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Revealed: Labour’s leaked anti-Semitism guidelines

25 July 2018

1:33 PM

25 July 2018

1:33 PM

Labours new code of conduct would not allow the return of Ken Livingstone, according to an internal party document seen by Coffee HouseA briefing note sent to Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs addresses the case of the former London mayor, who resigned from the party two years after he was suspended for claiming that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism before hewent mad and ending up killing six million Jews’. The note says

So the Code wouldnt pave the way for Ken Livingstones return to the Party?

Not at all. The Code is explicitly clear that Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust distortions and comparisons carry a strong risk of being found to be prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Party, and therefore breach Party rules, which would apply to Ken Livingstones comments. However, he is no longer a member of the Party.’

Elsewhere, the document supplies Labour representatives with soundbite responses to criticism of the partys failure to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antiSemitism. The briefing paper insists that:

The IHRA examples which are not reproduced in the bulleted section, are addressed in the guidelines. It is untrue and misleading to say they are omitted or left out.’

However, this is hard to square with criticism from the chief rabbi, and other rabbis, who have urged the party to adopt the full IHRA definition. Others in the Labour party are also unhappy. A Labour source told Coffee House: 

This still doesnt address the issues of the Jewish communityit just looks like a bunker mentality. We are doubling down on the fact we think we are right and everyone else is wrong. Its the complete opposite of what we should be doing ahead of a socalled consultation.’

So what bits are missing from the Labour code of conduct? The first example omitted relates to claims of dual loyalty, a classic antiSemitic trope. The IHRA defines this as: ‘Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.’ Labours briefing note claims

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal is covered in paragraph 14 and the code plainly treats this as racist behaviour. It says: “It is also wrong to accuse Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”’

Dual loyalty tropes do not appear in the list of antiSemitic behaviours given in paragraph nine of the code and are relegated to a later section, which classifies them as merelywrong’. But this creates a distinction between racist and generally improper rhetoric, and places claims of dual loyalty in the latter. This is an implicit assertion that the dual loyalty canard is not antiSemitic

The second example missing from Labours code is that which says: ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to selfdetermination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.’ The memo concedes that this isnot explicitly referenced’; however, it says the equation of Israels existence with racism is merely asubset to the example about not denying Jewish people the right to selfdetermination’. While Labours code does allow that the Jewish people have the same right to selfdetermination as any other people and that denying that right isa form of antiSemitism’, it does notcontrary to the briefing notes claimsproscribe members from calling Israel a racist enterpriseInstead, it says:

Discussion of the circumstances of the foundation of the Israeli state (for example, in the context of its impact on the Palestinian people) forms a legitimate part of modern political discourse.’

Drawing parallels between Zionism and racism only breaches Labours code of conduct if they alsodeny Jewish people their right to selfdetermination or hold Israel to different standards than other countries,’ according to the document

The leaked paper also claims the IHRA example isvaguely worded’, ‘open to misinterpretationand coulddeny other oppressed groups their right to speak about their own oppression’. The wording of the code, the memo says, isessential to ensuring that people are able to make legitimate criticisms of racism practiced by the Israeli state’. 

The third IHRA example left out of the Labour code of conduct says in relation to Israel: Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’

Labours briefing note claims the codedeals explicitlywith this issue, referring readers to paragraphs 13 and 14. However, 13 simply says it isnot racistto judge Israeli actions, or those of other countries, against international laws and norms. The next paragraph does mention double standards but in a separate context, defining it asa form of racist treatmentto require Jews or Jewish organisations to bemore vociferousin their criticism of Israel than others. Neither paragraph, explicitly or otherwise, prevents members from holding the Jewish state to a different standard than every other nation

The fourth and final example relates to Nazi comparisons. The IHRA defines as antiSemiticdrawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’. The briefing note points to the widelydiscredited Chakrabarti report on this. However, Baroness Chakrabarti of Kenningtonas she became just a matter of weeks after unveiling her reportmerely concluded: ‘I recommend that Labour members resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about IsraelPalestine in particular.’

Paragraph 16 of the code of conduct cautions thatsuch language carries a strong risk of being regarded as prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Party’. To clarify: not prejudicial but at risk of being seen as such. Not antiSemitic but harmful to the Labour Partys interestsThis same paragraph in the Labour code of conduct also says that

Discourse about international politics often employs metaphors drawn from examples of historic misconduct. It is not antisemitism to criticise the conduct or policies of the Israeli state by reference to such examples unless there is evidence of antisemitic intent.’

The question of intent leads to the Macpherson principle, established in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, which holds thata racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person‘. Labours briefing sheet notes that the inquiry addressed policing protocols: ‘Macpherson was not attempting to change any legal definition of racist behaviour, but to change the way alleged racist behaviour is recorded‘. Labour claims that complaints of antiSemitism will be recorded as such when that is how the victim perceives it (no reference is made toor any other person‘). This leads Labour to boast thatour new code of conduct and our disciplinary procedures are fully in line with the Macpherson principles‘. 

But this is a selective interpretation of Macpherson. That inquiry was primarily about policing; of its 70 recommendations, 12 related to the prosecution of racist crimes while almost all of the remainder referred to the police. When it comes to antiSemitism among its members, the Labour Party is the police, prosecutor, judge and jury. The problem lies not so much with how Labour records racist incidents but what the party institutionally understands to be racism and how itprosecutesand punishes these behaviours. In Labours case, the Macpherson principle is embraced at the procedural level but rejected in the partys definition of antiSemitism. In choosing not to adopt the IHRA definition in full, Labour is substituting its perception of antiSemitism for that of the Jewish community

Ironically, though, the briefing note is onto something when it cites Macpherson. Macpherson concluded thata new atmosphere of mutual confidence and trust must be createdbut maintained that the onus lay with the police. The policemust examine every aspect of their policies and practices to assess whether the outcome of their actions creates or sustains patterns of discrimination‘. In doing so, they must recognisethe different experiences, perceptions and needs of a diverse society‘. ReplacepolicewithLabour Partyand you can see what Labour needs to doand what it still cannot bring itself to do

When approached by Coffee House, Labour said it would not comment directly on the leaked document, but a party spokesperson said: ‘The Code of Conduct adopts the IHRA definition and expands on and contextualises its examples to produce robust, legally sound guidelines that a political party can apply to disciplinary cases. The NEC upheld the adoption of the Code of Conduct on antisemitism, but in recognition of the serious concerns expressed, agreed to reopen the development of the Code, in consultation with Jewish community organisations and groups, in order to better reflect their views.’


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