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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Corbyn set to give way on anti-Semitism code of conduct

UK Labour leader is reported to be willing to give ground on the party accepting full IHRA definition of hate speech

Even allies of Mr Corbyn have criticised the decision not to accept all 11 IHRA definitions. Getty
Even allies of Mr Corbyn have criticised the decision not to accept all 11 IHRA definitions. Getty

Jeremy Corbyn, the under-fire leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, looks set to cede ground to critics who have attacked the group for failing to accept all the guidelines of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in its definition of anti-Semitism.

The dispute, triggered last month when Labour’s key policy-making forum the National Executive Committee refused to adopt all 11 of the IHRA’s examples of anti-Semitism, has riven the party and seen it fall behind in the polls, despite the ruling Conservative’s party’s own difficulties over Brexit and Islamophobia.

The four resolutions that were rejected included “claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”, comparing the actions of Israel to Nazis, and accusing Jews of dual loyalty. There was uproar among the Jewish community following the decision, and many MPs and union leaders have indicated their unhappiness at the NEC’s decision.

The Guardian reported late on Wednesday that the party might be willing to accept all of the guidelines as long as it still allowed party members to legitimately criticise Israel and its treatment of Palestinians without being accused of anti-Semitism.

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The party is now willing to accept three of the IHRA resolutions outright, and wants to ensure that the most controversial one, about the state of Israel’s existence, could be tempered with additional protection for party members’ right to free speech within Labour’s code of conduct.

The newspaper said that the party is hoping to resolve the issue before it meets for conference in Liverpool in late September. There is an NEC meeting on September 4, when it could agree the new position, which would fall fortuitously because Labour MPs are due to vote the following day on incorporating the full IHRA guidelines.

Even allies of Mr Corbyn have criticised the decision not to accept all 11 IHRA definitions: the GMB, Unison and USDAW unions have called for the leadership to change its decision, as has Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, a key Corbyn backer.

Former party leader and prime minister Gordon Brown said in an interview that “this cannot keep going on as a running sore and it's not because it’s an embarrassment, it is because it is simply wrong”.

Mr Corbyn has appeared to concede ground this week in an interview, when he said that “the one example that we are discussing and consulting on is one that makes sure that you can discuss and debate the relations between Israel and Palestine, the future of the peace process and, yes, make criticisms of the actions of the Israeli government in the bombing of Gaza and other places”.

“But you can never make those criticisms with anti-Semitic language or anti-Semitic intentions. And that is what we are absolutely clear on.”