• Karen Harradine

Labour party’s “Alice in Wonderland” re-definition of anti-Semitism

The time has come for the Labour party to die a dishonourable death. Last week its National Executive Committee (NEC) revealed its new code of conduct. Included in this was a mangling of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.

Although this definition, created by Holocaust experts, has been adopted in full by the British government, many councils, universities, unions and police forces, the NEC bizarrely decided to expunge four important examples of anti-Semitism from the IHRA list:

  • 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 endeavour).

  • Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations.

  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

By erasing these essential facets of anti-Semitism, Labour is arguing that it believes that these don’t really count as anti-Semitism. Not only is this an astounding act of arrogance, but it also gives the NEC license to ignore the tropes and blood libels which Labour members like to openly advocate and spread on social media, such as ‘Israel and Jews run the world’, ‘Israel is an apartheid state’ and ‘Israel is committing a genocide against the Palestinians’ – an outright lie given that the Palestinian population has increased over the years. The banality of evil often has its roots in ignorance.

The banality of evil often has its roots in ignorance.

The most reprehensible action of all is to remove the anti-Semitic comparison of Israelis to Nazis. This myth has been designed by Israel’s enemies to wound Jews as much as possible with the insidious reference to the Holocaust. It speaks volumes about Labour that the party cannot see a problem with this.

Jennie Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party, tried to excuse Labour’s latest Jew-hating blunder in her opinion piece for Jewish News. Her rationale for Labour’s antics is excruciatingly feeble. Claiming that the comprehensive IHRA definition doesn’t go far enough and that is why Labour excluded parts of it, is a statement of hubris and stupidity.

Mentioning the discredited Chakrabarti report to underpin her attempts at damage limitation is akin to conspiracy theorists quoting the Tsarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to justify their hatred of Jews. The Chakrabarti report was the result of an inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party.

Anti-Zionism and Israel hatred are the 21st century’s most obnoxious and harmful forms of anti-Semitism. So why were these groups, whose hatred of Israel is endless, asked to contribute to a report on anti-Semitism in Labour? No wonder most British Jews see it as a sham. The imbecilic machinations of Labour when it comes to Jews is now reaching farcical proportions.

The most reprehensible action of all is to remove the anti-Semitic comparison of Israelis to Nazis.

Two days later, a Twitter published the list of myriad anti-Israel groups consulted for the Chakrabarti Report. ‘When the author of Labour’s official inquiry into anti-Semitism herself becomes the subject of an official inquiry, Jews everywhere are right to question the reliability of her methodology and the validity of her findings,’ wrote Christian and political commentator Adrian Hilton aka Archbishop Cranmer.

Labour tries to pacify the Jewish community with measly crumbs of assurances yet most of its shadow cabinet and backbenches are riddled with Israel haters and anti-Semites. Besides the usual suspects, like Jeremy Corbyn, frontbenchers like Kate Osamor, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development and Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, also have form when it comes to Israel. Osamor is an enthusiastic proponent of the Islamist Boycott, Disinvest, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

In May, Emily Thornberry attended an anti-Semitic speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but failed to condemn his attacks on Jews in her first statement on the event. Thornberry seemed comfortable enough hearing such rhetoric as she promoted the speech on social media. Perhaps anti-Semitic discourse is now so common amongst Labour that their MPs have lost perspective and can no longer recognise it.

Backbencher Labour MP Marsha De Cordoba made a speech in which she shilled for Hamas by berating Israel’s ‘illegal blockade’ against Gaza. Perhaps De Cordoba would prefer Israel to open its borders to jihadists who would happily slaughter the first Jewish baby they come across?

Zionism simply means the self-determination

of the Jewish people.

Well, at least they are honest in their disdain for Israel and Jews. Israel’s defence against the jihadist border invaders from Gaza garnered interesting response from those Labour MPs who profess to be friends of the Jews.

Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, has strongly protested Labour’s bastardisation of the IHRA definition. A good move marred by the fact that he comes across as virulently anti-Israel. Streeting doesn’t miss an opportunity to criticise perceived wrongdoings by the Jewish state. He was also extremely unpleasant to a Jewish blogger during a Friends of Palestine event he hosted in Parliament.

But Streeting is not the only one. Jewish Labour MPs Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and Alex Sobel also rushed to demonise Israel for having the temerity to defend itself from Islamist border invaders. It is important to notice the dates of their protests. The invasion occurred on 14 May. By later that day, and the next, reports and footage, including from Hamas themselves, showed that this was a violent invasion and that most of the Gazans killed were terrorist operatives.

Yet despite this knowledge being available at a click of a button Berger and and Smeeth tweeted dishonest accusations against Israel. Sobel even went one step further, publishing a polemic on his website on 18 May criticising Israel’s actions. Despite evidence to the contrary, he called the border invasion a ‘non-violent demonstration’.

Perhaps it’s easier to manipulate the definition to the extent that anti-Semitism no longer has much meaning

for Labour members.

A month before the border invasion these MPs were decrying anti-Semitism in Labour during a parliamentary debate on this topic. They all seem to be suffering from some kind of cognitive dissonance. Do they not grasp the very obvious fact that constant, unnecessary and often dishonest castigation of Israel feeds into the very anti-Semitism they deplore and some have personally experienced? All four MPs lack of sensibility and understanding of the geopolitics of the region is inexcusable and dangerous.

They are snakes in the grass and more dangerous than those who openly hate Jews and Israel because they give credence to the heinous lie that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. They enforce the false distinction between Jews and Zionism where there is none. Zionism simply means the self-determination of the Jewish people. Jews are eternally bonded with Israel. It is where we originated. To unjustly denigrate Israel is to eat away at our spiritual and physical connection with this land. Half the world’s Jewry lives there. Israel is our safety net in a world of darkening Jew hatred.

Their moral compasses need to be adjusted. These MPs position themselves as righteous experts on Jews and Israel when they are anything but. Most Jews see through them. We are tired of pretend ‘friends’ who hide their anti-Semitism and self-hatred behind a false cloak of morality and perpetuate damaging myths about Israel.

But given Labour hasn’t included the point on ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ in their partial adoption of the IHRA definition these MPs won’t be admonished. Perhaps it’s easier to manipulate the definition to the extent that anti-Semitism no longer has much meaning for Labour members. That will certainly cut down on their caseload.

There is a certain evil in all of this. How dare Labour attempt to mould the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism to suit their nefarious needs? Have demonic forces got hold of them? They certainly seem to be in the grip of the anti-Semitic virus.

The problem of Labour’s anti-Semitism is only going to get worse and not better. The only way to solve this is not to vote for Labour and for any Labour MP with an ounce of conscience to resign from the party. Labour has adopted the approach of Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ Anti-semitism is now a word which means whatever Labour chooses it to mean.

(Karen Harradine is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality).