JVL Introduction

This motion, drafted before yesterday’s NEC decision was known, was passed at a branch in Islington North this evening, 5th September 2018. Suitably modified in the light of the outcome of the NEC meeting, it will be forwarded to the Islington North GC.

We publish it here as a guide, identifying as it does some principles which should underpin any motions on this subject

Motion on antisemitism and policymaking in the Labour Party

The Labour Party has come under extreme pressure to accept wholesale and without question or qualification the Working Definition of Antisemitism drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), despite only six of the 31 IHRA member countries endorsing and adopting it. Most recently, this has taken the form of a non-negotiable demand to rescind the decision taken by the NEC in July to adopt a new Code of Conduct on Antisemitism, which clarifies ambiguities in the IHRA document and ensures freedom of speech on Israel and Zionism where such speech is not antisemitic.

As a result of this pressure, the NEC decided to revisit this decision at its 4th September meeting.

At the time of writing, the outcome of that discussion is not known, but whatever decision is made, Islington North CLP urges the Party to confidently assert its commitment to internationalism and its support for the Palestinian struggle for equal rights and against the illegal occupation, including support for Jewish and Palestinian activists campaigning together within Israel.

Drawing, in part, on the NEC Code of Conduct, this CLP confirms the following principles:
• Labour is an anti-racist party. Antisemitism is racism. It is unacceptable in our Party and in wider society.
• While consultation with wider groups is important, Labour Party members make policy, and cannot be made to feel inhibited about participating or intervening in debate about Israel/Palestine.
• There is a vital distinction between antisemitism, properly understood as hostility or hatred directed at Jews, and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel or the ideology of Zionism. Opinion about Israel Palestine and Zionism may be judged to be racist where there is evidence of antisemitic intent, but the assumption should be that support for Palestinian human rights is not directed against Jews but is expressed in good faith, in line with anti-racist principles and out of a desire for justice and equality.
• Labour accepts the MacPherson recommendations in the Stephen Lawrence Report, that allegations of racism must be taken seriously and investigated in accord with due process, which means, in a fair and timely fashion and based on verifiable evidence.
• Labour is committed to protecting freedom of expression, including contentious opinions as guaranteed by the Human Rights Act 1998. This includes opinions about Israel and its policies, and about political strategies seeking to influence them.

This CLP therefore calls on the Labour Party at all levels to:
• make clear and detailed commitments to support Palestinian rights.
• include a broad range of Jewish opinion in further consultations, which might mean one-to-one or small group meetings, and build constructive relationships with Jews with whom Labour shares common ground, both within and beyond the Party
• confidently resist pressure from bodies that are hostile to the Labour project or to the leadership to compromise on any of the above principles.
• facilitate and encourage wide-ranging discussion on all these issues, which is neither led nor limited by the agendas of official organisations or institutions.
• work with a range of minorities, including Jews to develop robust, common responses to the alarming rise of the racist far right, in this country and across the world, particularly in Europe.