The decision by an “emergency meeting” hosted by Camden Momentum to call a lobby of Labour’s National Executive on 4 September, to oppose the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, is toxic.
Momentum activists have linked their opposition to the IHRA definition to the lack of internal democracy in Momentum.
But justifiable anger about the way Momentum builds and then promotes its slates for the National Executive is being used to promote the worst views of left antisemites.
The meeting agreed a statement, of which the only part to suggest any kind of democratic reform is a call for Labour members to have an individual vote on the IHRA. Given the National Executive is elected by members this is bizarre.
Adoption of the IHRA by the Labour Party is proclaimed to be a fundamental blow to the cause of Palestinian liberation. Just as bizarrely the statement declares that adoption of the IHRA will hand the party back to the right!
The adoption of the IHRA by the Labour Party does not, as its opposers have said, mean the National Executive has to junk the code it has already put together. A code of conduct serves a different purpose to a definition and they are not mutually exclusive.
Hostility to the IHRA is completely disproportionate to the effect the definition will actually have. The constant refrain from its opponents that it can be used to stop legitimate criticism of Israel is completely unfounded.
It is tied closely with the dominant left orientation to criticism of Israel to the exclusion of all else is required above all else. These “leftists” believe the most pressing issue for Corbyn’s Labour must be its ability to champion the Palestinian cause. Of course IHRA critics ignore that Corbyn opposes a blanket boycott of Israel and stands explicitly for two states, two of the most important tenets of a programme for lasting peace.
The purpose of the Camden Momentum lobby can only be to defend a licence to make calls for the “smashing of Israel” and worse, make the kind of antisemitic remarks that have appeared in the comments on the Facebook event, including talk of a powerful “Jewish lobby” and the “use of the Holocaust to guilt trip the world”.
Whatever the best intentions of anyone who supports this action, antisemitism lurks barely beneath the surface.
Momentum and Labour members should oppose the lobby and support the Labour National Executive’s in both adopting the IHRA and refining its existing code of conduct.