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UK Labour lawmakers back emergency motion on definition of anti-Semitism

Opposition leader Corbyn skips meeting held to discuss controversial code on Jew-hatred adopted by the party

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London, on March 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)
Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London, on March 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)

Britain’s parliamentary Labour Party on Monday passed an emergency motion to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, amid complaints that the party’s new code does not go far enough.

The motion will be voted on by MPs and peers on September 5, putting lawmakers on a collision course with the party’s ruling national executive.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who backs the controversial code currently in place, did not attend the meeting.

Jewish Labour lawmaker Margaret Hodge said she was disappointed by Corbyn’s absence.

Margaret Hodge MP (YouTube screenshot)

“Clearly this is an issue that is totally central to my family and my politics. I think it would have been much, much better if he had been there,” she told the Guardian.

“I feel very emotional, deeply depressed and almost tearful,” Hodge said after the meeting, according to Sky News.

“This is the party I have been in for 50 years. Labour was the natural home for Jews.”

She added: “It’s very gloomy, it’s a gloomy day for Labour. I don’t understand why we cannot just adopt the IHRA definition. If they don’t think there is enough in the definition that allows people to criticize the Israeli government they can add those clauses.”

There is also a dispute over whether Dame Margaret should face a disciplinary review for calling Corbyn an anti-Semite.

Hodge, who has deep roots in the Labour Party, lost family members in the Holocaust. She has challenged Corbyn in recent days and told the BBC on Monday she would not leave the party despite a spate of abuse.

“I am going to fight within the Labour Party and it is terrible that in 2018 I have to do that,” she said.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gestures to the crowd in Trafalgar Square during a protest against the visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK, on July 13, 2018. (Niklas HALLEN/AFP)

She said she had been slow to conclude that Corbyn was an anti-Semite but would not back down.

“I have always in the past disagreed with the people who have called him an anti-Semite but, at the end of the day, people have to be judged on what they do and not what they say. They have to be judged on their actions and not their words,” she said.

The current crisis in Labour’s ranks was spurred after the party’s executive committee proposed a new definition of anti-Semitism that in large part embraces the position taken by the widely recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance but excludes several examples that the alliance cites as anti-Semitic.

The alliance, for example, says it is anti-Semitic to accuse Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than to their home country, an example not picked up by Labour. The alliance also says it is anti-Semitic to compare contemporary Israeli policies to the policies of the Nazis, a view Labour did not endorse.

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