BY ADAM CAILLER
MPs from all parties united to condemn the Labour leadership after it vote in its amended version of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism on Tuesday.
The shocking move came in direct opposition to the Parliamentary Labour Party, which had voted for adopting the full IHRA version on Monday night.
Labour MPs including Luciana Berger, Wes Streeting, Chris Bryant, David Lammy and Dame Louise Ellman attacked the move to adopt the new definition, backed by General Secretary Jennie Formby, while Mr Streeting called for the party leadership to “listen to views” of the Board Of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council.
He added, during a tense meeting on Monday, that saying the two groups “did not represent mainstream Jewish opinion was akin to saying trade unions did not represent majority views of their membership”.
And it led to Labour stalwart Dame Margaret Hodge to call Mr Corbyn a “f****** antisemite and racist” to his face in the Commons — although she later denied the use of the F-word — with a Labour spokesman later confirming that Ms Hodge would be punished for her actions.
Leeds North MP Alex Sobel had tabled the motion to adopt the full definition, seconded by Ms Berger, of Liverpool Wavertree.
Only four MPs rejected the motion — one of whom, Chris Williamson, tried to have the motion take off the agenda altogether. The other three were Richard Burden, Andy Slaughter and Grahame Morris.
And before Tuesday’s Labour National Executive Committee meeting, 68 rabbonim, from all sections of the Jewish community, penned an open letter to the party.
Those who signed the letter included Rabbi Harvey Belovski, vice-chairman of the United Synagogue’s rabbinical council, and rabbis Laura Janner-Klausner, Danny Rich and Jonathan Wittenberg, leaders of the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements, respectively.
It also included Dayan Ivan Binstock of London’s Beth Din, Rabbi Shlomo Odze, vice-chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, and Rabbi Dr Martin van den Bergh, of Childwall Hebrew Congregation in Liverpool.
The letter said: “Antisemitism within sections of the Labour party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak out with one Jewish voice.
“...It is not the Labour Party’s place to rewrite a definition of antisemitism.”
But that message was swiftly ignored when the NEC decided to vote in its amended version — although members agreed to reopen the development of the policy in recognition of the “serious concerns” raised.
Just hours after Labour made the move, Bradford Metropolitan District Council adopted the IHRA definition in full.
And in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, PM Theresa May accused Labour of trying to “redefine antisemitism”.
She quoted Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who had written a letter to Labour’s ruling body on Tuesday.
She told Mr Corbyn: “The Labour party is trying to redefine antisemitism to allow people to say that Israel is a racist endeavour.
“The Chief Rabbi says that what the Labour Party is doing is ‘sending an unprecedented message of contempt for British Jews’.
“Even some of his own MPs are saying it is antisemitic. Antisemitism is racism.
“The Labour Party should accept that, the Right Honourable Gentleman should accept that, and we should all sign up, as the Conservative Party has done, to the definition of the IHRA and all its annexes.”
Her comments were accompanied by cries of “shame” from the Conservative side of the chamber.
Echoing the PM’s sentiments, Ms Berger wrote, on PoliticsHome.com: “Why would Labour seek to lecture the Chief Rabbi on antisemitism?
“It is almost as though some people in Labour want to enshrine their right to oppose Israel as a state, not a government — though IHRA permits them to do the latter — even if it risks emboldening antisemites.”
She also praised Dame Margaret as an asset to Labour. She said: “Her family were murdered in the Holocaust and she thrashed the far right in Barking.
“When she speaks out about antisemitism, people should listen and act rather than condemn her. “
A joint statement from the Board of Deputies, JLC and the CST said that the decision taken by the NEC to adopt a “watered-down definition of antisemitism” will be regarded with a mixture of “incredulity and outrage” by the overwhelming majority of the UK’s Jews.
It said: “They have distorted and diluted the IHRA definition of antisemitism that is widely accepted and used by the Jewish community, the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Crown Prosecution Service, the police, and dozens of local authorities, to create their own weaker, flawed definition whose main purpose seems to be to protect those who are part of the problem.”
The Jewish Labour Movement accused the Party of acting “in a deliberate and offensive reckless manner in believing it understands the needs of a minority community better than the community itself”.
Former party leader Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, said: “The argument that it (the IHRA definition) is somehow incompatible with criticising the actions of the Israeli government is wrong.
“The views of the vast majority of the Jewish community are clear.”
Young Labour’s national chairman Miriam Mirwitch tweeted: “Why is the Jewish community not trusted with defining the prejudice that impacts us? We cannot fight discrimination by halves. It’s a betrayal of our socialist values.”
Izzy Lenga, former National Union of Students vice-president (welfare) said: “It is blatantly clear that there are people in the party’s leadership who wilfully ignore the voices and rights of Jews.
“But when there are people who try to shut us up and push us out, we will come back stronger.”
High-profile lawyer Mark Lewis said: “I am fed up with the argument that ‘we need to stay in Labour in case Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister’ (more likely every day).
“If he becomes PM, you don’t need to stay in the party, you need to leave the country.”
Another protest against the decision was due to take place in Parliament Square after we went to press last night.
MANCHESTER’S Jewish Representative Council has complained that a member of Labour’s NEC made alleged racist and antisemitic comments during Tuesday’s IHRA meeting.
Michael Rubenstein, chairman of the Rep Council’s Human Rights, Racism and antisemitism committee, claimed that NEC member Pete Willsman had said that “some of the people in the Jewish community are Trump fanatics — I’ll take no lectures from them”.
Labour did not respond to our request for comment.