Fighting Labour antisemitism must not come at the cost of Palestinian rights

A major report highlights the need to address antisemitism in the Labour Party, but ignores how Palestinians could pay the price for its broad definition.

Protest outside a  Labour Party meeting which will discuss the party’s definition of antisemitism, London, 4 September 2018

Antony Lerman writes in +972:

In a report published on Oct. 29, Britain’s official rights watchdog delivered what many described as a “damning” judgment on the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism in its ranks. The report’s release was the latest development in a saga that plagued Labour throughout the five-year leadership tenure of Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran anti-racist campaigner and staunch supporter of Palestinian rights.

The report, the culmination of a 17-month-long investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, concluded that there was a “culture in the Party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.”

The EHRC found the party responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” against Jewish members and laid the blame right at the top, citing “serious failures in leadership” which the Commission found “hard to reconcile with [the Party’s] stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.” Nonetheless, the report did not hold Corbyn, who was widely vilified for four years as an antisemite, personally responsible for the “unlawful acts.”

This severe judgment was widely anticipated. The party, under its new leader Keir Starmer, received the draft report in August; upon its publication, Starmer announced that the party “accepts this report in full… without qualification” and that all its recommendations would be implemented.

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Lost amid this fast-moving saga, however, was a critical appraisal of the EHRC’s findings.

Repetitive, bureaucratic, and overly fixated on process and procedure, the report places enormous weight on the only two instances of actionable unlawful behavior by the party, and is more significant for what it does not, rather than does say. Notably, the report does not conclude that the party is institutionally antisemitic, even as those who welcomed the findings drew that conclusion.

More problematic is the EHRC’s failure to define its understanding of antisemitism on which the report’s judgments are based — even as it criticizes Labour for having a rule book that “does not provide any guidance on the meaning of antisemitism.”

More ….

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