Right-wing groups continue to attempt to pressurise the Labour Party into amending its ‘gold standard’ Code of Conduct by fully incorporating examples in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘working definition’ of antisemitism.
Many – including the definition’s creator, UK legal experts and a retired judge – believe the examples that Labour clarified and/or caveated can, without such caveats, be abused to suppress free speech and to deprive Palestinians of the right to fully discuss their own oppression by the Israeli government.
Shamefully, a number of more right-leaning union leaders have added their voice to those calls for the examples to be fully incorporated without the clarifications, even though the official position of their unions is to support the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign – a position that at least one council has outlawed by misapplying the IHRA examples.
But now a huge list of organisations representing BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) citizens have pushed back, telling Labour that the adoption of the examples will suppress their free speech and perpetuate injustices perpetrated on them.
The push-back comes in the form of an open letter to the Independent – one that represents a challenge to the party to defend the rights of BAME groups, including Palestinians, with the same vigour that is being exercised on the issue of antisemitism.
In key passages the eighty-four groups, including Black Lives Matter, Justice for Grenfell and a host of others, tell the country and politicians to protect the rights of all UK citizens and residents equally:
We are deeply worried about current attempts to silence a public discussion of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948, when the majority of its people were forcibly expelled. These facts are well established and accessible, are part of the British historical record, as well as the direct experience of the Palestinian people themselves. The Palestinian community in the UK has raised the disturbing absence of key information about these past and current injustices, and highlighted the racism it exposes then and now.
Public discussion of these facts, and a description of these injustices, would be prohibited under the IHRA’s guidelines, and therefore withholds vital knowledge from the public…
We urgently remind politicians and public bodies of their responsibilities to uphold the principles of the Human Rights Act for every British citizen and resident in the UK equally, especially the direct victims of colonialism, racism, and discrimination. As migrant and BAME communities we stand as one, united against all attempts to suppress our voices and our calls for justice, freedom and equality.
Will unions and the NEC answer their challenge and defend Labour’s ‘gold standard’ Code of Conduct against attempts to force change?
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