“Incendiary” antisemitism code may mean more legal challenges from accused Labour Party members

JVL Introduction

In the analysis below, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi looks at the Labour Party’s recently published Code of Conduct on Antisemitism and considers its possible significance for current and past disciplinary cases.

For more detail about the background, see two pieces by Jonathan Cook here and here.

The Labour Party’s newly published Complaints Handling Handbook [link updated 21 Auguest 2021] includes a Code of Conduct about antisemitism adopted by the National Executive Committee in July 2018 and then quietly shelved after being denounced as an example of Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged disdain for Jews.

In September 2018 the party came under extreme pressure to rely exclusively on the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism (IHRA WDA) – despite its manifest flaws. And so the Code of Conduct, described by then NEC member Jon Lansman as “the gold standard”, was thrust aside.

Now, more than two years later, it has emerged that party staff found the non-legally binding IHRA WDA inoperable without reference to the Code. But members facing antisemitism charges were not told this.

Six Labour Activists for Justice (LA4J) and two others supported by the Left Legal Fighting Fund are jointly taking action over what they believe is their unlawful treatment by the Party.

Exposing the hidden code has formed a central part of the LA4J claim because, as they explain on their crowd-funding page, to date, “complainants have been denied the opportunity to understand the Party’s approach to antisemitism before making complaints and respondents have been denied the opportunity to make submissions on it.”

LA4J say they may not be the only people to benefit from publication of the Code.  They say that “everyone still subject to investigation can make submissions on the Code (if relevant) and everyone sanctioned since 2018 could ask for their investigations to be reopened in light of the Code (if it is relevant to their investigations).”

This could apply to hundreds of party members, at least 30 Jews among them.

Too “incendiary” to publish

Why has the Code remained secret for so long? One strong reason emerged during discussion in a High Court hearing on April 1 of a witness statement by Party lawyer Alex Barros-Curtis.  Publishing the Code, he said, would have been “politically incendiary.”

That statement certainly seems plausible, given the uproar that greeted the Code in the summer of 2018. Then commentators and lobbyists hostile to Corbyn lined up to attack the party in outraged terms for what they wrongly labelled “Labour’s definition”. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the Code sent “an unprecedented message of contempt to the Jewish community”. He wrote to NEC members urging them to “make the right decision for Britain”.

In a joint statement, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Jewish Leadership Council Chair Jonathan Goldstein said the party’s decision was “impossible to understand” and further eroded “the existing lack of confidence (sic) that British Jews have in their sincerity to tackle antisemitism within the Labour movement.”

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland tweeted: “It means Labour now holds its members to a lower standard of anti-racism than the law demands.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said the Code “is driven by the pro-Corbyn faction’s obsessive hatred of the Jewish state, and seems to be designed to give free rein to certain forms of antisemitic discourse that have no place in a liberal democratic society.”

Today however, the very same Code of Conduct, with not a word of its 16 paragraphs altered, has provoked no protest from any of these self-proclaimed champions of British Jewry.

There was some grumbling in the Daily Telegraph, which on April 4 bemoaned the fact that the disputes statistics published along with the Handbook revealed very few expulsions. But it reassured its readers that, in the words of a Party spokesman, “The cases highlighted refer to previous decisions which do not reflect the current approach of zero tolerance to anti-Semitism… Under Keir Starmer’s leadership, we are continually improving and strengthening procedures to root out antisemitism from our party.”

Like the recently published Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which goes much further in challenging and undermining the IHRA working definition, Labour’s Code of Conduct has so far been studiously ignored by establishment media previously obsessed with defining and “rooting out” antisemitism.

Labour Activists for Justice comment wryly about the nonchalant reception now for the document that, when championed by Corbyn, was excoriated as giving free rein to antisemitic discourse: “Could it be that the objectors haven’t noticed, or have they all changed their minds and it isn’t antisemitic after all?”


Comments (11)

  • John Bowley says:

    The establishment media and the zionist establishment, all as referred to in this incisive article, contains hypocrites, as was obvious, and also falsifiers.

  • Malcolm Bradstock says:

    Sue Sir Starmer and get back the £600,000 he gave away of LP money to hush up his support for the Israeli Govt Lobby that brought him to power.
    He owns land worth £10,000,000 near London according to the “Tatler”. Just a tenth of that would cover his criminal misuse of Party funds – derived as you say from the mites of penniless LP members.

  • Jimmy Cooper says:

    I hope the Party gets taken to the cleaners by all those expelled, sanctioned and bullied by it. No matter how long it takes.

  • David Townsend says:

    Reading this makes me angry, very angry.

    The Labour Party, of which I was proud to be a member under Jeremy Corbyn, is an utter mess of duplicity. I suppose the only consolation is that much of British society is also a mess of duplicity, from the self-apointed gatekeepers of British Jews, to the MSM, to all those who continue to regurgitate allegations of antisemistism against good people who are nothing of the sort.

    Of course, the real antisemites are those who have weaponised antisemitism for personal gain, be that political, social, or financial.

    I am deeply thankful that I now live in Scotland where we have a genuine alternative for Democratic Socialists like me that has this last week published a manifesto of which Jeremy Corbyn would be proud.

  • Harriet Evans says:

    The current ‘zero tolerance to anti-semitism’ appears as disguise for political double standards and gross hypocrisy. Riveting reading,sadly

  • Jacob Ecclestone says:

    If we attach the names of Jonathan Freedland, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Jonathan Goldstein and Marie van der Zyl to the following definition, is there anything more that needs to be said:

    “Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another or the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles…… ” with acknowledgements to Wikipedia.

    Moral principles?

  • rc says:

    Double standards – how surprising? What more can one say?

  • Charlotte Williams says:

    Well said Naomi. I hope this hypocrisy gets the publicity it deserves and that Sir Keir is asked to answer for it.

  • Margaret West says:

    Speaking generally – it does seem to be true that moral standards
    have gone down in the UK, that what we would have assumed to be
    unacceptable in the past is now greeted by a shrug of the shoulders.
    So yes – British Society is a mess of duplicity ..

    A grandee of the Tory Party was musing about this on morning R4 in a discussion of lobbying and seemed shocked that Johnson was part of it . He appeared to think that this situation was retrievable by Johnson (!) :”He can turn it round – he is intelligent enough and if he puts his mind to it ..”.
    Words fail ..

    As for the arguments with Zionism – it boils down surely to a belief in the State of Israel as essential to the faith of Judaism .. .. which on the surface is really a matter which has absolutely nothing to do with Gentiles. However there is then the position of Palestinians to be considered.

  • Harry Law says:

    With equal finality, par. 15 says: “it is not permissible to use ‘Zionist’ (and still less any pejorative abbreviation such as ‘zio’ which the Chakrabarti report said should have no place in Labour party discourse) as a code word for ‘Jew’.” Not permissible, full-stop.
    What other word can describe such a person, it being a ideological expression? And, since there is probably a 10 to 1 majority of non Jews i.e. Christian Evangelists [particularly in the US] who are described thus, not forgetting most of the Israeli public who use the term frequently. The code, in my opinion is more of an impediment to free speech than the original Chakrabarti report Maybe that was the intention of the code.

  • Margaret West says:

    In agreement with Harry Law – the individuals who were criticised by Jeremy Corbyn as “not understanding irony” were in fact members of the Zionist Federation – one being a previous co-vice-chair. So how else would you describe them but as “Zionists”? He later explained they were “political Zionists” and this certainly passes Chakrabarti who recommended that

    Labour Party members should only use “the term `Zionist’ advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse”.

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