Letter published in Financial Times, 25/7/18
Anti-semitism is worst among the far right (FT’s heading)
For nearly three years, the Jewish leadership has been attacking the Labour Party, and only the Labour party, for supposedly rampant antisemitism. They offer no evidence comparing Labour to other parties, or to society generally, but rather pounce on emotive criticisms of Israel or grossly exaggerate the number of genuinely antisemitic comments. Their attack has now crystallised on demanding that Labour adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism
Sebastian Payne (Instant Insight, 18 July), has unfortunately swallowed all that whole. He writes of Labour’s “problem with anti-Semitism” and its decision not to adopt the full IHRA definition as proof of Labour’s moral decline. Had he been more inquisitive, he would have asked some searching questions. He could have found, among other things, that:
Two surveys conducted last year for Jewish organisations found that “Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing”. And “supporters of left-wing political parties..[are]..less likely to be antisemitic than those on the right”.
The American drafter of the definition of antisemitism that was later taken up by the IHRA, Kenneth Stern, testified last year to the US Congress that the definition was intended only as a data gathering tool and is not suitable as a means of deciding whether any particular comment is antisemitic.
In its 2016 report into antisemitism, the Home Affairs Select Committee proposed adding two caveats to the IHRA definition to ensure that it wouldn’t inhibit free speech on Israel.
He would also have spoken to some of the many MPs who disagree with the IHRA definition, not just to the Chief Rabbi and former Minister Margaret Hodge,
Mr. Payne writes “The parts missing from the IHRA’s definition (In Labour’s new policy) focus on attitudes towards Israel.” That is exactly the point. Labour has avoided the trap of making criticism of Israel automatically suspect, and that is why the Chief Rabbi and some others in the Jewish leadership do not like its new policy.
Parliamentary and Diplomatic Liaison Officer
Jews for Justice for Palestinians, London