The EHRC adopts the trope that Jews are a tribe

JVL Introduction

The EHRC has fallen foul of its own strictures against stereotyping and discrimination.

It does so, argues the author of this article, by treating the Jewish community as a single entity; and, within the confirms of the Labour Party, accepting JLM as the sole Jewish stakeholder, blanking out those represented, for example, by Jewish Voice for Labour.

It is one thing for JLM to claim to be such, quite another for the EHRC, a statutory body which campaigns against stereotyping, to fall into this trap.

In its educational programme Challenging stereotypes it is quite clear that stereotyping involves believing that people of a certain group are all the same when they aren’t, explaining that, “Stereotypes are often based on old-fashioned ideas or are deliberately untrue and designed to hurt people.”

A shame – and a scandal – that the EHRC falls prey to these very damaging illusions, as the author argues.

In the current febrile atmosphere where speaking out on a whole range of topical issues is banned by the General Secretary, the author has asked to remain anonymous.

The EHRC adopts the trope that Jews are a tribe

The EHRC report states that training has to be acceptable to the Jewish community stakeholders, but only makes reference to one such stakeholder, the self-styled Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). It ignores Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), which has many hundreds of Jewish Labour Party members, and which made a lengthy submission to the EHRC

The report states: ‘the right course now is […] the commitment made by Sir Keir Starmer to re-engaging the JLM to lead on training about antisemitism.’ (p.94) This reveals a political partiality by the EHRC. But more significantly, the report uncritically treats ‘the Jewish community’ as one homogeneous group with a singular point of view. This is stereotyping, making the EHRC itself open to the criticism of discrimination.

JLM made a substantial submission to the EHRC in which it claimed there are high levels of antisemitism in the Labour Party. In a response to that submission, JVL, which had put in its own submission, sent the EHRC a substantial critique of JLM’s allegations. The only reference to it in the report is as evidence received (p.126); there is no indication that any of it was taken into account. Instead the EHRC seems to have taken all the allegations at face value, subjecting them to no critical assessment with regard to their origin, nature or outcomes.

By adopting the above stereotype of the Jewish community, by not looking at alternative Jewish experiences and opinions the EHRC, whether intentionally or by default, endorsed the JLM narrative that the Party is host to the alleged high levels of antisemitism.

The EHRC treats JLM as the stakeholder for the entire ‘Jewish community’ in the Labour Party. It cannot be unaware that JLM believes JVL to have ‘acted… to protect and support those engaging in antisemitism’ a notion which we utterly reject. Indeed the EHRC has de facto concurred with this position by failing to include JVL as a stakeholder.

The EHRC compounds its partiality where it states: “the practice of allowing untrained individuals to make important decisions […] (on) antisemitism complaints puts Jewish members at a particular disadvantage” (p.95) – it studiously omits to mention that many of those complained about were Jews who were put at a very different disadvantage to those making the complaints.

When the EHRC stereotyping of Jews is unpacked a dangerous development is revealed:

The EHRC stereotypes the Jewish community (ies) in the UK by selecting as sole representative a Jewish group which makes a particular notion and belief about Jewish identity a condition of membership – namely topromote the centrality of Israel in Jewish life.

This serves to endorse claims by the Israeli political leadership that, on the basis that all Jews have the right to become citizens of Israel (the ‘right of return’) they have the right to speak for all Jews.

Through its stereotyping of UK Jews the EHRC denies the existence of Jews in the Jewish communities who do not identify with Israel in this way and who reject its claim to speak for or to represent them. This stereotyping is discriminatory against those Jews who have different beliefs about their Jewish identity.

Many Jews in this group are deeply committed to human rights as fundamental to universal human values and to    Jewish values. While almost all Jewish groups would say they accept these as well, many seem unable to apply them in the context of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the consequent violations of Palestinian human rights.

The EHRC by only referencing ‘establishment’ UK Jewish groups by default denies the existence of the alternative Jewish voices, and thereby negates their values.

This denial of Jews of the natural diversity of human societies is demeaning. The EHRC, as a powerful British establishment body, is exercising a form of oppression which is offensive and hurtful.

The Trope of the Jewish Tribe

But most critically the EHRC is exercising a racial stereotyping of Jews where Jews are defined as a tribe, with a tribal identity, of one mind and with tribal loyalty. Astoundingly, this plays straight into the historical narrative of classic antisemitism.

The EHRC Contradicts the Principles of its own Education Programme

The EHRC in its education programmes Challenging stereotypes recognises the relationship between stereotyping and discrimination, and has extensive and admirable teaching plans for schools for use by teachers taking Equality and Human Rights classes:

Learning Area 2 is headed “How different groups of people can be stereotyped and discriminated against”

Outcomes to be achieved include “know(ing) the meaning of stereotypes and challenge stereotypical thinking”

Slide 4 defines stereotyping as “…believing that people of a certain group are all the same when the aren’t”, explaining that, “Stereotypes are often based on old-fashioned ideas or are deliberately untrue and designed to hurt people”

The British Council’s Race Equality Guide states, “Racism operates at a range of levels […] often through deeply embedded stereotypes that lead to harsher judgements and treatment or a denial of the impact of circumstances and distinct needs”. (p.7)

This stereotyping of Jewish communities by the EHRC reveals an inconsistency, if not a degree of hypocrisy, which is shameful and should be addressed. To start with its members could do worse than enrol on their own education courses.

However, the capacity of the EHRC to address racism is seriously called into question by the House of Commons Joint Select Committee on Human Rights report Black people, racism and human rights (9.11.2020) where it concludes:

There are currently no Black commissioners on the EHRC. This has left the Black community without a clear visible champion for their rights. At national level there is no organisation whose priority it is to champion race equality and lead the drive for progress. (Para 100)

Their failure to grasp the issues relating to the racism manifest by antisemitism appears to be further evidence of its incapacity to lead.

Comments (12)

  • rc says:

    Correct. pp 55 and 94 of the EHRC report are plainly antisemitic mainly in a ‘tribalizing’ mode. p 55 labels Jews as whining, pushy and clannish (in a politer, pseudo-statistical manner with no evidence at all supplied.
    Anyone who does not vote to reject these pages is engaging (perhaps by default, but none the better for that) in constructive antisemitic racism.

    End of!

  • Philip Ward says:

    This is a good article, but I have two criticisms. Firstly, how can you (rightly) complain that the EHRC treats all Jews as a single, monolithic entity and then say that universal human values (a slightly strange term in itself) are “Jewish values”? Are these values that all Jews hold? We wouldn’t talk about “Christian values”. Does Donald Trump have “Christian values” because he is a Christian? Were the crusades an expression of Christian values?

    Secondly, it is now not the case that there are no black EHRC commissioners. Liz Truss has just appointed 4 new commissioners, one of which is the black Tory peer Baron Ribeiro. Also appointed is David Goodhart, who – according to a piece on Tyskysour said that his children think he’s a racist and has an Islamophobic article in the Guardian, in which he quotes approvingly the new chair of EHRC, “Muslim peer Kishwer Falkner” as implying that Muslims are reluctant to condemn terrorists like the Taliban or Al Qaida. In another article, he is described as a supporter of the hostile environment and “white self-interest”. We’re going to have fun with that lot.

  • This is not a question of the EHRC’s capacity or competence. In this particular case, they have acted so far outside any objective or balanced reporting (such as in the evidence they have ignored or excluded), it is clear that they have acted guided by other motivations. These can reasonably be assumed to be political and social considerations.

  • Dave Bradney says:

    I’m a bit old-fashioned, and all this stuff about tropes and memes bothers me a lot. Is there some kind of committee that decides when what used to be an ordinary form of words has become an official trope or meme? Thus excluding it from some types of polite or even legal discourse. A sort of Academie Francaise? Who elects or appoints the members of this committee? On the other hand, is reference to tropes and memes just a very emphatic way of stating your personal opinion, so that it stands a better chance of being obeyed? I wish more people would object and get very vociferous when tropes and memes are brandished. My attitude is that language is there for everyone to use if they choose to. It is part of our common heritage. The use of language should not be subject to coercive forms of control.

  • Chris Chilton says:

    Very helpful in bringing clarity to a distressing and disturbing period in UK politics.

  • Alam McGowan says:

    Liked and agreed with the article. And although a bit tangential I agree with Dave Bradney. The use of terms like meme or trope should be banned in serious argument. They are emotional and not factual terms and people attempt to use them as ‘evidence’ or even ‘accepted truths’ to foreclose an argument or bolster a poor argument. Honest opinion based on sound logic, internal consistency and compelling evidence is never improved by reference to memes or tropes.

  • Kathleen Bellucci says:

    I would have hoped that this kind of stereotyping across any nationality had long gone let alone in 2020, my husband is Italian and people always said he must be a waiter and my daughter was called a pakistani many times, have we never moved on. The early Jewish settlers in Israel were mostly Labour and to the left, do wish people were more informed about the history of all peoples.

  • Jan Brooker says:

    Very good article that I’ve shared on *lefty* sites widely.

  • Stephen Richards says:

    I do not seek to speak on behalf of anyone but myself. My son is black & I have black sister. My skin is white, but my father’s family are gypsies, but in the words of the poet, Bob Marley, “until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes……….everywhere is war!”
    The composition of the panel of EHRC commissioners needs careful consideration & begs questions about impartiality, but to use tokenism as a remedy begs more questions……the appointment of Trevor Phillips would have sufficed & fulfilled the terms & conditions of the bourgeoisie.
    The composition & practices of the EHRC cannot be questioned; who are these people, whose interests do they serve & how independent are they? It would appear that most of their practices are secret & anonymous to ensure that there can be no debate.
    They claim to have selected 70 complaints from a total of just over 200. Following the McPherson Principle, all complaints are racist if the complainant says they are. Who were the complainants & what were the complaints? Does the complainant have an agenda? We are not allowed to investigate for ourselves. Dare you question?

  • Mike Scott says:

    I realise this may well be a complete waste of time, but I do think it’s worth taking up the issues outlined in the article with the EHRC directly. I assume they would be obliged to give some sort of response and would be interested to see what it was!

  • Jackie Fearnley says:

    What a relief to read this article after having made a complaint to the BBC on the same theme.

  • rc says:

    Since we are agreed (see another article and string on this website giving argued examples) that using the phrase ‘the Jewish community’ is an AS expression, we should enter a formal complaint every time a frontbencher LP spokesperson uses that phrase. Anne-Liese Dodds on today’s Marr programme is a good (bad) example, and Starmer seems to use it almost every time hopes his mouth.
    Use the LP website:

    Making a complaint to the Labour › members › my-welfare › making-a complaint

    to grass these people up. do it regularly and frequently, giving precise and accurate descriptions A single use of the phrase is enough to generate each complaint, and the more the merrier.
    We should insist on not being anonymous, and mention the right of the respondent to confront the complainant.
    Good hunting. We might start a thought process in place of the unreflective bleating which no doubt engages these people’s sense of virtue signalling.

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