Britain’s Labour Party defers vote on motion to accept international definition of anti-Semitism
Menu JTA Search

Britain’s Labour Party defers vote on motion to accept international definition of anti-Semitism

(JTA) — Britain’s Labour Party has deferred a vote on a motion that would call for the party to accept the internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism rather than the softened version it was criticized for approving.

Lawmakers were told Monday evening at a parliamentary party meeting that the vote would not be held until September, after Parliament returns from summer recess.

The emergency motion — proposed by  lawmaker Louise Ellman and seconded by Ruth Smeeth, both Jewish — called for the party to include in its permanent code of conduct, known as standing orders, the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, definition and all its examples.

The vote is scheduled for Sept. 5, a week after the lawmakers return from recess.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not attend Monday night’s meeting, though it is traditional for the party head to speak to lawmakers at the final meeting before the summer break, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Earlier this month, the party’s ruling body and leadership endorsed a code of conduct that excluded several of the IHRA examples of anti-Semitism, including accusing Jews of “being more loyal to Israel” than their own country; claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavor”; applying a “double standard” on Israel; and comparing “contemporary Israeli policy” to that of the Nazis. Party members apparently felt such definitions would chill criticism of Israel.

Labour under Corbyn, a hard-left politician who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” and who is fighting accusations of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments, has come under intense scrutiny in the media over anti-Semitic rhetoric by party members. In 2016, an interparliamentary committee accused Labour of creating a “safe space for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”

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.

“I feel very emotional, deeply depressed and almost tearful,” Labour lawmaker Margaret Hodge said after the meeting, according to Sky News. “This is the party I have been in for 50 years. Labour was the natural home for Jews.”

Hodge confronted Corbyn after the decision to adopt the softened definition of anti-Semitism, calling him a “f***ing anti-Semite and a racist,” and urging him to quit the party. Corbyn has said that action will be taken against her over the comments.

Meanwhile, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid backtracked after suggesting that Corbyn is a Holocaust denier. On Thursday night, Javid responded to Twitter user @Muhammad_S_85, whose page is now closed, by tweeting: “How can you even question the Holocaust? Please think carefully about what you are saying. Don’t be misled by Corbyn.”

Late on Friday, Javid responded to criticism of his comment, tweeting that “Corbyn is not a Holocaust denier. I am happy to make that clear.”