The IHRA definition of antisemitism is a threat to free expression | Ash Sarkar

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It is vital Labour tackles this crisis head-on – but not at the expense of its members’ solidarity with the Palestinian people

It’s crunch time. Over the next two days, the Labour party’s national executive committee will meet to decide whether or not to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full. Many are saying the debate is essentially over. The former prime minister Gordon Brown has urged the party to incorporate the IHRA definition and 11 examples into its rulebook “unequivocally and immediately”, as has Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey. It has been reported that Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum and previously a prominent supporter of the proposed NEC code of conduct, has since been lobbying the Labour leadership for full adoption (it should be noted that Momentum itself has not taken a position either way).

It might appear contrarian and needlessly divisive to argue against such an overwhelming uniformity of opinion. However, this seeming consensus excludes British BAME and Palestinian voices on the issue. Full adoption of IHRA in the name of anti-racism is a self-defeating enterprise. As Margaret Hodge’s comments yesterday demonstrate (“It might have been enough three months ago, it might have just enabled us all to start talking to each other and bring trust again, but I think that moment has passed”), full implementation of IHRA as a tactical measure to contain or mitigate the crisis is inherently flawed. Most importantly, it is a danger to the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Related: Frank Field: I will not trigger a byelection

Related: Labour activist in antisemitism row re-elected to ruling body

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