On 25 January, JJP wrote to the General Secretary of the Labour Party, nominating seven people as potential members of the Party’s new Antisemitism Advisory Board. The creation of the Board is a consequence of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report on the Party.
In common with all the Palestinian support groups, we are concerned that the Board will only comprise people nominated by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement, who will be very likely to perceive fundamental criticism of Israeli policies as antisemitism. The effect would be to discourage Labour Party members and Parliamentarians from criticising Israeli policies except in the mildest terms.
The antisemitism issue in the Labour Party has become so well known that people outside the Party could also be affected.
Our nominees are all well able to distinguish genuine antisemitism from from fundamental and robust criticism of Israeli policies. Any of them would provide a counter-weight to nominees of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement.
We have not yet had a response from the Labour Party.
Our letter to the Labour Party General Secretary
David Evans 25 January 2021
General Secretary, Labour Party
Dear Mr. Evans,
Jews for Justice for Palestinians would like to nominate some people for the labour party’s new Antisemitism Board. We are writing to you as we believe we have a strong locus in this issue. We are sure any of the people we have nominated would be very suitable for helping the Party create a fair and effective procedure for dealing with allegations of antisemitism.
The issue of what is or isn’t antsemitism has become inextricably entwined with the right to criticise Israel. Antisemitism can hide behind criticism of Israel, but equally, suppressing criticism of Israel can hide behind allegations of antisemitism. The Labour Party will have to navigate these treacherous waters.
The Labour Party adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, including the examples, but it also issued a statement that “emphasises freedom of expression on Israel and the rights of Palestinians”. Those two acts create the framework in which the Board should work.
JJP is on record as opposing the IHRA document because of its imprecise and problematic nature. However, it can be used objectively provided the conditionality with respect to the examples is respected. It says, “the following examples may serve as illustrations:”, and “Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to…”.
Therefore,context has to be considered when making judgments about the intent of any given statement or act. Something cannot be judged antisemitic simply because it falls within one of the very broadly worded examples.
The basic test of whether a criticism of Israel is antisemitic is in the language used. If the language refers to what Israeli governments do or did, or what Zionists historically did, and doesn’t ascribe the actions to Jews or Jewish people because they are Jews, then the presumption must be that it isn’t antisemitic without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent. It might be well or badly argued, temperate or intemperate, but that does not make it antisemitic.
Our seven nominations with brief CVs are on the following pages I should be grateful if you would confirm whether any of them will be selected.
Executive, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
JJP Nominations for the Advisory Board
Rabbi Danny Rich
Senior Rabbi & Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism from mid-2005 until January 2020, and was rabbi to Kingston Liberal Synagogue for nearly two decades. Rabbi Rich is a Justice of the Peace, and a hospital and prison chaplain.
He is a President of the Council of Christians & Jews, co-chair of the National Refugees Welcome Board and a member of the Council of Imams and Rabbis.
His publications include Liberal Judaism and Mixed Marriage (2004); Zionism: The Case for Fair-Mindedness On All Sides (2010); Muslim Perceptions Of ‘The Other’ (2011); Israel Mattuck: The inspirational voice of Liberal Judaism (2014); and Responding to the Call: A Life of Liberal Jewish Commitment [ed.] (2015).
He has given both oral and written evidence to the Falconer Commission on Assisted Dying and the parliamentary Public Bill Committee on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill; and is a campaigner for the admission of Syrian refugees into the UK, the Living Wage and Caring for Carers.
Emeritus Professor, Centre for Global Media and
Communications, SOAS University of London
Member of the Labour party, Currently, Communications Officer for Highbury East Ward, Islington North CLP.
Child of refugees. My mother arrived from Germany on the Kindertransport; my Polish father arrived in Palestine as an illegal and became a major in the British Army medical corps. I have family in Israel and have often visited, lectured and indeed set up distance learning in both Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Member of JJP.
Dr. Miriam David.
Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales since 1962, now retired. Partner in Vizards, solicitors
President of the Commission on Rights of Defence, Union Internationale des Avocats, 1993-8
President, International Grouping of Lawyers, 1986-8hair, Solicitors International Human Rights Group 2004-2009, then Patron
Officer of the International Board (vice-President 1992-2001) FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) Member of Council of Justice 1975-95 (approx) and Council of Liberty (1996-2016). Director of Guyana Justice Initiative since 2014
Member of Foreign Office Pro Bono Panel. Joined Labour Party 1980; re-joined 2015
Carried out missions in over 20 countries for FIDH, International Commission of Jurists etc. in East Africa, Middle East and elsewhere, and written numerous reports.
Observer for European Union in Ethiopia at trial of Hailu Shawol and others, Addis Ababa 2006,
Expert for East Africa, Israel and Palestine with E.I.N.; reports accepted by Immigration Tribunals.
Member of JJP.
I have been a member of JJP for many years and have supported the Palestinians for over 50 years. I was a member of the Labour party at various times. The correct definition of antisemiitm is in the Oxford dictionary,” Hatred of and hostility toward the Jews”. Member of JJP.
Two of our nominees didn’t wish to be listed