(JTA) – Britain’s Labour Party has adopted a definition of anti-Semitism that is laxer than the one used by the British government.
The Labour definition as reported Thursday by the LBC radio station is based on the one adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, and since then by several countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and five others in the European Union, as well as the EU as a whole.
But Labour omits at least four points featured in the original one, including accusing Jews of “being more loyal to Israel” than their own country; claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavour”; applying a “double standard” on Israel; and comparing “contemporary Israeli policy” to that of the Nazis.
“Labour now holds its members to a lower standard of anti-racism than the law demands,” The Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland wrote on Twitter. He noted that Britain’s prosecution service uses a definition identical to the IHRA one.
Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, a hard-left politician who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” and who is fighting accusations of harbouring anti-Semitic sentiments, has come under intense scrutiny in the media over anti-Semitic rhetoric by its members. In 2016, an inter-parliamentary committee accused Labour of creating a “safe space for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”
In May, Jonathan Arkush, then president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Corbyn holds “anti-Semitic views” that could drive Jewish Britons out of the country if he becomes prime minister. Arkush cited Corbyn’s defence in 2013 of an anti-Semitic mural, among other issues.
Corbyn has maintained that Labour will not tolerate racist rhetoric by its members. Dozens were kicked out over anti-Semitic statements. However, the party has kept on many Labour members whom Jewish community leaders said engaged in anti-Semitic hate speech. In recent months, Corbyn for the first time has encountered protests over his party’s anti-Semitism problem during work visits abroad.
On Thursday, members from the CiJo Dutch Jewish group held up a banner reading “Labour, for the many, not for the Jew” during a speech by Corbyn in The Hague.
The Labour definition does contain references to Israel, including that “Israel’s description (of itself and frequently by others) as a ‘Jewish State’” is an issue that “can cause particular difficulty in the context of deciding whether language or behaviour is anti-Semitic.”
It also defines as anti-Semitic the actions of “accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust” and “using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism” to “characterize Israel or Israelis.”
The definition features mostly examples of anti-Semitic behaviours that do not concern Israel, such as calling to harm Jews or denying the Holocaust or the Jewish people’s right to self- determination.
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council umbrella group, condemned the new definition in a statement Thursday.
“It is for Jews to determine for themselves what anti-Semitism is,” they said. “It is impossible to understand why Labour refuses to align itself with this universal definition. Its actions only dilute the definition and further erode the existing lack of confidence that British Jews have in their sincerity to tackle anti-Semitism within the Labour movement.”