Britain: Black and minority ethnic groups urge Labour not to silence Palestine supporters

Labour activists and Palestinians have expressed widespread concern that the IHRA code is designed to silence criticism of Israel and undermine Palestinian solidarity.

The British Labour Party’s national executive council (NEC) voted on September 4 to adopt the controversial the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Supporters of Palestinian liberation, including Jewish groups, have criticised the definition.

Ahead of the vote, 84 Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and migrant community groups signed an open letter warning the Labour Party not to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, including all its examples, Novara Media said last month. The letter said the definition risks silencing public discussion on Palestine.

The letter —  whose signatories include The Society of Black Lawyers, PCS Union Black Members Committee, and the Muslim Association of Britain — said BAME and migrant groups were “deeply worried about current attempts to silence a public discussion of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948”.

It expressed concern that “public discussion of these facts, and a description of these injustices, would be prohibited under the IHRA’s guidelines”.

The community groups said Labour must learn from recent events that “demonstrate the dangers of silencing migrant, and BAME communities”, including the Grenfell Towers disaster and the Windrush migrant scandal. Justice for Grenfell and Grenfell Speaks, two community groups set up in the wake of last year’s fire, signed the letter.

Labour activists and Palestinians have expressed widespread concern that the IHRA code is designed to silence criticism of Israel and undermine Palestinian solidarity.

The letter followed another sent in July by Palestinian academics and activists, which argued adoption by public bodies of the IHRA definition and examples could inhibit discussion of Palestinians’ “dispossession by ethnic cleansing, when Israel was established” and “silence public discussions on current or past practices of settler colonialism, apartheid, racism and discrimination”.