- Created: Thursday, 13 June 2019 21:59
- Written by London Branches
On 11 June, Ealing became the last council in London to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism, a definition that seeks to censor criticism of the racist, Zionist state of Israel and silence those campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinian demand for statehood.
At the full council meeting, West London Revolutionary Communist Group presented a petition against the adoption of the IHRA definition signed by hundreds of Ealing residents, and argued for councillors to vote against IHRA. Despite our campaign and the demands of the petitioners, the council adopted the IHRA definition in full. The definition will now be written into the council’s standing orders, discrimination policies and staff code of conduct. Councillors and staff of Ealing Borough Council are effectively banned from stating ‘Israel is a racist endeavour’, and the ability of pro-Palestine organisations and activists to express such views at council-run venues is now uncertain.
According to a post on the Ealing Labour website, the CLP had planned for its elected councillors to propose the adoption of IHRA at the full council meeting on 18 December 2018 in an apparent show of party discipline after it emerged that a videographer hired by Ealing CLP had been accused of anti-Semitism. The RCG also learned from a Freedom of Information request that in November 2018 all London boroughs had been instructed by Home Secretary Sajid Javid and the Leaders Committee of London Councils to adopt IHRA. Ealing’s compliance with this diktat was delayed well into 2019, reputedly due to disagreements within the CLP. Ealing Labour 4 Corbyn had written an open letter opposing the adoption of IHRA by the national Labour Party in September 2018, but resistance by CLP members to the local adoption of IHRA by Ealing Council, if it existed, was kept strictly behind closed doors. No other political parties or left organisations supported our campaign despite overtures to Ealing Labour and West London Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Finally, at the meeting on 11 June, Labour Councillor for Southall Green Ward, Peter Mason, moved for the council to adopt IHRA without debate, along with a fig leaf definition of Islamophobia.
West London RCG had been preparing for this outcome for eight months by grilling councillors at local surgeries and gathering signatures for a petition. With hundreds of supporters in Ealing and surrounding boroughs, the petition was submitted so that it could be read out and argued for, for three minutes before the council (see the petition text and full speech below); if it wasn’t for this intervention, the IHRA motion could have quietly passed without a word of opposition being uttered in the chamber. Council leader Julian Bell, who was required to respond, was unable to offer any assurance that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism would not be used against those who call Israel a racist state.
Nonetheless, Labour-led Ealing Council voted unanimously to pass the motion, which was hurriedly bumped up the meeting agenda – not a single councillor had the courage to step out of line and oppose IHRA, as has been the case in all Labour-run councils in London. This is a cowardly surrender to the right-wing forces that cynically weaponise accusations of anti-Semitism to defend the indefensible Zionist state and its ongoing racist oppression of the Palestinian people. Our supporters did not look on quietly but protested from the gallery of the council chamber after the motion was passed, declaring ‘we will not allow business as usual while Palestinians suffer’. Footage of our protest taken by a seated councillor immediately found its way to pro-Zionist social media pages and news outlets.
This betrayal by Ealing Council is yet another sign of the total incapacity of the Labour Party to put up resistance to the oppression of Palestine. The significant majority of pro-Israel Labour MPs and local councillors ensures that Labour will continue to abandon meaningful solidarity with the Palestinians' struggle in a sacrifice to party unity; they are prepared to gag their own councillors and council employees with IHRA, along with every Palestine supporter in London who wishes to use council-run venues (among the only affordable public spaces left in the city).
We will never stop defending anti-Zionists of all backgrounds and their right to denounce Israeli racism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. An independent movement is urgently needed to fight for the liberation of all oppressed peoples.
Speech to introduce petition against IHRA
I am here on behalf of the Revolutionary Communist Group to present the following petition:
‘We the undersigned declare: We are opposed to any move by Ealing Council to adopt the reactionary IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. The adoption of the IHRA definition by any public body or political party harms solidarity with Palestine.’
Councillors, you will later tonight be presented with a motion which includes adoption of the IHRA definition. This petition opposing the definition has collected over 700 signatures in Ealing over the last several months from people who share our concerns. The reason we are asking you to oppose the motion is, simply put, because the IHRA definition carries with it an attack on free speech for critics of the Israeli state.
The definition contains within it a number of examples of what it says are anti-Semitic behaviour. Three of these examples explicitly refer to criticism of the Israeli state, opening up critics of Israel to spurious accusations of anti-Semitism. But the most concerning is the example which states that it is anti-Semitic to claim, ‘that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’.
I’m here to say that the State of Israel is a racist endeavour, and that its founding ideology, Zionism, is a racist ideology. The State of Israel was born out of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian nation. When Israel was founded in 1948, approximately 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from the land that is now the Israeli state and over 500 Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed. And insofar as Zionism called for a state with a Jewish majority in Palestine, a land that was predominantly inhabited by non-Jews, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was a necessary and inevitable precursor to the creation of that state. The maintenance of that state as a Jewish state, to the exclusion of non-Jewish inhabitants of that land, requires the continual denial of political and human rights to the Palestinian people, who pose a threat to Israel’s Jewish character by the mere fact of their very existence. That is why we say that the State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
Under the IHRA definition, what I just said would be deemed anti-Semitic. That’s why we say this definition is an act of censorship, and why you should reject it. To call the Israeli state a racist endeavour is not to be anti-Semitic, it is to be anti-racist, to oppose the racist oppression Israel inflicts upon the Palestinian people. That fact is attested to by the countless Jewish allies of the Palestinian movement, like the over 40 Jewish organizations from 15 different countries who signed a declaration last year opposing the IHRA definition precisely because it restricts the freedom to call Israel a racist state.
We must combat all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, but this definition does not actually define anti-Semitism, it redefines it as something it is not. And by doing so, the IHRA definition itself protects racism – that is, Zionist racism against the Palestinian people – from criticism. Reject the definition and vote down tonight’s motion to adopt it.