Model motion: Abandon IHRA and adopt the Jerusalem Declaration

This motion has been drafted as a model motion to go to Labour Party conference 2021, but it can be tweaked for other purposes. Please note that this has to go through your branch first, then your CLP and needs to be submitted to the NEC by September 13 in order to be heard at Labour Party conference. Remember that a CLP can either submit a rule change (which needs to be submitted by June 11) or a ‘contemporary’ motion like this one.

1. We note

1.1. That the ‘working definition’ published by the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) has been rejected by numerous legal practitioners and academic scholars , because it conflates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and has been used to ‘chill’ freedom of speech on campuses.

1.2. Among the many critics of the IHRA are:

  • Its principal drafter Kenneth Stern who explained that: “The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus. In fact, at a conference in 2010 about the impact of the definition, I highlighted this misuse, and the damage it could do.”
  • Professor David Feldman (vice-chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry and director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism) who has described the definition as “bewilderingly imprecise”.
  • Sir Stephen Sedley, the Jewish former Court of Appeal judge, who has written that the IHRA “fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite”.
  • Hugh Tomlinson QC who has warned that the IHRA definition had a “chilling effect on public bodies”.
  • Geoffrey Robertson QC who has explained that, “The definition does not cover the most insidious forms of hostility to Jewish people and the looseness of the definition is liable to chill legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel and coverage of human rights abuses against Palestinians.” Robertson, a prominent human rights barrister, also wrote that the definition was ‘not fit for purpose’.
  • Tony Lerman, the founder of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, wrote that “it’s not fit for purpose, but it also has the effect of making Jews more vulnerable to antisemitism, not less, and exacerbating the bitter arguments Jews have been having over the nature of contemporary antisemitism for the last 20 to 25 years.”

2. We believe:

2.1. That the adoption of the IHRA definition and all eleven examples by the Labour Party’s NEC in 2018 has not brought an end to the ongoing claims that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semites. In fact, the opposite has occurred. It has encouraged the leadership of the Labour Party to accelerate the expulsion and suspension of critics of the Israeli state and Zionism.

2.2. The government’s threat to defund universities that refuse to adopt IHRA is a serious attempt to shut down free speech and academic freedom

2.3.  That unlike the IHRA, the JDA, whilst not without its flaws, is about anti-Semitism not anti-Zionism.

3. We resolve:

3.1. To reverse the Labour Party’s NEC decision and jettison the IHRA definition. 

3.2. To adopt the Jerusalem Declaration, which has been “developed by a group of scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies to meet what has become a growing challenge: providing clear guidance to identify and fight antisemitism while protecting free expression”. In contrast to IHRA, it has been written “in good faith”, as Professor Moshe Machover said

3.3. To campaign for freedom of speech, which includes the right to call out Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians as racist, discriminatory and oppressive.

One thought on “Model motion: Abandon IHRA and adopt the Jerusalem Declaration”

  1. I am against this motion in its current form. As tempting as it is to champion a replacement for IHRA, in my view the logical, likely outcome of endorsement is even worse than the current mess. The JDA’s Definition is excellent. But its Preamble and Guidelines are sufficiently pliable and contradictory to be used to the same end as IHRA — and that “end” will be worse than IHRA if we have formally accepted the document.
    When the BoD, the CAA, and the CST say, “You agree with the JDA? Okay, fine!” and then exploit and wield its weaknesses to “convict” us, how will we explain ourselves, when we have already formally endorsed the document?
    A solution would be to accept only the JDA definition (“Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish)”, but explicitly reject its Preamble and Guidelines (something like “though well-intended, they confuse rather than clarify the definition itself”).
    Anyone reading this is likely familiar with the general criticism of the JDA, but for anyone interested, here is my view https://youtu.be/hc6RW5IbRM8.

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