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Palestinian groups urge Labour: Don't adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism

Palestinian groups fear criticism of Israel will be criminalised if IHRA definition is adopted by the Labour Party
Barnet council used the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism to ban the BDS movement (MEE)

A coalition of Palestinian civil society groups has urged the UK Labour Party to not adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism due to fears it will stifle future advocacy for Palestinian rights. 

Several Palestinian groups associated with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), called on the Labour Party and affiliated trade unions to reject the definition as it conflates "anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel".

In a statement released on Monday evening, the groups described the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as "discredited" and that it intended to "silence criticism of Israeli policies that violate Palestinian human rights".

"The discredited IHRA guidelines deliberately conflate hostility to or prejudice or discrimination against Jews on the one hand with legitimate critiques of Israel's policies and system of injustice on the other," the statement said. 

"Adopting the IHRA definition (with its examples) would not only demonise our present struggle for liberation and self-determination. It would also silence a public discussion [in the UK] of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948."

The BDS movement, founded in 2005, was launched by a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions on Israel until it complied with international law. 

Among the signatories of the statement include the General Union of Palestinian Workers, Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, and the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions. 

Contentious examples of anti-Semitism 

The statement was released as pressure continues to mount on Labour leader and pro-Palestine advocate Jeremy Corbyn to adopt the IHRA definition in full. 

In July, the Labour Party adopted an amended version of the IHRA definition and left out some examples it deemed contentious. 

The decision prompted widespread anger within the party, with prominent figures, including Margaret Hodge and Wes Streeting, condemning Labour for not adopting the IHRA definition in full. 

While some Labour politicians, trade union activists, and over 100 anti-racist groups praised Labour's decision not to adopt the IHRA definition and urged the party to stick by it. 

The IHRA definition contains 11 "contemporary examples of anti-Semitism" which include denying the Holocaust and promoting Jewish conspiracy theories. 

Some of the examples left out by the Labour Party include comparing the Israeli government's actions with the Nazis and describing the creation of Israel as a "racist endeavour" as being a form of anti-Semitism. 

The definition has been adopted by 31 countries, along with 130 councils in the UK, the UK Crown Prosecution Service, and its judiciary. 

But the IHRA's definition has already been accused of silencing criticism of Israel after Barnet council in July used it as a basis to pass a motion to ban the BDS movement.