jonathan Coulter 21st Feb '20 - 11:49am

    Brillianly put, AndyDaer

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Feb '20 - 1:58pm


    I do, nor do I tend to here, not engage in personal attacks, but do admit to a diatribe on a tendency or stance held by some.


    This might mean you, as with John, think I refer to you or any particular colleagues, here. I do not so therefore while I shall apologise if you are mistaken in thinking I mean you, that mistake is mine perhaps in my diatribe.

    I can explain the meaning.

    In the sixties, from my research and knowledge of those I know from the era, this party had a small group of left wing anti Israel fanatics. Some are gone. There were also left wing activists. Some I admire. The anti Israel fanatics I did read about and know of, were gut wrenching in loathing of Zionism, as they perceive it. Some here make the same lousy arguments. Zionism is like any mainstream ideology, open to debate. Would you say all socialism is like Stalin? Or all Liberalism is neo liberalism? Zionism means in its nineteenth century conception and development, a movement for a Jewish homeland for those who want it. Read Emma Lazarus, not the founders of Israel on it, because before Israel, there was Zionism, just as before socialism in effect, there was socialism in ideas.

    We here are better than in the Labour party. If you want to see anti semitism ruining a group, and desire evidence, read the websites, the twitter accounts, facebook, and see the anti Israel views, as antisemitic hate. You cannot say right of return for all with a link to Palestinian terrain, to Israel, not a separate state, and not be for the destruction of Israel. You cannot be for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish homeland, and not be antisemitic today, as the Jewish peoples of the world, and in Israel, are not going to give up one state, for a people to have another state of a religion that has over fifty. Get this, and you get modern antisemitism.

    Add the Holocaust , so brilliantly exposed in its denial state by David Badiel a few days ago on tv, and you make, we all make real progress.

  • Miranda Pinch 21st Feb '20 - 4:32pm

    Lorenzo, you say “You cannot say right of return for all with a link to Palestinian terrain, to Israel, not a separate state, and not be for the destruction of Israel.” I think that leads to several questions. 1. why is it Ok for Jews all over the world to have the ‘right’ to return to a land from which many of even their ancestors never came from? (I am Jewish and I believe my ancestors to be European converts with no ties to present day Israel or Palestine). 2. why is the right of return for Palestinians to their land and property, taken from them illegally during the creation of Israel and the repetition of that in 1967 for those now living in the occupied territories, used as an accusation of seeking the destruction of Israel? If the Palestinians were given the State promised to them then it would be possible for all refugees to be offered compensation for what they lost at least and allowed to settle back within the State of Palestine. It is hugely problematic that anyone should fail to see the utter injustice, hypocrisy and racism involved in the idea that it is Ok to throw one group of people off their land so that another group of people can live on it. Many of the present day Palestinians are no doubt decedents of the original Jewish population and many present day Jews have no such descendants. So 3. by what logic do you accuse those of seeking the rights of Palestinians under international law to be anti-Semitic in their request for that law to be obeyed? and Finally, 4. are you suggesting that, because Christians could live in States that practice versions of Christianity around the world, that it would be OK for Christians to be kicked out of England to live elsewhere? There is as much cultural and religious diversity among Muslims as there is among Jews, Christians and every other religion.

  • Anne-Marie Simpson 21st Feb '20 - 7:54pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin, “ You cannot say right of return for all with a link to Palestinian terrain, to Israel, not a separate state, and not be for the destruction of Israel. You cannot be for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish homeland, and not be antisemitic today, as the Jewish peoples of the world, and in Israel, are not going to give up one state, for a people to have another state of a religion that has over fifty. Get this, and you get modern antisemitism.“

    Whilst recognising the right to self-determination of the Jewish People, you are denying the same right to self-determination of the Palestinians, based on religion. At the same time you are failing to recognise that Palestinians do not all follow the same faith. I work towards a world where equality and human rights are universal and not discretionary, don’t you?

  • Rodney Watts 22nd Feb '20 - 9:19pm

    @Miranda Pinch. An excellent comment on some flawed thinking, and so glad it came from a like- minded Jewish LD. Whilst we appreciate Lorenzo’s concern regarding anti-Semitism (AS), sadly there are seriously horrible TRUTHS that need bringing into the light and ACKNOWLEDGING. These are fundamental to an understanding of why we are even discussing the need for the IHRA ‘definition’. @Tony Greaves’ comment above nicely explains why our leadership felt it necessary to adopt the definition, having regard to Labour’s problems. Therefore, in spite of evidence, referenced above, that MOST accusations of AS relating to the Labour Party were false, leadership chose to follow ‘raw politics’ – to believe and later amplify those accusations.

    The horrible truth is that there are people, together with the Government of Israel who are using false accusations of AS, alongside the IHRA definition, to try to shut down discussion about the Palestinians. The fact is they are still suffering awful trauma since 1947/8 called the Nakba (catastrophe) and detailed in Prof Ilan Pappe’s book referenced above. Pappe evidences the blueprint for ethnic cleansing: Plan Dalet. Zionism has always been racist/supremacist and ethnic cleansing was planned in the establishment of Israel long before 1948. This is the truth Lorenzo- so whilst accepting that the State of Israel is now legally established, I deplore its criminal acts Therefore we should all be seeking equal rights for all citizens, as we have been encouraged to do by most Holocaust survivors and relatives.

    Interestingly, the Israel Ministry of Defence now has a section that is removing any archive material that either Ilan Pappe or another historian, Benny Morris, have used in their studies.

    Really tragic that instead of our Party being known for standing on its principles, it is now being criticised by Labour Jews. Also, wouldn’t it have been great if our Palestinian MP had been seen to be standing up for her people, all these years.

  • Andrew Daer 23rd Feb '20 - 8:53am

    @Rodney Watts. You make a number of interesting and valid points. As Pappe also points out (and Margaret Thatcher almost said the same thing in a more general way) that there is no such thing as Israeli society – or even Israeli Government policy. The 1967 war is seen by some as a valiant defense against invading Arab states, but by others as a war provoked by Israel in order to grab the West Bank and Gaza, the culmination of which process may be happening right now, with the Trump Plan. Pappe suggests it might be both, because even members of the Israeli government didn’t know what the more hawkish elements of the IDF command had in mind.
    In exactly the same way, we don’t really know what the ‘Israeli’ intention is now regarding the Palestinians. Netanyahu and his chum Trump have a plan, but is that really what the Israeli people want? Those of us who want to help the Palestinian cause need to remember that many Israeli Jews are weary of the conflict, and don’t support thier own government.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Feb '20 - 12:37pm

    Suggestions my arguments are flawed are now met by my view that that is not a helpful description.

    I claim little of what is feared or referred to by colleagues above.

    I state that right of return for Palestinians, to current Israel would not work. This is obvious, as it would make Israel a majority Arab Muslim state, not quite as conceived by Israel!

    I say nothing against right of return to a new or current, Palestinian territory or state, so I am not inconsistent on humane policy, re rights!

    I am fed up with people continuously saying antisemitic claims are made up, fake or smeared. When someone says they have experienced it, I listen, and have read very many detailed accounts, and heard them expressed.

    I dislike the criticism of Layla Moran, and her being referred to as our Palestinian mp. She has not done herself favours by describing herself once or twice or so, as a British Palestinian, rather than as a British person of part Palestinian origin. But she is a terrific and fair and moderate voice, a real liberal and democrat, she mustn’t be stereotype victim of commentators.

    I do not like debate here when it doesn’t reflect the bulk of our party views, a small unrepresentative element on many issues get carried away. My views are mainstream. I believe in the Zionist intention to have a state for an oppressed people.

    I believe they are Jewish and it is Israel. I beliveve the Palestinians should have a state .

    I do not believe in Likud, the current governments of that state.

    I do not believe in Hamas, the current power in charge in Gaza.

    I do belive there is a small, peaceful, brilliant, talented, humane minority who are contributing more to the human race than many, in culture, professionalism and sense, the very many Jews in very many countries, who are facing more not less antisemitism.

    Obsessing with Israel, when most of the Commonwealth , all of the middle east, much of Africa, criminalises being gay, and Israel is the most lgbt friendly state outside of the UK and US, and had a transexual win the Eurovision a generation previous to this debate on here, say so much about those who do obsesses, more than it does about a state that has a multi party democratic system and can, should and eventually must improve its policies.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Feb '20 - 2:38pm

    A point to add to previous ones, read the report today, by the group Hop not Hate, and Community Security Trust, reveals just a touch f the antisemitism on left and right…

    As I believe in both a Palestinian state as well as the current and future state of Israel and their right to exist, so we can find that antisemitism exists, in every extreme you look, not to be dismissed!

  • Miranda Pinch 23rd Feb '20 - 3:36pm

    Lorenzo, I or others may reply in more depth later, but by first observation is that I understand you to suggest that because parts of Israel are LGBT friendly (does not include the more conservative areas) then that is the measure by which you assess Israel and not their human rights record over all, or indeed their committment to human rights or international law?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Feb '20 - 3:55pm

    Unbelievably, so soon, Miranda, you mischaracterise my comment and prove the point the obsession with denigrating a whole state because of a particular govt.

    I am stating the fact that many countries on very many policies, are traducing human rights, shows that focussing on policies by one party in one country, Likud in Israel, is not in keeping with liberal or democratic ideas, but is extreme in its targetting.

    Israel is the only place where in the middle east, Arabs can openly vote for a party that can democratically win. Twenty per cent israeli citizens are Arab, they have parties or are in the mainstream groupings, that effect change. Tis not so elsewhere!

  • Miranda Pinch 23rd Feb '20 - 5:03pm

    Lorenzo, for clarification , please would you say where or what the Palestinian State you are in favour of would be and its perameters? It would help, otherwise we can’t be sure we are talking about the same things.
    Also your statement ‘they are Jewish and it is Israel’. Does that mean that Israel, (within the 67 borders?) should only be for Jews and not for Christians or Muslims?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Feb '20 - 6:15pm

    I have real understanding that you feel very keen to interact thus, appreciated Miranda. However, I really feel the whole notion of us having to give our view from miles away, to others in their plight on either Israeli or Palestinian side, not helpful or right thinking at all.

    As the marvellous current Pope said on gay rights, and we all should on this topic of concern , herein, “who am I to judge?”

    My view is we need open minded liberal minds to decide as a result of debate there, under no circumstances am I to abscond, but, just as I think that some issues are more easily solved, this isn’t so my view is best not to try too hard.

    reckon that the 1967 borders are about right, but do not know as do not live there,and defer to Leon and those expert. I believe in peace as the goal as well as the means, but easy to say, my country is not in dispute nor surrounded by others who desire the destruction and right of it to even exist.

    I feel that we are talking about the same thing but the size is not as necessary to be considered yet, as its character. I believe Israel should have all religions, but must have Judaism or at least secular and definite support for Jewish people, enshrined in law as a safeguard against the genocide that was attempted.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Feb '20 - 6:23pm

    Didn’t conclude that fully, meant to say, safeguarded because of the genocide that was attempted by the Holocaust, in its attempt that is to destroy a people, that failed because those who survived are not ever to relent and allow it to wipe them out.

    We must never forget, this means remembering the leaders of the Arab Muslim population in the Palestine mandate, the Mufti et al, supported Hitler, an attitude that continues in Hamas elements and their written tract that calls for the Jewish population to be destroyed.

    Antisemitism, like all racist ideology is to be fought, by the ballot or otherwise some, shall, and do,by the bullet. This, out of hand, is what has destroyed peace, not there long, in the region.

  • Jonathan Coulter 23rd Feb '20 - 6:56pm

    @Lorenzo Chirin: “I am fed up with people continuously saying antisemitic claims are made up, fake or smeared”. Lorenzo, to get to the point, please consider hard statistical evidence presented by Jamie Stern-Weiner, in the case of the Labour Party.

  • Miranda Pinch 24th Feb '20 - 6:26am

    Lorenzo, I hope I am wrong, but what you seem to be saying is that you believe that the continual collective punishment of the Palestinians is legitimate because of your perception that a few Palestinians historically supported Hitler and therefore are responsible for the Holocaust and because, Hamas, an organisation created because of Israeli policy, and not the cause of it, governs the Gaza Strip that is besieged and deprived by Israel who imprison within it 2 million people, half of whom are children and 70% of whom are refugees from Israel. Whereas you do not condemn Israelis to any collective punishment despite your acceptance of misdemeanours on the part of the present government, the Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians at the creation of Israel, the continuous human rights abuses, the 1967 occupation of land, the settlement building, the oppression etc. etc.
    It does look a very one-sided perspective to me. Is anti-Semitism in that area then, just the desperate measures for survival that some Palestinians resort to? You accuse Hamas of dreadful statements about Israel, but fail to note the dreadful things being said by Israeli politicians about wiping out the Palestinians.

  • Miranda Pinch 24th Feb '20 - 2:27pm

    Tony. While I am no apologist for anti-Semitism or real anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, I think it unfortunate that people do not look at the actual statistics on anti-Semitism in the Uk along with other racism before accusing Labour of having such a severe problem. Yes, of course there is anti-Semitism in all walks of society including the Lib Dems, but there is far greater anti-Semitism in the Conservative party and the far Right than on the Left. The most unfortunate thing about condemning Labour all the time is that it allows the Right in and it becomes a vicious circle by increasing the influence of the Right and indeed anti-Semitism. At the LD Autumn Conference I was told on two occasions by members of Friends of Israel that I ought to belong to the Labour Party and not to the Lib Dems, because I am a Jewish anti-Semite and Labour is an anti-Semitic Party. I was even accused of having Jewish friends who are, of course ALL anti-Semitic. All I can say is that accusations towards me and a load of abuse I have suffered is because I am a Jew, but, in their opinion, the wrong sort of Jew and therefore the abuse is just as anti-Semitic as they are attacking me for being Jewish, but not sharing their views. And what about the stats for all the other types of racism including Islamophobia? If someone can show me statistics based on real anti-Semitism and not just accusations of it, that are often unfounded, then it is hard to accept this continued Labour bashing, especially as it let the Conservatives win the election and so the vicious circle continues. Let’s fight real anti-Semitism whereever it lies and start by rooting out exactly where is resides and why?

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