UK Labour Party adopts anti-Semitism definition with ‘appalling’ caveat

The UK’s Labour Party altered its controversial anti-Semitism definition, while leaving a significant caveat that raised red flags in the UK’s Jewish community.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party on Tuesday appeared to adopt an internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism, a move aimed at defusing a crisis that has seen serious accusations of Jew-hatred launched at party members, including its leader Jeremy Corbyn.

After a meeting lasting several hours, Labour’s National Executive Committee backed a definition approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, but added what it described as “a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”

Among the critics of the party’s failure to adopt the international definition without alterations was Labour Friends of Israel, whose director Jennifer Gerber issued a statement declaring, “It is appalling that the Labour party has once again ignored the view clearly and repeatedly stated by the Jewish community: that it should adopt the full IHRA definition without additions, omissions or caveats.”

“A ‘freedom of expression on Israel’ clause is unnecessary and totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted. Labour appears determined to provide a safe space for anti-Semites. This decision is a sad reflection on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party and the culture it has instilled,” Gerber explained.

Earlier this year, the party adopted an even more limited definition, omitting some of the alliance’s language around criticism of Israel. The alliance’s definition, for example, says it is anti-Semitic to compare contemporary Israeli policies to the policies of the Nazis. The original Labour definition left that out, but it has now been included.

Labour’s reluctance to adopt the entire definition renewed claims that the left-of-center party has become hostile to Jews under leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose political prospects have recently been damaged by a string of revelations regarding his virulently anti-Israel positions and his participation in events such as a memorial honoring terrorists involved in the Munich massacre.

Religious leaders and certain Labour members accuse Corbyn of failing to stamp out anti-Jewish prejudice.

Last week, veteran lawmaker Frank Field quit Labour’s grouping in Parliament, saying the party had become a “force for anti-Semitism.”

Corbyn has been accused of failing to expel party members who express anti-Semitic views and has received personal criticism for past statements, including a 2010 speech in which he compared Israel’s blockade of Gaza to Nazi Germany’s sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad during World War II.

The European Jewish Council “cautiously” welcomed Labour’s change of policy but said it was “deeply regrettable” it had taken so long.