Labour is set to adopt new definition of anti-Semitism

Party to take action amid continued controversy over its attitude towards Jewish people

 British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn eats his lunch on board a train to Hull from Leeds. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn eats his lunch on board a train to Hull from Leeds. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images


Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), is on Tuesday expected to accept a definition of anti-Semitism which Jewish groups have identified as a necessary first step towards allaying fears about the party’s attitude to prejudice against Jews.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said on Monday that she hoped the party would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

The Labour leadership has accepted the definition, but Palestinian groups have warned that some of the examples attached to it could prevent legitimate criticism of Israel.

“I understand why people looked at some of the examples and thought, ‘Hang on a minute, how can we implement this? Might it mean that people can’t criticise the state of Israel?’ My interpretation is that clearly, we can. I’ve read a number of legal advices that say that we can,” Ms Thornberry told the Financial Times.

“It’s our duty, in my view, as the Labour Party, to criticise the Netanyahu government and what the Netanyahu government is doing to Israel – let alone what it’s doing to the Palestinians.”

All Britain’s main Jewish organisations and newspapers and dozens of rabbis have warned that, if Labour does not accept the IHRA definition and all its examples, the party will have failed to stand up to anti-Semitism within its ranks. Former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks has compared Mr Corbyn to Enoch Powell and warned this week that, for the first time in four centuries, Jews are questioning whether they are safe in Britain.

An activist who claimed that “Trump fanatics” within the Jewish community were inventing some allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour was on Monday re-elected to the NEC. The activist, Peter Willsman, came last among the nine elected, with the top eight places won by candidates backed by Momentum, which supports Mr Corbyn. Momentum dropped Mr Willsman from its slate after his comments about anti-Semitism.

Frank Field, who cited Mr Corbyn’s response to the anti-Semitism row when he resigned the Labour whip last week, said on Monday that he would not be resigning his Birkenhead seat and seeking a renewed mandate in a byelection.

“Those people that I work with most closely in Birkenhead stress that, in the 2017 general election, I received the biggest majority I have ever had in Birkenhead, standing clearly on a national and local manifesto. All of these people, and practically all of the local residents who have contacted me in recent days, have stressed that I should simply get on with the job of representing Birkenhead,” he said.