Labour leadership rivals back '10 pledges' to tackle antisemitism

Contenders voice support for recommendations from Board of Deputies of British Jews

Labour’s leader and deputy leadership contenders have demonstrated their commitment to tackling antisemitism in the party by backing a series of pledges set out by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Within hours of the organisation launching its “10 pledges”, which include adopting the international definition of antisemitism with all its examples and clauses, the majority of hopefuls had given their support.

This included Rebecca Long-Bailey, Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer, who served in the shadow cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn.

Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said: “The handling of antisemitism has been completely unacceptable. It has caused deep distress for the Jewish community, which we must all accept responsibility for and apologise. I support the recommendations put forward by the Board of Deputies.

“At the next election, I do not want a single member or activist to knock on a door and be told that a member of the public is not voting Labour because of antisemitism.”

A bitter row raged within Labour throughout 2018 over whether Corbyn – a longstanding activist on Palestinian rights – would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and all its examples.

It was eventually accepted and a lengthy accompanying statement from the Labour leader, which had offered further qualifications, was removed.

In 2016 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) agreed this working definition of antisemitism:

"Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

The IHRA definition goes on to state:

"Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for 'why things go wrong'. It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits."

The IHRA provides the following as examples of antisemitism:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
     
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
     
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
     
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
     
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
     
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
     
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
     
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
     
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
     
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
     
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
     

All the leadership and deputy contenders questions on how they intend to win back voters who were dismayed at the party’s handling of antisemitism.

Long-Bailey, who is deemed closest to Corbyn, said Labour did not act quickly or robustly enough. In a piece for Jewish News, she said: “I will also enact all of the Board of Deputies’ recommendations, and I believe that our processes must be transparent, fully independent and with proper independent scrutiny.”

Labour’s other leadership hopefuls, Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips, said they also backed it.

The 10 pledges include the party resolving its outstanding cases, actively condemning cases rather than using “bland and generic” language, and life-time bans for prominent offenders who have been expelled.

They also say that any MP who supports or provides a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled over antisemitic incidents should themselves be suspended from the party.

The deputy leadership hopefuls Rosena Allin-Khan and Ian Murray also backed the pledges.

Angela Rayner, who is also running for the deputy position, said: “At my launch, the first line in the sand is antisemitism. Cross that line and you’re out. Apologies are worthless without action.”

Contributor

Kate Proctor

The GuardianTramp

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