‘Labour Antisemitism’ Allegations are Usually Wrong. Disagree? Just Ask the IHRA

Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alan Maddison show that expressions of ‘antisemitic’ stereotypes rarely qualify as antisemitic under the IHRA’s own core definition.

“Those calling for summary expulsions of Labour members, without evidence for any motivation of ‘hatred towards Jews’,  have not understood the very IHRA guidelines they imposed.”

The reality is that “speech that reflects discriminatory stereotypes can often result from ignorance or insensitivity rather than malevolence.” It can only be dealt with via full, frequent and fearless discussion.

Note: This is a summary. See here for a more detailed discussion and methodology.

Introduction

Criticism of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism has focused on its associated list of ‘illustrative’ examples, which effectively stigmatise and enable the censorship of wholly legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.

Yet even as the IHRA’s examples illegitimately expand the scope of ‘antisemitism’, the IHRA’s core definition narrows it to a ‘perception . . . which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews’[*]:

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 Labour Party was steamrollered into adopting the IHRA in 2018, and faces pressure to apply it in disciplinary cases involving allegations of antisemitic speech.

The question therefore arises: How often will expressions of ‘antisemitic’ stereotypes, such as those listed by the IHRA, qualify as antisemitic under the IHRA’s core definition?

We applied the IHRA definition to published data on UK antisemitism. Our findings follow.

 

1. At most 2.4 percent of the UK’s adult population is antisemitic as defined by the IHRA

           

 

2. The vast majority of people who believe at least one ‘anti-Jewish’ stereotype do not harbour any hatred toward Jews

Those alleging a crisis of antisemitism in the Labour Party typically treat expressed negative stereotypes about Jews as self-evidently antisemitic.

But in order to judge an expressed stereotype about Jews as antisemitic on the basis of the IHRA, additional evidence of antisemitic motivation – ‘taking into account the overall context’ – is needed.

And survey evidence indicates that fewer than one in twelve of people who believe in at least one ‘anti-Jewish’ stereotype also harbour hatred toward Jews. (Figure 2)

If an expressed ‘anti-Jewish’ stereotype is interpreted as proof of antisemitism, the risk of an incorrect verdict is high.

  

[18 July at 20.28: this amended Figure 2 now matches that in the longer version of this article.]

3. Only a tiny fraction of ‘anti-Israel’ statements are accompanied by antisemitism

Approximately one in twenty-five Labour voters who believe Israel to be an apartheid state and one in sixteen Labour voters who endorse a boycott of Israeli goods and products also harbour hatred toward Jews. The overwhelming majority do not.

 

4. There is more antisemitism on the right than on the left.

     

 

5. There is more antisemitism among Conservative voters than among Labour voters.

      

 

6. There is more antisemitism among Conservative Party members than among Labour Party members.

      

Survey data indicates that there is a greater proportion of very right-wing people in the Conservative Party than among Conservative voters, and a smaller proportion of Muslims in the Labour Party than among Labour voters. The prevalence of antisemitism within both these constituencies is disproportionately high.

Adjusting for these differences, we calculate that 3.7 percent of Conservative members are antisemitic versus 1.6 percent of Labour members. (Figure 5)

Conclusion

We have shown, in line with previous examinations of the data, that antisemitism among Labour constituencies is marginal and less prevalent than among Conservative constituencies.

There is some genuine antisemitism within the Labour Party. But the overwhelming media focus on Labour Party members — among whom there is likely less antisemitism than on the right, in the Conservative Party and in society as a whole — is a distortion that amounts to a political campaign under the guise and at the expense of genuine anti-racism.

There is also a more fundamental lesson here that applies beyond the current furore.

The IHRA was right to distinguish between negative stereotypes and ‘hatred’.

As Nadine Strossen, long-time former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, observes: ‘speech that reflects discriminatory stereotypes can often result from ignorance or insensitivity rather than malevolence’.

This is true for the vast majority of those who harbour one or more stereotypes about Jews, particularly in the case of left-wingers, Labour voters and Labour members.

Those pundits and political campaigners hounding the Labour Party over alleged disciplinary failures and demanding harsh sanctions against members, often without the slightest evidence that they harbour hatred toward Jews, ought to bear this in mind.

The correct approach to such stereotypes remains that put forward by one of the giants of the left-liberal tradition, John Stuart Mill, in his classic work On Liberty: full, frequent and fearless discussion.

 


[*] If the implication of ‘may’ is taken seriously, then the IHRA does not exclude any ‘perception’ of Jews and so fails as a definition. We have therefore proceeded on the basis of the text’s concrete element: ‘hatred toward Jews’. Cf. Hugh Tomlinson QC’s Opinion (March 2017) on the IHRA, para. 7.

Link to the longer version here.

Comments (8)

  • S H says:

    anti-Semitism has been weaponised pure and simple in order to attack the Labour Party. Meanwhile the same idiots and broadcasters stay remarkablely silent about the growth of far right fascism and violence, tory toffs calling Muslims/immigrants vermin, deporting elderly Windrush citizens, some disgracefully dying as a result of their terrible openly hostile policies. It must be the wrong type of racisim (they don’t care that it’s ordinary people getting attacked while they are protected in their mansions) and the Jews who support Jeremy Corbyn are ‘the wrong type of Jews’.

  • jay henderson says:

    I despair of Corbyn`s bland responses to May`s jibes on antisemitism. She knows it is a lie! All Corbyn needs to do is tell her so. Call her the liar that she is.

  • 2nd generation says:

    I am increasingly upset by the exclusion of Jews who are not part of the bizarre overlap between the far right of the British Jewish Community- with its close links with the Likud Government and the Conservative Party on the other and that section of the Labour Party determined to remove Jeremy Corbyn.

    The far right are burning synagogues., Jews are being attacked on the street and the son of the Israeli Prime Minister is tweeting approvingly about Tommy Robinson – but the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Holocaust Education Trust are producing ever more inflammatory rhetoric about the Labour Party

  • Angela McEvoy says:

    This needs to be published on Broadcast and Print media. Although. I have contacted all News Organisation regarding A/S and last weeks farcical documentary, Yet no one would publish. Maybe Metro which reaches our Core vote Nationwide and also Morning Star, Medium and Middle East Eye. I don’t know how else we get our message out JLM have stated today they have written to every member of Shadow Cabinet advising them to act against Corbyn. This interference in our politics is unacceptable.

  • George Wilmers says:

    While I am very sympathetic to the valid points which the authors make in their statistical analysis, their claims which relate this analysis to the so-called IHRA definition are ultimately quixotic and futile. This is because, as pointed out caustically by retired appeal court judge Stephen Sedley, the so-called definition fails the first test of being a definition at all: it is indefinite.

    The statistics are interesting, but it would be more candid to present them as statistics based on a particular very reasonable interpretation of what the IHRA definition MIGHT mean if it were made sufficiently precise to qualify as a definition.

    While in view of the Labour Party’s idiotic decision to adopt the IHRA “definition” it may be tempting to present that definition as having a clear meaning for agitprop purposes, such attempts will inevitably unravel in the harsh light of logical analysis. The existing definition (without the examples) is almost completely vacuous.

  • John says:

    What – to my mind – this article illustrates very clearly is that the Labour Party is failing to provide its members with any form of political education about topics such as antisemitism.
    At one stage, JLM offered to provide antisemitism education and training to the Labour Party but pulled out in a huff over something or another.
    Why are JVL not offering to fill the gap vacated by JLM in this regard?

  • Morgane Dominique Guillemot says:

    I’m curious as to how you define an anti-semitic statement. Do you count it as simply a Jewish stereotype, or only negative Jewish stereotypes?

Comments are now closed.