Britain’s Labour Party has opted to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, but is facing criticism for including a statement aimed at protecting free speech with the update. Labour’s National Executive Council (NEC) held all-day meetings yesterday in an attempt to clarify their official position on the term.
“The NEC has today adopted all of the IHRA examples of antisemitism, in addition to the IHRA definition which Labour adopted in 2016, alongside a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians,” a Labour spokesman said in a statement released Tuesday night.
An agreement in the tense, hours-long meeting was only reached after an additional statement put forward by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was rejected by the NEC. The most disputed part of that proposed statement said: “It cannot be considered racist to treat Israel like any other state or assess its conduct against the standards of international law. Nor should it be regarded as antisemitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact, or to support another settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
As it stands, all 11 examples included in the IHRA’s definition will now be included in the party’s code of conduct. Whether or not the move will put an end to the allegations that party ranks are rife with anti-Semitic sentiment remains to be seen.
Issues surrounding Corbyn’s own conduct were not addressed at the meeting. The leader has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism for months. Notably, a photo surfaced in August that showed Corbyn holding a wreath that was laid on the graves of those who murdered 11 Israelis in the 1972 Munich massacre.
“I don’t think he does fully understand the damage that these events have caused to the Labour Party and particularly to his own standing as an alternative prime minister,” University of Warwick Emeritus Professor of Politics Wyn Grant said on Good Morning Europe. “There’s going to be a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party tonight which I think will show that there is quite a gap between him and large numbers in the party.”
Whether or not yesterday’s decision will mark a turning point for Corbyn remains to be seen. Although the leader has support within the NEC, questions have arisen about the lasting effects of the scandal.
“This continued row at a time where the government was in disarray was leading to a situation where the Labour Party could not function as it could do, in opposition to the government,” said Grant.