Nearly two months ago, Campaign Against Antisemitism called out the Labour Party’s intention to reject the International Definition of Antisemitism. By analysing the seemingly positive letter and article published by Jeremy Corbyn in April, observing what was omitted, and noting Andrew Gwynne MP’s contemporaneous comments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, we identified Labour’s disingenuous plans for all to see, calling it an “insult to the Jewish community”. Then, as now, the Labour Party had the gall to declare that they – not the world’s expert historians and academics nor the Jewish community – were best-placed to define antisemitism.
However, when this clearly telegraphed plan took a step further toward formal adoption, MPs lined up to decry it, with Labour frontbencher Sir Kier Starmer, on the same Andrew Marr Show, saying that Labour should implement the International Definition of Antisemitism “sharpish”. Other Labour MPs, including Chukka Umunna, Liz Kendall, Wes Streeting, Stella Creasey and Anna Turley all added their public declarations of outrage.
The junking of the definition was not done in secret: it was public. This begs the question: when the plan to carve convenient chunks out of the definition had been so clearly announced in advance, why are Labour politicians only now affecting surprise? One can applaud them registering opposition, but any politician with a significant commitment to opposing racism in their own party would surely have acted long ago: the facts, the individuals and teams working on it being easily accessible parliamentary and Party colleagues.
In only one respect was our expectation changed: in relation to so-called Holocaust inversion, the act of comparing the actions of Jews or the State of Israel to those of the Nazis, which is a part of the international definition which the Labour party has now seen fit to omit. Considering that Mr Corbyn himself publicly wrote on 26th March to a Jewish charity, saying: “Comparing Israel or the actions of Israeli governments to the Nazis…constitutes [an] aspect of contemporary antisemitism”, the brazenness of this latest move by the Labour Party is laid bare.
Labour’s National Executive Committee, which makes the Party’s rules, will apparently meet tomorrow to vote on full implementation of the changes. Whether the Party does decide to adopt the definition in full, or deny it, little will change, and hanging onto the notion that this issue is significant is illusory. Campaign Against Antisemitism correctly declared the Labour Party institutionally antisemitic a long time ago. Under its current leadership, it is set to remain so.
Labour Party MPs are demonstrably more interested in posturing than in action. In this, they make themselves fully complicit with the institutional racism of a Party that they are not just members of, but are elected to represent.