Labour Code+ and IHRA examples – more detail of proposals

code plus rose.png

As the SKWAWKBOX published last week, the voting arithmetic on Labour’s National Executive (NEC) means that the full list of IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) examples will be incorporated into the party’s Code of Conduct when the issue is debated by the NEC either in September or October.

The existing version of the Code references all the examples and actually strengthens some – but clarifies the application of a small number considered to be dangerous to free speech, particularly on Palestine, and to the right of Palestinians to define their own terms in discussing their oppression. It has been greeted as a gold standard of political documents on the topic by some – and attacked by pro-Israeli groups for not incorporating all the examples verbatim.

Those who have concerns about the impact of the full inclusion of all eleven examples, either as an appendix or in the body of the code, fear – justifiably – that the incorporation of all the examples without adequate caveats will immediately trigger an avalanche of politically-driven complaints by right-wingers eager to purge opponents from the party.

While the final details of the new Code – termed by Labour insiders ‘Code Plus‘ – will not be known until the NEC votes to agree it, last week the SKWAWKBOX also published details of likely changes that will be put in place to ensure that Labour’s members, Jewish and non-Jewish, are adequately protected while at the same time respecting the rights of Palestinians and their supporters to define their experience as they believe is appropriate.

Now, after further investigations, this blog is able to publish further details – along with clarifications, for the uninitiated, as to why these things matter.

1. Academic document vs legally-binding rule

It’s really important to understand that the IHRA’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism was not originally devised for organisations to translate directly, word for word, into their rules.

It’s an academic ‘working definition’ – while rules, for any organisation, have to be legally watertight, because they can be challenged legally.

This is why Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby and her legal team came up with the Code of Conduct to begin with – and why a code to go alongside the IHRA definition is absolutely necessary.

Code Plus will be more comprehensive and will protect members, Jewish citizens and Palestinians and their supporters better.

2. Context

Much has been made of the few hundred (out of a membership of almost 600,000) complaints of antisemitic words or behaviour against Labour members – and both the media and Labour’s critics have tended to treat complaints as equal to actual incidents.

But some allegations of antisemitism against Labour members may have been taken out of context – and some have been dismissed.

ihra context.png

Context is key in determining whether someone is being antisemitic or not – this is something that the IHRA working definition explicitly states – though this has often been ignored in practice.

Judging actions without context is the tabloid way – and the way of political cynics. Labour is – and must be – better than that as a party. It must really get to the root of the issue, if it is going to take the serious step of labelling someone antisemitic.

To take due care and observe due process is simply responsible and fair. So Labour’s code will emphasise context and allow for it in the party’s judgments.

3. Criticism of Israel

Because Israel does not exist in a vacuum and its actions impact on its neighbours and further afield, the behaviour of its government must be subject to criticism – like that of any other country.

But in the context of its history over the last 70 years, it is also entirely reasonable for Labour members to criticise the state of Israel – as socialists, as humanitarians and as internationalists.

Labour has a duty to protect that right and to encourage free speech. This does not only mean Netanyahu and the current right-wing Israeli government. It is also about having the freedom, whether academically or politically, to look critically at Israel’s history – for example the removal or flight of over 700,000 Palestinians when the country of Israel was created.

Code Plus will and must put this right at the forefront of Labour’s policy. To be a Labour Party worthy of the name, it cannot simply forsake an oppressed people or gag their advocates.

4. Retrospectivity

A key battle will be over retrospective actions. It is a legal principle that people should only be tried for things that happened after a law has come into force, not retrospectively. Labour must respect those legal principles.

When the Conservative government broke with those principles of justice a few years ago, by imposing a retrospectively-applied law to prevent thousands of wronged benefit claimants obtaining recompense for support that was withheld illegally, the Tories introduced retrospective legislation, applying backwards to the time the benefits were withheld, to close the door to claims for money owed.

The Tories were, rightly, castigated for this abuse of justice – and two judges later ruled that the government had breached fundamental rules of justice.

As an anti-racist party, Labour is about protecting the Jewish community from antisemitism – which is about stopping instances of antisemitism happening in our party and communities, from this moment forward.

Fighting endless battles over past behaviour is not only counter-productive but also damaging and open to abuse. As a party of justice, Labour cannot allow any Code Plus to open the door for complainants to dredge up behaviour that would fall foul of the Code now but which happened before the Code was in place.

5. Palestinian human rights

The human rights of Palestinians and their right to talk about their occupation, the racism they face, and their oppression currently and historically cannot be negotiated away and no socialist party should ever contemplate it. The Code must and will ensure that does not happen.

6. BDS

Labour’s Code will protect campaigners for ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) – a perfectly legimate and respectable way to campaign against any country which exploits and oppresses another people, just as it was used successfully to campaign against Apartheid South Africa. Labour must and will protect the right of people to organise boycotts.

7. International comparisons

Equally, Labour’s code must protect people who wish to draw fair analogies between what Israel does – for instance its new and widely-condemned ‘Nation State Law’ – and what, for example, Apartheid South Africa did.

Even if not everyone agrees with it, there is no justification for banning that comparison.

8. Penalties for vindictive accusations

One of the most concerning aspects of the antisemitism row has been the making of false claims about members of the party and others. Maliciously-made accusations are damaging, hurtful and cannot be accepted in a democratic party.

Labour must be tough on vexatious claims made about its members and must never accept such behaviour becoming the norm. In the current climate, some accusations of antisemitism have become a means of throwaway abuse and that cannot be allowed to continue.

Allegations must be precise and based on facts – and of course context, as the IHRA working definition rightly points out. To accuse someone of antisemitism is one of the most serious things anyone can do – and no one should be allowed to do it as part of a factional agenda. Labour’s code will put a stop to this abuse.

Comment:

With these protections in place – and the SKWAWKBOX understands that they are likely to command a majority of support on the NEC – Labour members can be confident that its rules will be by a huge distance the most comprehensive and balanced of any political party.

The wellbeing of our Jewish brothers and sisters and the rights of our Palestinian brothers and sisters will be protected among members in a way that is consistent with Labour’s proud history of standing up to racism and fighting for the oppressed – while members will have clear guidance on acceptable behaviour and protections against vexatious complaints.

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32 responses to “Labour Code+ and IHRA examples – more detail of proposals

  1. Fair enough all of that – and I speak as someone who would never have gone near the IHRA examples in the first place, particularly as their author has now renounced them. It remains to be seen how the so-called representatives of the Jewish community react and I for one will give them a big hand if they welcome the new code for its balanced and rational approach to the issue, as they should.

  2. if the code is adopted the rightwing and those pro Israel groupings will be labelling thousands of activities as antisemitic because of their criticism of Israel whilst defending Palestinians. There is no doubt they will try and cripple the party with a tsunami of false complaints. If you doubt that will happen just review the words of Luke Akehurst ”we have the wrong sort of members”.

    The last thing they want is a membership that has a democratic say in who represents it and what direction it is going in. 20 years of Blair and New Labour has filled the PLP with nothing more than rightwing thatcherite neoliberals, who are pro war, pro zionism and pro capital.

    • It is undoubtedly true that the Tory Press (and the Guardian and Independent and New Statesman ), the unconditional pro-Israel (and mainly Tory-supporting, anti Left wing Labour Party) unelected, UK Jewish establishment , and the Labour Right , already have their exhaustively collected past social media and other statements from the Corbyn Leadership group, and Labour Left activists, ready for the adoption of the full IHRA definition . But if this Skwawkbox article is correct , the coming redraft of our code on anti-Semitism will include clear safeguards against both retrospective action , and the taking of comments out of context to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel.

      But, as many other posters correctly say, this will not stop for a moment the continuation of the mass-media-wide demands for both retrospective action (with Jeremy’s long past comment on “Zionists and irony” as an example) , and the ignoring of the other safeguards against the crude, context-free application of the unamended IHRA code in order to demand the expulsion of tens of thousands of Left activists.

      I will ignore , for purposes of brevity, the undoubted fact that a relatively small sub-set of the Left activists potentially facing demands for disciplinary action if past comments are not ruled out of order, have indeed been guilty for years of comments and comparisons which have indulged in word usage which feeds off and into genuinely anti-Semitic memes. A quick look at the comments of the very few obsessive repeat posters on this story over about five Skwawkbox articles this month illustrates that problem very clearly .

      The fact is that we are approaching the strategy “endgame” of the Labour Right and their mass media allies now – using either entirely bogus smears (on a whole range of issues, not just anti-Semitism) , or past unfortunate careless word usage , to de-legitimise Jeremy as Labour Leader . Unfortunately for the Right , though this campaign may well have temporarily soiled Jeremy’s reputation in opinion polls, such is their level of awareness of the Right’s gameplan amongst our membership, and Labour voters , that is simply isn’t going to cause a catastrophic poll collapse, or indeed (once our radical policy offer is out there in a new General Election) prevent Labour from winning an election.

      So the Labour Right, I believe , have painted themselves into a tactical corner . The membership are champing at the bit to de-select them, and they have no credible “centrist” policy offer to win over any numbers of our now solidly (mildly Left reformist) Corbynist membership. And the Left majority on our NEC blocks (we hope) the successful implementation of a crude, unamended, IHRA-based, disciplinary mass expulsion of either general members, or Jeremy and his immediate allies. So the only place the Labour Right can now go surely is OUT of our Party, into some “Macronist” , uncritically pro EU, lash up new party with the Lib Dems. Our problem on the Left is to avoid the “compromise at all costs- keep the Right onboard ” instinct of the Corbyn leadership circle. This would saddle us with 20 or 30 viciously hostile crypto Tory Labour MP’s getting elected on a Labour ticket, promptly to betray us as soon as the General Election count was in – by leaving the Party. Better to have it out with the Labour Right NOW no matter how short-term disruptive that is. Very few Labour Right sitting MP’s would beat a Labour candidate in a General Election once they had jumped ship. So I think the now unstoppable internal dynamic of the ever-building anti-Semitism witch hunt of the Labour Right and their Big Business and Mass Media backers could well play out to our advantage – if it leaves these traitors no choice to split from our Party, and soon.

      • “jpenney” There is a simple answer, ditch the discredited IHRA definition completely.

        “I will ignore , for purposes of brevity” ha ha.

        “A quick look at the comments of the very few obsessive repeat posters on this story over about five Skwawkbox articles this month illustrates that problem very clearly “.

        As I am undoubtedly a repeat poster on this issue, please give me an example of how anything I’ve said encourages antisemitism, which is what your prior weasel words tried to imply?

      • Trial by brevity eh?- A shame that the needless 3rd paragraph, with its un evidenced accusations, based on “brevity”, contaminates the rest.

  3. In the first line of 5, Palestinians is spelt incorrectly. A typo I presume.

    I hope Labour’s legal team are top notch. Suspected vexatious claims also have to be demonstrated to be vexatious, not an easy task I suspect, especially in the current political and media climate.

  4. I am sorry, but I remain profoundly sceptical, and will continue to campaign vigorously against NEC+. I advise all others to do so, as well.
    The Labour Party’s own intolerance of its own members dates back to KINNOCK, remember, not just to Blair.

  5. The way the party looks to be heading seems an unnecessarily complicated way of doing it which will probably create enough ambiguities between the definition, the examples and the clarifications for the usual suspects to take advantage of.
    I think they should have ditched the whole IHRA definition and examples and looked round for a definition which has more precise wording that doesn’t need any clarifications.
    The idea that Labour should be tough on vexatious allegations is a great idea, but the party have just let a long-serving MP smear the party leader as an anti-Semite and racist and the leadership chickened out of disciplining that MP, so even if protections are there, internal party pressures might prevail.
    The party shouldn’t choose to ignore vexatious allegations like those made by Hodge any more than they should ignore genuine allegations of anti-Semitism, IMO.

  6. The more members we have the better off we are as a Party. Why some people will adopt a code in order to damage membership is a disgrace. The code has to be clear that supporting Palestine and Palestinians is perfctly acceptable!

  7. I’m afraid this is just a load of blah blah blah to defend the indefensible.

    The IHRA definition is a nonsense when adopted to show how pro-semitic you are and we certainly don’t need another load of nonsense to back it up.

    Oh what a tangled web we we weave when first we practice to appease.

    This is exactly what happens when you make a wrong decision in the first place and then have to jump through hoops to try and defend it. Better to admit you were wrong and start again and in this instance it simply means telling the LFI and the JLM to get lost because we are reverting to the dictionary definition of antisemitism.

    They won’t be happy but who cares? They are out to destroy the Labour Party as we want it to be under JC anyway and won’t be happy whatever we do whilst he is Leader.

  8. Has anyone got a copy of the Labour Party definition of ageism, the related Code of conduct, and examples? How does it differ from those of the other parties, and the British board of Deputies definition and other of conduct? I believe that ageism directly affects citizens of all parties, all faiths, and none, and of all nationalities.so there must be definitions and guidelines. Ageism has implications access to health and social care.

  9. Who controls the Labour Party, is it Israel via the LFI and JLM or is it the members? This is a fundamental question to which we will find out the answer shortly. If the examples are adopted, no matter what the qualifications, it will turn out to be Israel and thus continue the stranglehold that that barbaric State has had on the Party for decades.

    https://electronicintifada.net/content/jeremy-corbyn-must-not-back-down-palestine/25341?utm_source=EI+readers&utm_campaign=94cd2b2def-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e802a7602d-94cd2b2def-299203113

  10. If the original Code was “Gold Standard” why is it necessary to incorporate all the IHRA examples? Is this really being done to improve the Code or is it in fact an attempt to appease the pro Israel lobby?

    • Without a shadow of doubt the latter because people at the top of the Party are too timid to face up to the Israeli Lobby. What does that say for the future?

      There is a time to be stubborn and stick to your guns but over such an important issue, this is not one of them. To cave in and adopt the IHRA definition and then to be too stubborn to reverse it and then cave in AGAIN is foolishness of the highest order,

  11. NO! The ground has been prepared for NEC to adopt IHRA definitions wholesale (or as near as damn it). It should never have been considered as a reasonable document or even a starting point for anything. In the meantime Palestinians are being slaughtered in the final solution & the NEC will do what……?

  12. Incidentally, off-topic, but could I point out that the ‘glitch’ as facebook recorded it as, where many left wing sites couldn’t post material on their own facebook sites was almost certainly a dry run test after the setting up of a blacklist of sites so that, at election time, these sites, and new sites temporarily created, can all be brought down quickly. I think we have a problem!! I’m guessing facebook will not be available during the next election.

  13. Are the executive of the Labour Party too dim to see that the IHRA definition is a TROJAN HORSE produced by Israel to prevent criticism? Below are extracts from an article by Jonathan Cook

    “Israel’s fingerprints are evident in these recent efforts to redefine anti-Semitism in a way that moves the centre of gravity away from hatred of Jews towards criticism of Israel.

    The IHRA’s definition is itself based on one proposed in 2004 – and discarded after much criticism – by a now-defunct European Union body called the Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).

    That definition was derived from the work of Israeli academics such as Dina Porat

    Nathan Thrall, an analyst in Jerusalem with the International Crisis Group, has noted that the aim of Porat and others was to create “a new definition of anti-Semitism that would equate criticisms of Israel with hatred of Jews”

    A tool originally intended to suppress student debates about Israel and block Israel anti-apartheid week on campus has now been successfully pressed into service against the leader of a major British political party.

    if the full IHRA definition is approved by Labour: “It will be open season on Corbyn and his supporters in the party.” ”

    The complete article is here:
    https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2018-08-25/israel-hidden-hand-jeremy-corbyn/

  14. Jack T You are spot on about its passage through a pro Zionist and not so obscure hinterland. However, much as the origins may be deeply flawed and in fact distasteful, I’m not sure it’s not fair play to refer to what will be a heavily augmented and caveated code – clumsy, unloveable, or otherwise – as the ‘full IHRA definition’. Quite clearly the NEC is not proposing the original document as it stood. There is nothing that our enemies would like better than to be able to say that we have caved in and adopted the original code.

    • Thanks Paulo, I take your point but when the RW make accusations of AS against members, not for a second will they consider all the caveats. They know that it will be the initial accusation/s that will receive the publicity in the RW press and do he harm.

      They don’t give two hoots whether after months of legal wrangling, tying the Party up for ages, the accused, who will probably be suspended in the meantime, is found innocent or guilty. They will have already done the intended damage.

      Even if there are any sanctions proposed for people within the Party who make vexatious accusations, it will not stop the likes of the Mail or any of the other Tory rags making them.

  15. Given that someone has decided to lodge a complaint against Corbyn alleging that he was anti-Semitic to criticise some specific Zionists (many of whom were not even Jewish), I think it’s time to restart disciplinary proceedings against Margaret Hodge. Not for her sweariness this time, but for the false accusation of anti-Semitism and racism she directed at Corbyn.

  16. I’m afraid that this is just the start. Expect everything from racist cannibal to being anti hamster. We should really get back on the front foot. We should treat them as an irritant and let them say what they want. These people are not Labour supporters and never will be. My Jewish mates find the overreaction hilarious. It’s just not being spoken about. We are not an anti-semitic country, never have been and never will. We support the underdog and automatically hate bullies. We are not the cowboys in white stetsons and we don’t believe in peace through war and hatred. Regards comrades, we will win!

  17. Let’s be clear the State of Israel and the zionists who govern it will not allow the Palestinian diaspora to return to their homeland, they continue to build in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and refuse to negotiate their withdrawal from these occupied Palestinian lands. They are also amongst other crimes party to murder by shooting kids throwing stones, pray tell how is that proportional?

    For me this makes Israel a failed state which refuses to abide by international law and UN treaties. Thus it should be replaced by a state that does, in which Jews, Christians, Arabs, etc, all citizens, live in a democratic non racists state.

    Now if the National Executive (NEC) proposes the full list of IHRA examples and they’re passed, and I repeat the above, would I be deemed an anti semite by the LP, yes or no? If so what about my right to free speech?

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