Yesterday, the Labour Party’s NEC accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, together with all its accompanying examples. And, as I’ve previously suggested, the party’s critics were not placated. They did not so much as miss a beat. Perhaps they had already made their minds up.
As the BBC has reported, “Labour Against Anti-Semitism said ‘We are disappointed by the decision of Labour's governing body, the NEC, to diminish the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism via the attachment of a “clarification” that risks giving racists in the party a get-out-of-jail card’”, while Labour Friends of Israel added “A freedom of expression on Israel clause is unnecessary and totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted”. They were not the only critics.
“The Jewish Leadership Council said this addition would ‘drive a coach and horses’ through the IHRA definition”. There is, though, a teensy problem with that argument.
If the clarification adopted along with the IHRA definition and examples waters down the latter merely by stating “this does not in any way undermine the freedom of expression on Israel and the rights of Palestinians”, then something in the IHRA definition and examples must be considered to undermine that freedom of expression. Or, put more directly, Oh What A Giveaway.
Moreover, LFI has let slip what the critics’ real agenda is, and it isn’t anti-Semitism. “This decision is a sad reflection on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party” was its conclusion. It’s about removing Jezza, as it still was for Margaret Hodge. But the Labour leader is massively popular with the party membership, and he is going nowhere.
So it was not surprising to see Mike Segalov take issue with Ms Hodge’s continued complaints: “Please stop. You are doing the Jewish community no favours. Those of us who are genuinely committed to fighting antisemitism from all sides of [the] party are not helped by this. Even the Home Affairs Select Committee agreed clarification is needed. Let us crack on now, thanks”. Others wanted to move on, too.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown saw through the personal nature of much of the criticism: “nothing will placate the enemies of Corbyn. Only his head on a plate. Really depressing”. And Tom London put it directly: “Jeremy Corbyn is NOT an anti-Semite … He does NOT condone antisemitism … He is no more an existential threat than the moon”.
Those railing agains yesterday’s decision scored a further own goal by making it about Corbyn personally. Worse, protesters draping themselves in the Israeli flag confirmed that it was not about anti-Semitism, but criticism of Israel.
The sad reality is that no matter how far the Labour leadership bends over backwards to address criticism, it will never be enough for those who want Corbyn removed, and debate on Palestine shut down. But with the latest Survation poll - from the people who called the 2017 General Election most accurately - showing a four point Labour lead, it is clear that the public is becoming tired of this whole business.
Protests may continue. But the show will have moved on. I’ll just leave that one there.
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