Ian Hodson Speaks Out
At present there is a debate inside the Labour Party as to whether to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism in its entirety, including its 11 examples, or to endorse the modified version accepted by Labour’s NEC which is intended to root out antisemitism within the Party. The official IHRA definition makes it clear in its preamble that the definition is non-legally binding, i.e. that is not suitable for disciplinary hearings.
The actual IHRA definition consists of a single paragraph accompanied by 11 examples. The text makes it clear that, ‘the following examples may serve as illustrations’, that is that they are illustrative and not definitive.
As to these IHRA examples, one states that people may be regarded as be regarded as antisemitic ‘by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.’ This example is a particularly obvious example of the IHRA definition being used to conflate antisemitism (a form of racism) with any criticism of Israeli government policy.
It is particularly crass when the Israeli Knesset has just passed a nation-state law decreeing that all non-Jewish citizens of the state are second class citizens – in other words that the state of Israel is indeed a ‘racist endeavour’. To be fair, this law has been opposed by millions of Jewish people both inside Israel and outside.
According to the definition of this ‘example’, those of us who gave out leaflets outside supermarkets decades ago urging customers not to buy Outspan oranges and other products of apartheid South Africa would have been racists and not entitled to free speech.
There has been plenty of sniping from those opposed to Labour adopting a clear definition of antisemitism which does not provide an obstacle to free speech. For instance Tory Council Barnet has accepted the IHRA definition in full and is using it to deprive supporters of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement in support of the Palestinians of any use of council premises in the Borough. That is a clear attack on free speech.
Ian Hodson, president of the Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) and a National Executive Committee member of the LRC, cuts through the cant. In an interview with Skwawkbox he reports on the NEC’s decision to modify the IHRA definition and adopt its own:
Jeremy Corbyn was one voice on the NEC when that was discussed. There was a lot of people in that room, including representatives of other unions. That's democracy - whatever the way the vote goes, you're tied to it whether you like it or not.
And to record that meeting and to play it in the media in the way that it was done - I think that's appalling. And anyone who's standing for the NEC now to do that or not to admit who it was - I think that's cowardly and I think they should be called out for it.
Ian Hodson is right. Don’t be misled. Support the adoption of Labour’s NEC definition in full.