August 18, 2019

British University Union Votes Against Using IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

Leeds University Union, part of the University of Leeds in England voted against moving forward in using the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on campus and its full examples. A meeting March 11, which discussed how they could strengthen the university experience, progressed into a debate about how to handle anti-Semitism on campus.

“Every student agreed anti-Semitism was unacceptable,” the statement written by the student union said. “However, there was debate both for and against adopting all of the examples listed with the IHRA definition.”

A panel of 15 students voted during the forum: 10 voted for and five against. 12 votes were required for the idea to pass or fail. The next step in the process is to take the idea to referendum, “should the proposer wish to.”

The statement on the British university’s website said in order for an idea to move forward, 75% of the student panel needs to vote yes.

Leeds Jewish Society attended the forum and was “incredibly disappointed that a motion on LUU combating anti-Semitism did not pass.”

“The motion is about marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, ensuring Sabbatical officers have the training on tackling anti-Semitism and adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism (used by the Jewish community and adopted by the government, NUS, Conservative and Labour parties and over 100 local councils),” the group said on Twitter.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism includes some examples of anti-Israel criticism but states that criticism of Israel that is comparable to the rhetoric of any other country does not constitute anti-Semitism.

“We will not cower. Jewish students have a right to feel safe on campus. And if you do not, please know both JSoc and UJS [Union of Jewish Students] are here to support you- feel free to drop us a message.”

The Journal has reached out to Leeds Jewish Society and Leeds University Union for comment.

Labour Party Amends Anti-Semitism Definition

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

After being plagued by allegations of anti-Semitism, the Labour Party voted on Tuesday to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, but added a “free speech” qualification that has garnered criticism from Jewish groups.

The party issued a statement accompanying the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that said that it doesn’t “undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”

Various Jewish groups denounced this caveat.

“A ‘freedom of expression on Israel’ clause is unnecessary and totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted,” Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Garber said in a statement. “Labour appears determined to provide a safe space for anti-Semites. This decision is a sad reflection on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party and the culture it has instilled.”

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who called Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite to his face, tweeted that the party’s move was “two steps forward and one step back.”

“Why dilute the welcome adoption IN FULL of the #IHRA definition of #Antisemitism with an unnecessary qualification?” Hodge wrote.

Other Jewish groups, such as the World Jewish Council, viewed the move as progress for the Labour Party, but more work needed to be done.

Additionally, Corbyn reportedly attempted to introduce language that would have stated that it wasn’t anti-Semitic to describe “Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist.” He was rebuffed by his party.

In July, the Labour Party had only adopted part of the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism, but wouldn’t embrace the aspects of the definition that stated it was anti-Semitic to compare Israel to Nazi Germany.

Corbyn himself has been embroiled in a myriad of scandals in recent weeks, including a prior speech of him saying that Zionists don’t understand “English irony” and laying a wreath at the graves of the 1972 Munich terrorists.