European Jewish Congress
UK Labour adopts new antisemitism rules after conference row
United Kingdom
UK Labour adopts new antisemitism rules after conference row

Britain’s main opposition Labour party is to adopt tough new rules to tackle antisemitism following a heated debate at the party’s annual conference.

The change comes after Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, pledged that the party would investigate how it gave a platform at a conference fringe event to a speaker, Miko Peled, who said people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust happened.

The rule change proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement, which has been backed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the party’s national executive committee, will tighten explicitly the party’s stance towards members who are antisemitic or use other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.

Momentum, the grassroots far-left group that has been Corbyn’s key support base, told delegates in its daily alert on Tuesday that they should vote in favour of the motion. The majority of the delegates at this year’s conference are aligned with Momentum.

Although the majority of Labour members backed the amendment, there was heated debate after the change was proposed in the conference hall.

Delegate Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who chaired the controversial fringe event on Monday night, was one of those who spoke against the rule change.

Wimborne-Idrissi, one of the founders of the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Labour, said she was concerned the change referenced the “holding of beliefs” as opposed to expressing them. “Holding them? That’s thought crime, comrades, and we can’t be having it,” she said.

Hastings and Rye delegate Leah Levane also attacked the JLM’s change, saying the group did not speak for all Jews in the party.

Levane’s local party had proposed an alternative change, which described anti-Zionism as “legitimate political discourse” that should not be taken as evidence of hatred of Jews, but it said she would withdraw this because “the pressure is too great … We are not going to be risk being seen as the splitters”.

JLM’s Mike Katz, who was Labour’s candidate for Hendon in the general election, said the group did not want to stifle criticism of Israel.

“This spirit of our rule change is that it is outrageous there is nothing in our rule book that explicitly makes bullying, discrimination and harassment of ethnic minorities an offence. If you support another party, you are out. If you engage in hate speech, it is not so clear,” he said.

“This rule change puts it right. Repairing the once-strong relationship between our party and the Jewish community, with so many shared values, is a political imperative as well as a moral one.

Other speakers said the rule change did not go far enough. Zach Murrell-Dowson, a delegate from Bristol North West, said antisemitism was the only form of bigotry where a common response was not to accept the complaint, but to question the motives of the complainant.

“Jewish members have seen Labour party members share antisemitic cartoons or talk about an all-powerful Jewish lobby,” he said. “Those who say they have been silenced merely for criticism of the Israeli government are simply wrong. We can and should have free speech on Israel, but we must confront antisemitism in our party.”

The party was engulfed in an antisemitism row on the morning of the rule change debate, after remarks by Peled, an Israeli-American author, at an event on free speech and Israel. The Daily Mail reported that he said: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.

A party spokesman said: “Labour condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms and our national executive committee unanimously passed tough new rule changes last week. All groupings in the party should treat one another with respect. We will not tolerate antisemitism or Holocaust denial.”

Click here to read the full article in The Guardian

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
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President's Page Security and Crisis Centre by EJC European Parliament Working Group On Antisemitism