A week ago, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said that his union would support the adoption by the Labour Party of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) examples of antisemitism in full. In doing so, he opened the way for his own union to be labelled antisemitic.
Labour has adopted the entire IHRA ‘working definition’, but qualified a handful of its eleven examples to mitigate what many – including the ‘definition’s author – consider to be serious threats to freedom of speech with regard to criticism of Israel’s government and the Palestinian people’s right to talk about their oppression.
Unison, like a number of Labour-affiliated unions, officially backs the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions‘ (BDS) campaign to embargo goods and services originating in illegal Israeli settlements. Barnet council has used the problematic examples to declare that all organisations and individuals who support BDS are inherently antisemitic.
Prentis’ decision, which essentially hangs his members out to dry and ignores their democratic decision to support BDS, so angered one union official that he resigned his position immediately – and even resigned his union membership.
The York-based official, who goes on social media by the handle Societe Mattachines, after one of the earliest LGBT rights organisations in the US, immediately posted to Twitter about his decision, tagging in his union’s boss:
The official’s tweet was no empty threat. The SKWAWKBOX has obtained a copy of his formal resignation email:
Unison’s ‘Labour Link’ has adopted the IHRA ‘working definition’ and its accompanying examples in full, without qualification. However, Unison itself has not. Prentis is calling for Labour to do something even his own union’s members have not accepted – as has GMB’s Tim Roache.
Labour’s Code of Conduct, which incorporates the ‘definition’ but explains and clarifies the most problematic examples to protect free speech and the rights of Palestinians, has been described as the ‘gold standard’ and goes far beyond the measures adopted by other UK political parties.
A meeting of the NEC will take place 4 September to discuss whether the Code of Conduct should be amended to incorporate all eleven examples into its text. NEC member and Momentum founder Jon Lansman has suggested that such an incorporation would still need to be caveated by the retention of the existing clarifications about their application.
A group of eighty-four BAME (black, Asian and ethnic minority) representative organisations this week wrote an open letter to the Independent highlighting the damage that an adoption of the unqualified examples would do and calling on Labour to protect the rights of all minority groups equally.
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