The claims and counter-claims over alleged anti-Semitism within the Labour Party have had as their centrepiece the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA’s) definition of anti-Semitism, and perhaps more importantly the four examples of anti-Semitic behaviour which accompany that definition. Labour has adopted the definition, but has not adopted in full the examples, and thus much of the criticism.
As befits the low cunning of the political opportunist, many Tories in and around Parliament have used the ruckus to pass severely adverse comment on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his fitness for office. Why, they ask, has Jezza chosen this hill to die on? Why can’t he and Labour, as Tony Blair might have put it, just, well, y’know … move on?
The counter argument includes the consideration that one of those four examples, “claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”, might curtail criticism of current Israeli Government policy and actions, especially over the recently-passed and highly controversial Nation State law, and its effect on Israel’s Arab citizens.
But while the argument rages, one actor in the drama has thus far escaped criticism for not adopting those IHRA examples. Who might that be?
An article by Rebecca Ruth Gould from the University of Birmingham, titled “Legal Form and Legal Legitimacy: The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism as a Case Study in Censored Speech”, reveals that the UK Government - ie the Tories in power - is that actor.
This is what Ms Gould tells of the Government’s actions “In most mainstream usages, particularly by its advocates, making the definition into a synecdoche for the entire text has enabled its proponents to conceal that fact that the UK Government adopted only the definition, without taking a formal position on the examples”.
The UK Government adoption of the IHRA definition occurred in 2016, at which time the Tories were in a majority in the Commons. And Ms Gould has more on the adoption.
“Although it has not been widely publicised, the same caveat applies to many so-called ‘adoptions’, which involved only the definition, and not the examples. Neither the IHRA, nor the Israel advocacy community, have been scrupulous in clarifying these distinctions”.
In example, the article cites the LSE, which decided “that, while LSE had decided, following consultation with Jewish staff and students, to ‘adopt’ the IHRA definition, it explicitly did not adopt the examples”. The condemnation of the LSE for failing to adopt all the examples seems to have been rather low key.
So there you have it: the Government - that is, the Tories - adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, but did not explicitly adopt the examples. Yet for some reason the attacks which have been mounted against Labour for going further have not materialised.
Anyone might conclude that double standards were being applied. I’ll just leave that one there.
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