Protesters rallied outside Labour Party HQ to defend Jeremy Corbyn and oppose the IHRA definition, Shabbir Lakha reports
Labour's NEC has voted to adopt the full IHRA definition with all its examples, marking betrayal to Palestine and the gateway for further attacks on Corbyn and the left. But, that doesn't mean Corbyn supporters are going to take it sitting down.
Earlier today, over a hundred people gathered outside Labour Party HQ at short notice on a Tuesday morning to express the opposition to Labour’s NEC adopting the full set of examples of the IHRA definition. The NEC were today discussing the code of conduct that it adopted before the summer recess and whether or not to discard it in favour of the full IHRA definition which it’s been under pressure to do.
The protest was called by Camden Momentum and supported by Jewish Voice for Labour. There were also a dozen or so pro-Israel, anti-Corbyn protesters shouting vile slurs against Corbyn. Despite the one-sided picture painted by the mainstream media, there were far more Jewish people supporting Corbyn than against him.
A number of speakers outlined the issues with the IHRA definition on antisemitism and how it has been used to label legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitism. It has been deployed as a means to hinder BDS activity on University campuses and in public spaces such as in Barnet recently.
Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, a Palestinian human rights lawyer, addressed the crowd and made pertinent points not only on the legalistic flaws of the IHRA definition, but also on the erasure of Palestinian voices in this debate and how this definition will limit how Palestinians are allowed to describe the oppression they face.
The only MP to attend and speak at the protest was Chris Williamson from Derby North. Williamson has been the only MP that has vocally defended Jeremy Corbyn time and time again during the sustained smear campaign over the summer and has made the case clearly and staunchly against the adoption of the IHRA definition. He was also among the few voices that continued to support Pete Willsman in his NEC election bid after he was dropped from Momentum’s slate.
The NEC meeting was "tense" and with "many disagreements", which suggests that left wing members did not necessarily roll over to the demands of the right without some pushback. One thing we already know is that the attacks won’t stop. If it hasn’t been clear enough, then Margaret Hodge and Joan Ryan both saying in plain words that adopting the IHRA doesn’t solve the problem should offer some clarification.
The NEC has agreed to adopt all the IHRA examples plus caveats that are supposed to protect free speech (whether or not they actually is a problem in itself), but it's obvious that the Labour right will say that it’s not enough and that no caveats should have been included. If the NEC had voted against changing the code of conduct, then the Labour right would have said it’s proof of antisemitism in Labour.
But the difference would have been whether or not we’re on the front foot, whether or not Labour Party members can confidently speak out for Palestine, and whether or not the left have been pushed into retreat. Unfortunately, it's "not", but we must continue the fight to defend Corbyn and to stand up for Palestine, and today's protest shows that there is appetite for doing just that.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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