Tag Archives: anti-semitism

When the caveats within the definition of the IHRA are misused

I wanted to share my experience of submitting a motion defining the definitions of Antisemitism (IHRA) and Islamophobia (APPG). But I decided to not add the caveats (mentioned in this Liberal Democrat Voice article by John Kelly).

You can read my speeches and the motion here.

Firstly, the IHRA definition is clear that it is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel and lastly, I did not want to single out the Jewish community over geopolitics that they have no link with, no control over, and are not responsible for. As we did adopt the APPG definition of Islamophobia without clarification …

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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.

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WATCH: Luciana Berger describe her experience of anti-semitic abuse in the Labour Party

Lib Dem MP Luciana Berger described her experience of anti-semitism in the Labour Party at a campaign event today. Watch here;

This came on the day Jo Swinson signed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition on antisemitism, which all candidates are being asked to sign this Election.

The party published its plan for Equalities and Human Rights  today, which covers everything from protecting civil liberties, banning use of facial recognition technology for police surveillance, protecting the Human Rights Act, a Lovelace Code of ethics to cover use of personal data and ending the snoopers’ charter on communications data to extending equal marriage and abolishing the unfair spousal veto and reinstating marriages which were forced to be dissolved because of the gender recognition process.

Chuka Umunna said we would take on the right wing forces of nationalism:

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LibLink: Layla Moran – We must talk about Palestine, without being antisemitic


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Over on the Guardian website, Layla Moran has written an opinion piece which says that the anti-semitism scandal in Labour is creating a fear among MPs of speaking out for the Palestinian right to equality, justice and statehood. Layla writes:

My mother is Palestinian. These issues are deeply personal; we still have family in the West Bank. I am very worried that, at this critical juncture in the history of the region, activists, parliamentarians and journalists feel that they cannot speak out for fear of being branded as antisemitic. My plea is that we must speak more about Palestine, not less, and in this current climate it is something members of both houses of parliament have confided that they are more fearful than ever to do.

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++Seven MPs quit Labour and form “The Independent Group”

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From the BBC:

Seven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and anti-Semitism.

They are: Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

Ms Berger said Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to stay.

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An Open Letter to Luciana Berger

Dear Luciana,

As someone who spent many years as an activist in the Labour and trade union movement I follow developments in your current party closely. From what I can see you are being constantly hounded by people who currently have control of the Labour machine.

You are being attacked both for your policy positions and your Jewish heritage. The recent attempt to put a motion of no confidence in you is as I am sure you realise is a vehicle to ensure that you cannot stand as the partys’ candidate at the next General Election.

I am afraid to say this kind

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8 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Jenny Rathbone Warning Unacceptable – Welsh Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised the decision to only give Cardiff Central AM Jenny Rathbone a formal warning following an investigation into anti-Semitic comments she made.

Jenny Rathbone had already been readmitted into the Welsh Labour Assembly Group in January whilst the investigation was ongoing.

Her remarks about a synagogue in Cyncoed were branded “extremely offensive” by the synagogue’s rabbi Michoel Rose.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented:

It’s extremely disappointing Jenny Rathbone has been admitted to the party with only a formal warning for her comments, which were clearly anti-Semitic.

I can only imagine the

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Federal Board decision on the re-adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of antisemitism

On Tuesday, the Federal Board of the Liberal Democrats debated the re-adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of antisemitism.  In 2016, Tim Farron MP, then Leader, stated in Parliament that the party had adopted this definition. He also noted the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Antisemitism in the UK. Since then the party has used the IHRA definition in complaints and discipline cases involving antisemitism.  

In coming to that decision, as you would expect, we had an informed debate, looking at the IHRA definition and its worked examples (which you can find here and other papers including the Home Affairs Select Committee 2016 Antisemitism Inquiry Report, as well as receiving papers from the Lib Dem Friends of Israel and the Lib Dem Friends of Palestine. 

The Board agreed that the Liberal Democrats reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation*. In so doing, we confirm our commitment to reject and fight antisemitism both inside and outside the party. We recognise and adopt the 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism in full, including its worked examples.

In this context we also confirmed that Liberal Democrats also believe that freedom of speech is a fundamental right and a key feature of any democratic society and we noted the contents of House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee’s 2016 report on Antisemitism in the UK in this regard which said: 

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A time to speak out?

It was in fact the mid-seventies but looking back it seems more like Victorian times. Rows and rows of little kids in red and grey uniform and we chirruped in unison from a hymn we were far too little to understand about how to “master self and temper, how to make our conduct fair, when to speak and when be silent, when to do and when forbear”.

When as Liberals should we be silent and when should we speak out?

Three examples for your consideration:

On the school run I walk alongside a mum, like me, whose family go back many, many years in this town. She has assumed we are on the same wavelength. We make small talk about how the town has grown and changed. Out she comes with: “There weren’t any black people here when we were young were there Ruth?” I hesitated, I admit I hesitated, the school run is not a political occasion but her tone and inference were clear and I replied as gently as I could by asking her if she had a problem with that (ie that the town was now multi-racial). She scuttled back into her shell and waffled about how “it” just showed how the town has changed. She has hardly spoken to me since.

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Andrew Stunell MP writes…Tackling anti-semitism at home and abroad

We may have had a peaceful summer at home but overseas the situation was anything but relaxed, not least in Gaza where the tension between Israel and Palestine spilled over into violence and bloodshed. Whatever your interpretation of events there, nothing can excuse the fact that the resultant anger and hurt felt by many was channelled by a few into violence against British Jews, leading to a 400% increase in recorded antisemitic incidents in the last quarter. That was a pattern repeated across Europe, which is why as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism I joined a delegation of MPs to Berlin and Paris in order to learn the lessons of the summer. Our findings will help to inform a new parliamentary report into antisemitism now being drawn up.

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