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UK Labour Party must reject biased antisemitism definition that stifles advocacy for Palestinian rights

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Welcoming the significant growth in recent years of progressive politics centred on social justice and internationalism in the UK, especially within the labour movement, we, Palestinian trade unions, mass organisations and networks, representing the majority in Palestinian civil society, call on the British Labour party, trade unions, city councils, universities and civil society at large to reject the IHRA’s false, anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism.

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.

The discredited IHRA guidelines deliberately conflate hostility to or prejudice or discrimination against Jews on the one hand with legitimate critiques of Israel’s policies and system of injustice on the other.

Palestinians last year marked 100 years of the Balfour Declaration, which played a significant role in supporting and entrenching the Zionist colonisation of Palestine. This typically colonial British declaration constituted a declaration of war against our people. It facilitated the birth of the exclusionary state of Israel that maintains a regime of apartheid and systematically oppresses the indigenous Palestinian people, stripping us of our fundamental and UN-recognised rights, including the rights to equality and self- determination and our refugees’ right to return to their homes of origin.

We concur with British Palestinian personalities who have asserted that:

[A]ny use by public bodies of the IHRA examples on antisemitism that either inhibits discussion relating to our dispossession by ethnic cleansing, when Israel was established, or attempts to silence public discussions on current or past practices of [Israeli] settler colonialism, apartheid, racism and discrimination, and the ongoing violent military occupation, directly contravenes core rights. First, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, who remain protected by international laws and conventions; and second, the rights of all those British citizens who stand by our side, in the solidarity of a common humanity.

We recognise the severe pressure being placed on public bodies in the UK, and globally, to adopt this politicised and fraudulent definition of antisemitism. We would assert that those in the UK have a particular moral, political and arguably legal obligation to atone for historic and current British crimes against the Palestinian people and complicity in maintaining Israel’s regime of oppression. We appeal to them to:

1.     Consistently uphold the UK Human Rights Act, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the right to freedom of expression, including in narrating Palestine’s well-documented colonial history, advocating for Palestinian rights, describing Israel’s regime of oppression as racist or as constituting apartheid, and calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel as nonviolent measures of accountability to bring about its compliance with its obligations under international law and its respect for Palestinian rights.

2.     Unequivocally uphold the UN-stipulated rights of the people of Palestine,particularly:

●     The right to live free of military occupation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;

●     The right to full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel who currently suffer under a system of legalised and institutionalised racial discrimination;

●     The inherent and legally upheld right of Palestine refugees to return to their homes of origin from which they have been ethnically cleansed during the Nakba and ever since.

3.     Officially endorse a military embargo on Israel, as called for by Palestinian civil society, Socialist International, UK political parties (including Liberal Democrats,Greens, and Scottish National Party), the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC), manydevelopment NGOs (including Oxfam and Christian Aid), dozens of British MPs, citiesacross Europe, Amnesty International, global figures, among others. In 2017 alone, the UK arms exports to Israel reached $284m, setting a record.

4.     Unambiguously condemn all forms of racism and bigotry, including Israel’s more than 60 racist laws, especially its latest constitutional law, the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law, that effectively “enshrines Jewish supremacy” and apartheid, as defined by the UN.

Adopting the IHRA definition (with its examples) would not only demonise our present struggle for liberation and self-determination. It would also “silence a public discussion [in the UK] of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948”, as over 100 Black, Asian and other minority ethnicities (BAME) groups in the UK have cautioned. It would also chill advocacy for Palestinian rights, including by vilifying and maligning our nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Anchored in our own decades-long heritage of popular resistance and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the US Civil Rights movement, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated BDS movement is supported by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society. It is also endorsed by progressive movements representing millions worldwide, including a fast-rising number of Jewish millennials.

BDS is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adheres to the UN definition of racial discrimination. It therefore “does not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, or homophobia”.

Redefining racism against a particular community to serve the political goal of precluding or vilifying the struggle against other forms of racism is immoral and outright racist. It should be condemned by all morally-consistent progressives.

Israel’s utter failure to suppress the impressive growth of BDS across the world in the last few years has prompted it to redefine antisemitism to desperately malign our strictly anti-racist movement.

As leading Jewish British intellectuals and legal experts have stated:

Criticising laws and policies of the state of Israel as racist and as falling under the definition of apartheid is not antisemitic. Calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to oppose those policies is not antisemitic.

We agree with the analysis of more than forty Jewish social justice organisationsworldwide that we live in “a frightening era, with growing numbers of authoritarian and xenophobic regimes worldwide, foremost among them the Trump administration, allying themselves with Israel’s far right government while making common cause with deeply antisemitic and racist white supremacist groups and parties”.

We also echo their appeal:

We urge our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition and instead take effective measures to defeat white supremacist nationalist hate and violence and to end complicity in Israel’s human rights violations.

We need no one’s permission to accurately narrate our history, defend our inherent and inalienable rights, or mobilise principled international solidarity with our struggle to achieve them.

But we expect social-justice oriented political parties, like Labour, and progressive trade unions to effectively contribute to ending British complicity in Israel’s system of oppression that denies us our rights, to protect the right to freedom of expression, and to stand on the right side of history. We expect them to help us in the struggle against apartheid and for equal rights of all humans irrespective of identity. Is this too much to expect?

Signatories:

–    General Union of Palestinian Workers

–    Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition

–    Palestinian Union of Postal, IT and Telecommunication workers

–    Union of Professional Associations

–    Federation of Independent Trade Unions

–    Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate

–    Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions

–    General Union of Palestinian Teachers

–    General Union of Palestinian Women

–    General Union of Palestinian Peasants

–    Union of Palestinian Farmers

–    General Union of Palestinian Writers

–    The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)

–    Palestinian Camps Boycott Movement-Lebanon (33 organisations from 11 refugee camps)

–    Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)

–    Palestinian National Institute for NGOs

–    Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC)

–    Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW)

–    Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

–    Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations

–    Women Campaign to Boycott Israeli Products

–    Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem

–    Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Initiative

–    Agricultural Cooperatives Union

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15 Responses

  1. Keith
    Keith
    August 28, 2018, 4:41 pm

    Criticizing the IHRA anti-Semitism guidlines solely or primarily because of the restrictions on solidarity with the Palestinians misses the larger point that any and all efforts to restructure society away from militarism and neoliberal globalization would be vulnerable to attack based upon creative interpretations of anti-Semitism. The attacks on Corbyn are an obvious smear which, nonetheless, doesn’t stop them from happening. This is an aggressive misrepresentation to achieve political objectives. And with the current levels of NSA data mining, it should be relatively easy to cherry pick a handful of comments to use for attack. I think that Jeremy Corbyn has handled this whole thing poorly. He is under attack and trying to placate those attacking him, and by extension, attacking those seeking progressive change.

    “Will Corbyn give in to the IHRA demands to save his skin as party leader? One has to suspect that he will as he is already regularly conceding points and apologizing, publicly delivering the required obeisance to the holocaust as “the worst crime of the twentieth century.” And every time he tries to appease those out to get him he emerges weaker. Even if he submits completely, the Israel firsters who are hot to get him, having just like in American significant control over the media, will continue to attack until they find the precise issue that will bring him down. The Labour National Executive Council will meet in September to vote on full acceptance of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. When they, as is likely, kneel before force majeure that will be the end of free speech in Britain. Criticize Israel and you go to jail.” (Philip Giraldi) https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-crucifixion-of-jeremy-corbyn/5652114

  2. Mooser
    Mooser
    August 29, 2018, 2:56 pm

    “Jewish supremacy is the real problem in the world right now and any movement in historically white nations to retain their own character and history stands in opposition to Zionism because it is the goal of Zionism to destroy it…”

    Just so we know, which are the “historically white nations”?

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 29, 2018, 6:38 pm

      Oy I’m so dumb. “Historically white nations”? He’s thinking of Russia, of course.

  3. Bennorius
    Bennorius
    August 29, 2018, 11:08 pm

    Roger S., there are always wolves in sheep clothes who pretend to be anti-Zionist, but are in fact anti-Semite. Your are spouting anti-Semitic tropes here.
    I oppose political Zionism and its expression, the State of Israel, because it oppresses the Palestinian people as a Jewish nationalist/chauvinist state. I am fighting for a society in Israel/Palestine where Jews, Muslims and Christians live together as equals. That will be in a post-Zionist society.
    Your ideas of Zionism as a global movement of Jewish supremacy are a modern version of blatant anti-Semitism. As an anti-Zionist and friend of the Palestinian people I don’t want to have any association with you whatsoever. Mondoweiss is not a forum for anti-Semites.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      August 30, 2018, 11:24 am

      “I oppose political Zionism and its expression, the State of Israel, because it oppresses the Palestinian people as a Jewish nationalist/chauvinist state.”

      “Your ideas of Zionism as a global movement of Jewish supremacy are a modern version of blatant anti-Semitism.”

      Aren’t you directly contradicting yourself here? If Zionism – as you correctly say – has created ” Jewish nationalist/chauvinist state” then how could it be anti semitic to say that Zionism is a “global movement of Jewish supremacy”? How can something be nationist and chauvanist and NOT be supremacist?

  4. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    August 30, 2018, 11:28 am

    Sadly, it’s becoming more and more likely that the Labour NEC will indeed adopt The Definition in full – with all the ‘examples’ – at the party conference in Liverpool next month. Which just goes to show that smearing and defamation DO work. I’m a huge fan of Corbyn but imho he has been weak and lacking in political wisdom here. He should have recognised this for what it was – a concerted, cynical attempt to destroy him – and acted accordingly from the start. For someone with 40 years of experience in UK politics, he does seem very naive. The Zionist lobby, in the UK, the USA and everywhere else, simply will not take ‘yes’ for an answer. It’s not about ‘dialogue’ or ‘addressing concerns’, it’s about surrender.

    And sadly, it looks like Labour is about to surrender. And if someone with such a long and proud record of defending Palestinian rights will do this, it’s hard to imagine that those who are less dedicated will be any more steadfast. This is a test case, and it appears that the lobby has won.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      August 30, 2018, 10:13 pm

      The smart move would have been for Labour to adopt it and then ignore it.
      However, I think Corbyn is too decent for such subterfuge.
      How he has lasted so long in politics is a mystery.

  5. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    August 30, 2018, 1:33 pm

    @MDM
    “And sadly, it looks like Labour is about to surrender. And if someone with such a long and proud record of defending Palestinian rights will do this, it’s hard to imagine that those who are less dedicated will be any more steadfast”

    For info:

    Back in July, the pro-Palestinian MP Richard Burden suggested at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party that it does indeed adopt the IHRA definition and examples in full – but that this, in his words, should be “IHRA plus” – the “plus” being a statement making clear that criticism of the Israeli government would still be legitimate.

    He suggested that the party take a similar tack to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which held an inquiry into anti-Semitism in 2016.

    It recommended the adoption of the IHRA definition and examples by all political parties, but with the following addendum:

    “It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent. It is not anti-Semitic to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.”

    This was the recommendation of an all party group of MP`s:
    https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/136/136.pdf

    Why can`t this recommendation be tabled as the way forward at the conference. What would be the arguments against it by the IHRA zealots ?

    Like others I am struggling to understand why JC and other senior figures in the Labour Party movement have chosen to attempt dialogue and come to some sort of compromise with the a Foreign orchestrated lobby group who really don`t give a shit about actual Anti- Semitism or alleged A/S in the UK. I think it is probably the case that they simply underestimated the viciousness and sheer duplicity of the Zionist Lobby and the levels of complicity in the UK press and within the Bliarite faction in their own party.

    If Corbyn/the NEC folds on this one IMHO it will be seen by a large swathe of Labour Party supporters/members as appeasement on a huge scale and there will be a haemorrhaging of that support and membership. They might just as well adopt a definition of the NHS as being a private business. Goodbye Labour Party – and possibly hello to real as opposed to invented Anti – Semitism in the UK with a perception amongst a lot of Labour orientated Brits that Jews in the UK have hijacked and undermined British Democracy on behalf of a foreign governement.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      August 30, 2018, 5:20 pm

      I think we may have discussed this before, but it could be down to Corbyn simply not ‘getting’ that not everyone is as decent and well-meaning as he is.

      Still, remarkably naive for a man who’s been in politics for 40 years.

      When he announced his candidacy this time 3 years ago, it was stunningly obvious to me that anti-semitism was being used as a tool to smear him with. And if it was clear as day back then, it should be blindingly obvious now. While there have been signs of a push-back from Corbyn, it’s all too little too late. He should have fully understood that he was fighting against people who want nothing less than his total destruction years ago. He didnt, instead he pandered and tried to conciliate, only to have the door slammed in his face again and again.

      “He suggested that the party take a similar tack to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which held an inquiry into anti-Semitism in 2016.”

      Worth pointing out that one of those behind these amendments was Chuka Umunna, now one of the leading Blairaites leading the anti-semitism smears against Corbyn. Why isn’t Corbyn using this against him? Why is he making himself into a punching bag for the Zionist lobby?

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