The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism and Labour


The classic definition of antisemitism- “hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people” – according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism– there are 11 examples given, 7 of which relate to Israel. The principal one used against activists is “to declare Israel a racist endeavour”. The full definition can be found on the IHRA website here.

Semite– a member of any of the peoples who speak or spoke a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs

Zionist– a supporter of Zionism; a person who believes in the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.

In 2015, when Zionists started calling for the IHRA Definition to be adopted everywhere, barristers and judges- of integrity (many Jewish)- were quick to point out its shortcomings. Even one of its authors was dismayed; Kenneth Stern said “The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus.”

Jamie Stern-Weiner has penned an up-to-date analysis of its misuse; see it on the Free Speech on Israel website.: “IHRA-The Politics of a Definition” . And for a really great perspective of what’s going on, read “The chimera of British anti-Semitism, and how not to fight it if it were real” by Norman G. Finkelstein see page 19 of Socialist Fight Pamphlet no 1

Who’s behind promoting the IHRA?

Key players in declaring that antisemitism exists (when it does not) are the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the three Jewish newspapers – and of course the Israeli Government. (It is estimated that 70% of the UK’s 300,000 Jews support Israel). Much of the hysteria within Labour has been stirred up by the JLM, which was relaunched in 2015 with the specific aim of dethroning Corbyn. (Read this great piece by Jonathan Cook, Jewish Labour Movement was Revived to Deal with Corbyn)

Zionists and Israel identified him as the greatest threat to the Zionist project- they were resolute that there should never be a British Prime Minister who was critical of their apartheid regime. There is plenty of evidence to support that Israel is directly behind the scourge of bogus antisemitism. The undercover investigative documentary “The Lobby- Part 1” showed JLM supporters conspiring with the Israel embassy to discredit the Labour party and its leader. [There is a whole suite of programmes in the Lobby series which forensically analyse Israel’s role in shaping UK and US politics; they are essential viewing for campaigners].

So how did Israel create this tool for its defence? Alison Weir, in her “If Americans Knew” blog of 17 May 2017 explains how they achieved it: see- International campaign is criminalizing criticism of Israel as ‘antisemitism’ .

In August 2018, Nathan Thrall wrote this very thorough piece on BDS in the Guardian, where three-quarters of the way in, he said ‘Perhaps Israel’s most powerful tool in the campaign against delegitimisation has been to accuse the country’s critics of antisemitism. Doing so required changing official definitions of the term. This effort began during the final years of the second intifada, in 2003 and 2004, as pre-BDS calls to boycott and divest from Israel were gaining steam. At that time, a group of institutes and experts, including Dina Porat – a Tel Aviv University scholar who had a been a member of the Israeli foreign ministry’s delegation to the 2001 UN world conference against racism in Durban, South Africa – proposed creating a new definition of antisemitism that would equate serious criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews.’ The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) were prevailed upon to create this new definition and the US State Department lent a hand. It was honed over the noughties and was ready for use by 2015. One of it’s authors, Kenneth Stern, a noted Zionist, now condemns its use to stem freedom of speech.

The content of this article: The government that cried ‘wolf!’ on the deficiencies of the IHRA is pointed but unexceptional, what is significant is its publication in the ultra-mainstream Ynet news (in Nov 2018). In summary: The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is problematic, as there is a difference between hatred of Jews and opposition to the policies of the Israeli government. If Israel continues to cry ‘wolf,’ international Jewry may find that valid cries of anti-Semitism end up falling on deaf ears.

Palestinians are well aware of the threat the IHRA poses to their securing equal rights. On the 28th August 2018, just before Labour’s NEC were to discuss adoption of the full IHRA, OpenDemocracy UK gave Palestinians their space to comment. “Labour must reject biased IHRA definition that stifles advocacy for Palestinian rights“. They say of the IHRA ” ‘This non-legally binding definition attempts to erase Palestinian history, demonise solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality, suppress freedom of expression, and shield Israel’s far-right regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid from effective measures of accountability in accordance to international law.’

(Even back then, there was no disputing it was apartheid, as the the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia had noted in its 2017 report: “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.”)

How did Israel get everyone to adopt the IHRA Definition?

Activists within Zionist agencies in the UK, working with Israel, set about convincing major bodies that Jews were at risk and that the only way they could be protected was by adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. From 2015 to 2018, they largely succeeded. This was achieved through cultivating a hysteria in the media that Jews felt vulnerable without it; Rea Wolfson in the Scotsman July 2018, for example. Rea served on Labour’s NEC and she and Jon Lansman were key in getting Labour to adopt the IHRA definition.

All the major trade unions (bar the PCS) adopted it (Wolfson, for example, was active in the GMB). As did all the major political parties (bar the Greens) and the UK government. It is important to note that at no time were rank and file party members and trade unionists invited to debate the matter. In every case, Zionists – Jewish officers or senior elected members at the top of these bodies- were able to convince their Executives that it must be adopted in order for Jews to feel safe. Labour was the toughest nut to crack, given Corbyn’s views: but the major trade unions all hold two seats each on Labour’s NEC, so once the unions had adopted it, they were mandated to get the NEC to do the same-and the combined votes of them, plus NEC CLP reps such as Lansman and Wolfson, plus LFI politicians was enough to force it through.

And in the context of arguing for its adoption, these Zionists had leverage on account of the UK’s Holocaust guilt (the UK had done little to help the Jews during WW2). And so the Executives complied. Thus at a stroke millions of UK citizens lost their full freedom of speech on Israel. It was a clever approach- these bodies, not being publicly funded, were not bound by freedom of speech legislation. Suddenly, campaigning against apartheid in Israel could see you suspended, expelled, shunned or even unemployed.

Around 40% of UK local authorities – who are publicly funded- have adopted the definition, which means Council workers must beware. Council bosses can argue that those breaching the IHRA Definition have “brought the Council into disrepute”. Paul Johnson was suspended for declaring Israel racist- but after a strong campaign, the charges were dropped. See Paul’s story on our Rogues Gallery page.

Colleges and Universities are under ongoing pressure to adopt the IHRA too. In January 2021, UK Gov Secretary Gavin Williamson told university vice-chancellors that if a majority of universities failed to adopt the IHRA definition by December, then he would take action, alluding to the possibility of funding cuts. Lawyers and judges wrote to him to complain about this action, but it is still on the cards. In Jan 2022, Tory Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said adoption of the definition was ‘essential, not optional’ for UK universities. But other countries academic associations have successfully resisted the imposition of the IHRA- Canada, most recently.

If your trade union expels you for bogus AS, please join Prospect. They have not adopted the IHRA definition and will represent you, wherever you work. And note- the only major party not to adopt the definition is the Greens.

One might wonder what Liberty, our very own civil rights body, is doing about the IHRA Definition? Precisely nothing, in spite of having adopted an AGM motion against it. See Tony Greenstein’s blog of October 2018 Why are the Officers and Employees of Liberty Refusing to Implement its Policy of Opposition to the IHRA? In 2019 Pete Gregson struggled at their AGM to get some action too, with no more success. Sadly, luminaries such as Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, support the IHRA Definition, so they probably think they’re doing right.

Anti-Labour propaganda sponsored by Zionists successfully undermined Corbyn

Labour’s anti-Semitism Data: A Public Misunderstanding

Anti-Semitism in Labour? It was never really a problem. But media hysteria portrayed it as one. THE SHAMI CHAKRABARTI INQUIRY of 2016 begins: “The Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism..” So what happened over the following two years? Zionist groups, using the IHRA Definition as a base, used the media to declare that Labour had a problem. The interviewees featured in “Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief ”, published in 2019, thought that 25-40% of Party members had had complaints made about them for antisemitism. In fact, only 0.1% had been investigated!

The figures from General Secretary Jennie Formby of 11 Feb 2019 showed that over the preceding year 1,106 complaints had been lodged: 433 related to non-Labour members; 96 members had been suspended; 146 had a written warning; 211 were served notice of investigation; 220 had insufficient evidence. It shows:

– 99.9% of Labour members had never been accused of antisemitism (530,000 members)
– a huge proportion of claims about ‘Labour’ behaviour didn’t involve Labour members at all
– around a third of complaints that did involve Labour members are so unfounded that they didn’t stand up to the first level of scrutiny

Skwawkbox’s excellent piece said much on the issue. Of course, since then thousands have been driven out of the party for standing up for Palestine and calling out Israel’s racist regime. Read some of their stories on our Rogues Gallery page.

On the 10th July 2019, BBC’s Panorama’s “Is Labour Antisemitic?” implied it really was. But the programme was horribly biased, largely informed by JLM ex-staffers at Labour HQ. RESIST has put together an excellent 1-hour documentary called “Reaching Over the Noise” challenging those claims of antisemitism in Labour- more here.

Greg Philo, lead author of Bad News for Labour remarked in an interview with Jacobin magazine that “Both the BBC and even a paper like the Guardian have contributed to public misunderstanding of this issue. They have a moral duty to discuss the new evidence and analysis that we have offered. But both have not covered it. That is a key source of their power — they can impose silence and simply refuse to discuss their own role.”

A new film is in production “Reaching Over the Noise” which aims to tell the true story of Labour and antisemitism. See the 2-minute trailer here featuring several rabbis (including Rabbi Ahron Cohen of the Neturie Karta) explaining that they believe Labour has been the victim of a lie.

Impact of IHRA on Labour

At the peak of Corbyn’s popularity there were around 530,000 members; now there are around 300,000. Many have left over disappointment at what the Party has become since Corbyn was dethroned; many have been driven out on bogus antisemitism charges. Some resigned after they were investigated or suspended; others were expelled. In the summer of 2021, Labour’s NEC declared it was proscribing four “toxic” organisations which promoted communism, declared anti-Semitism allegations were overblown and demanded whips restore Corbyn as a Labour MP. These included Resist, Labour Against the Witchhunt (who declare anti-Semitism allegations have been politically motivated) and Labour In Exile, (who welcomes expelled or suspended members) – and the communist Socialist Appeal. This resulted in an estimated 1,000 Labour members being expelled, including Ken Loach and veteran campaigner Graham Bash, both supporters of LAW. In January 2022, Rachel Reeves MP said “that it was a “good thing” Labour membership was dropping as it allowed the party to shed unwelcome supporters and rid itself of the “stain” of anti-Semitism.”

The Steve Bell cartoon the Guardian refused to publish in 2019. It features Tom Watson, Corbyn’s deputy, who spearheaded the campaign by right-wing Labour MPs to oust Corbyn; they held common cause with the Zionists

How do we fight it?

The adoption of the definition was never put to the rank and file, so union and party members need to lobby their executives for change. Here is a model motion for your Labour branch, CLP or union branch. Please try and get this adopted so as we can force changes in Labour and union policy.

Model motion against the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

If you’ve got money, please donate to Christopher Reeves fundraiser for The Big Lie, a film which will expose what has happened to Labour over the past seven years.

Read up on the problems with the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism from the views of many prominent legal minds who declare it unfit for purpose here Also see the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Palestine’s submission to the Independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland (April 2019)

Get involved with us and help spread the word and defend those unjustly accused.

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