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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Barnet Council motion uses IHRA examples against BDS campaigners

From Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Barnet Councillor Brian Gordon is to propose a motion effectively outlawing organisations that support Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The motion [below] cites the hotly disputed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) document on antisemitism as justification for the move. The meeting is at Hendon Town Hall, 7pm tonight.

The motion calls for the London Borough of Barnet to ‘consider the legality of ensuring’ it does ‘not to provide or rent any space’ to individuals and groups supporting the BDS movement – effectively seeking a ban on events promoting sanctions against Israel for its violations of international law.
Councillor Gordon’s motion specifically quotes the contentious guidance notes to the IHRA document in order to claim that BDS is antisemitic, because other countries are not similarly targeted. 

However no other country that the UK treats as an ally has been in illegal occupation of another country for over 50 years, suppressing the human rights of its inhabitants.

The motion has national significance because the Labour Party – which has adopted the 38-word IHRA definition of antisemitism – has been criticised for not fully adopting the guidanceattached to it, including the two examples cited in the motion.

Jonathan Rosenhead, Vice Chair of Free Speech on Israel, said:

Those criticising Labour for failing to adopt the full IHRA guidance claim the document poses no threat to freedom of expression. This motion being put forward in Barnet clearly demonstrates that they are wrong and vindicates the adjustments made by Labour’s National Executive Committee.
Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said:
Palestinians have a right to describe their history and the continuing racist injustices that deny them their rights, whether as unequal citizens of the State of Israel, living under military occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, under siege in Gaza, or as refugees denied the right of return. Others have a right to hear this information and, in line with a commitment to fighting racism in all its forms, to respond to the Palestinian call for global action via Boycott Divestment and Sanctions.
Despite the clear warning from distinguished lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC in his legal opinion on the IHRA document, groups lobbying for Israel have continued to press public bodies both to adopt the IHRA definition and to use it to suppress both legitimate criticism of Israel, and calls for action on behalf of the Palestinian people. In March, a delegation including Joan Ryan MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel , Matthew Offord MP of Conservative Friends of Israel petitioned Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, calling for action to  prevent events on UK campuses that describe Israel as an apartheid state, citing the IHRA document as justification.

Campaigners for Palestinian rights including Free Speech on Israel, Jewish Voice for Labour and Palestine Solidarity Campaign are calling for the motion to be withdrawn. They have also called for the UK government to issue a clear statement that no public body should use the IHRA definition to prevent legitimate criticism of the state of Israel (which includes describing its laws and policies as “racist” and meeting the legal definition of “apartheid”). Nor should they use it to prevent calls for peaceful actions including boycott divestment and sanctions in response to Israel’s continuing violations of Palestinian human rights.

Administration motion in the name of Cllr Brian Gordon Boycott the antisemitic BDS movement 

On 31st January 2017, Barnet became the first local authority to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition of antisemitism and its corresponding guidance, which recognises that antisemitism takes many forms including, in certain circumstances, targeting of the State of Israel. 

The IHRA’s guidance rightly points out that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled [sic] against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. However, Council believes the aims, methods, and rhetoric of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and believes its go well beyond this, and are consistent with the IHRA’s guidance on the definition of antisemitism. Specifically: 

·      A completely disproportionate focus on the State of Israel to the exclusion of all other territorial disputes and ethnic conflicts in the world, e.g. the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, or the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus; 

·      “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour [sic]”; 

·      Frequently reported incidents of BDS activists “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions” and “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism to characterize Israel or Israelis.” 

·      “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” 
Following similar action taken by the City of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on 25th August 2017, Council instructs the Policy & Resources Committee to produce a Use of Council Premises policy and to consider the legality of ensuring:
·      The London Borough of Barnet does not provide any space or areas for clubs, organizations or even individuals who support the activities of the antisemitic BDS movement. 

·      The London Borough of Barnet instructs its companies not to provide or rent any space for affiliates, organizations or individuals who support the activities of the antisemitic BDS movement. 

·      The London Borough of Barnet appeals to landlords of event venues in the borough not to provide or rent any space for clubs, organizations or even individuals who support the activities of the antisemitic BDS movement. 

·      The London Borough of Barnet does not make any donations or grants to associations, organisations or other groups which support the activities of the antisemitic BDS movement. 

Council also reaffirms its commitment to fight all forms of prejudice, whether against religion, race, sex, gender, or age. 

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