Model resolution on the Labour Party Code of Conduct on Antisemitism

JVL Introduction

Jay Blackwood’s Jewish Dissident blogspot has just published this model resolution and suggested it be circulated widely. Happy to oblige!

Model resolution on the Labour Party Code of Conduct on Antisemitism

Amended composited resolution on the Labour Party Code of Conduct on Anti-Semitism
From Exeter North Labour Party Branch as proposed by Neil Todd

1. This CLP notes the following.

1.1 The Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, as originally drafted by U.S. attorney Kenneth S. Stern, was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on 26 May, 2016.

1.2 The shortcomings of the IHRA document have subsequently been the subject of multiple critical comments from Jewish scholars and commentators. This includes Kenneth Stern, who testified to US Congress on 7th November 2017 that his original definition had been used for an entirely different purpose to that for which it had been designed. According to Stern it had originally been designed as a “working definition” for the purpose of trying to standardise data collection about the incidence of anti-Semitic hate crime in different countries. It had never been intended that it be used as a legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech.

1.3 The House of Commons Home Office Select Committee Report “Anti-Semitism in the UK” of 13 October 2016 proposed amendments to the IHRA document “to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine”.

1.4 “The Global Jewish Statement” was released to the media in July 2018 by 40 Jewish organisations in 15 countries opposed to the IHRA document for its negative impact on a clear understanding of anti-Semitism and its role in suppressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

1.5 The MacPherson principle (derived from the 1999 MacPherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry) specifically does not give members of an ethnic or religious group the sole right to determine what is or is not racist conduct, i.e. a perception of racist behaviour is not sufficient to establish that such behaviour has actually occurred but must be supported with independent evidence of racist intent.

1.6 That the NEC Code of Conduct on Anti-Semitism agreed in July 2018:

  1. states emphatically “Labour is an anti-racist party. Anti-Semitism is racism. It is unacceptable in our Party and in wider society.”;
  2. fully incorporates the 38-word IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and clarifies the controversial aspects of guidance notes attached to it;
  3. emphasises the vital distinction between (i) anti-Semitism, properly understood as hostility or hatred directed at Jews and (ii) legitimate criticism of the state of Israel or the ideology of Zionism;
  4. confirms that opinion about Israel, Palestine and Zionism may be judged to be racist where there is evidence of anti-Semitic intent, consistent with the MacPherson recommendations;
  5. commits to protecting freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998, including contentious opinions about Israel and its policies, and about political strategies seeking to influence them.

1.7 The NEC at its meeting on 4th September agreed to adopt all 11 “examples” associated with the IHRA definition as additions to the July Code but the final Code is still being consulted on and Jeremy Corbyn’s statement to the 4th September NEC is being considered as part of that consultation, including as part of the democracy review. The exact Party public announcement following the 4th September meeting was the following.”The NEC has today adopted all of the IHRA examples of antisemitism, in addition to the IHRA definition which Labour adopted in 2016, alongside a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians. The NEC welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s statement to the meeting about action against antisemitism, solidarity with the Jewish community and protection of Palestinian rights, as an important contribution to the consultation on Labour’s code of conduct.”

2. This CLP believes that:

2.1 the July NEC Code gives clearer and stronger guidance than previous codes and definitions on what anti-Semitism is and what it is not; and

2.2 portraying British Jews as one monolithic bloc all determined to police what may or may not be said about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians is dangerous and wrong, and such a portrayal is anti-Semitic.

3. This CLP, therefore, calls on the NEC to:

3.1 work with Jeremy Corbyn in order to ensure that his 4th September statement, or similar, is incorporated into the Code of Conduct in order to ensure that the inclusion of the additional IHRA examples does not impair the July Code protections on freedom of expression, including contentious opinions about Israel, its policies, and about political strategies seeking to influence them;

3.2 include a broad range of Jewish opinion in any further consultations; and

3.3 mobilise to fight the alarming rise of racism of all kinds in the UK and abroad.

Comments (2)

  • Pete Winstanley says:

    An excellent resolution.
    On the same subject, this letter from me was printed in the Northern Echo on October 1st:

    The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism is not a sacred text; it was never intended as anything more than a “non-legally binding working definition.”
    It has been harshly criticised by four eminent British lawyers – Geoffrey Robertson QC, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Geoffrey Bindman QC and Sir Stephen Sedley. The latter two are Jewish.
    According to Sedley, “It fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.” Tomlinson says it is “unclear and confusing and should be used with caution.” Robertson says it is “not fit for any purpose that seeks to use it as an adjudicative standard. It is imprecise, confusing and open to misinterpretation and even manipulation.” Bindman says it is “poorly drafted, misleading, and in practice has led to the suppression of legitimate debate and freedom of expression.”
    Labour’s Code of Conduct on Antisemitism was drafted by the NEC’s Equalities subcommittee including two Jewish members. It was intended to provide clear and unambiguous guidance for Party members, and a sound basis for disciplinary action. It included the IHRA definition, but, for good reason, not all of its “illustrative examples.” As Geoffrey Bindman said, “Far from watering down or weakening it, Labour’s Code strengthens it by addressing forms of discrimination that the IHRA overlooked.”
    It would be a shame if the campaign of character assassination against Jeremy Corbyn forced Labour to adopt some sort of confusing fudge in place of its original Code.
    Pete Winstanley

    PS. I wonder what Margaret Hodge makes of Geoffrey Bindman’s view that “Far from watering down or weakening it, Labour’s Code strengthens it by addressing forms of discrimination that the IHRA overlooked.”
    This directly contradicts her own claim that the NEC “rewrote the definition to weaken and change it.”

  • Tony Booth says:

    I think the backround to the model resolution is entirely accurate and a very good summary of what has happened. I also appreciate Peter Winstanley above comment very much. I wonder if strategically we have to accept the past for the moment and push home the following two issues in the motions from our CLPs:
    The Labour Party is opposed to racism in all its forms including anti-semitism and is committed to actively combatting it across society. The CLP notes with horror the rise in racism across Europe and in the USA. While the evidence suggests that there is no more antisemitism in the Labour Party than in other Parties, and there is much less than on the far right of British politics, the CLP is determined to remove any antisemitism and other forms of racism from our Party.

    The Labour Party has adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. We assert the determination of the CLP not to allow the adoption of this definition to curtail the expression of the right to free speech about Israel and Palestine including criticism of present and past Israeli governments and laws, the circumstances surrounding the formation of the Israeli State, expressions of support for justice for Palestinians and the right to advocate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the occupying power.

    What do others think?

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