CADFA statement in relation to the IHRA definition of anti-semitism and free speech on Israel/ Palestine
CADFA as a charity doesn’t stand for or promote any political party and this statement addresses the crisis within the Labour Party because of its wider implications for everyone in Britain working for human rights, in particular in relation to Palestine.
We urge the Labour NEC and also those responsible for other parties, councils, the government and public bodies NOT to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-semitism and in particular those examples that are an immediate threat to free speech and a fair description of what is going on in Israel/Palestine.
It is very important that organisations like our own, for example, are able to describe objectively what is going on, that people who have suffered violations of human rights in the past and at the moment are able to express their experience, and that everyone is able to work in a climate of equality, honesty and justice to oppose discrimination and promote human rights.
It is to turn facts on their heads to suggest that people who talk against what is going on in Israel/Palestine are being racist. Organisations like our own do not talk sweepingly of characteristics of people of any group and are concerned to be inclusive and positive. Our aim is a world of equality where the human rights of all people are respected.
Our organisation knows from many years of working with people in Palestine of the appalling human rights violations that the people there have suffered (shown for example, in our regular human rights reports, people’s stories in our books, the experiences recounted by the visitors on our youth exchanges). These are systematic violations based on a racist division between people – aiming to expand opportunities for one people by oppressing and limiting the opportunities of another people.
The push by Israel (and the Zionist movement that preceded it) to take over the land of Palestine has been extremely cruel and murderous from the beginning and this is continuing. The last five months have seen tens of thousands of Palestinians shot by the Israeli army (this is no exaggeration: the West Bank has seen continual ‘clashes’, many woundings and some deaths, while in Gaza, Israeli army snipers have been shooting into huge demonstrations and between 30th March to 11th August, according to the Ministry of Health,169 were shot and killed and over 18,000 wounded, many of them disabled for life). Millions have been cooped up in the siege of Gaza and behind walls and checkpoints in the West Bank that make life a misery (over five million people, 2018). Over six million Palestinians are refugees (around 6 million registered by UNRWA), not permitted by Israel to return home despite UN resolutions and international law.
The systematic inequality has been identified as a type of apartheid, formalised recently by Israel’s Nation State law that enshrines (within Israel’s Basic Law) the superior claim of one people over another.
The IHRA definition and in particular its examples, suggest an immunity from criticism for Israel and the Zionist project that built it. This is a step in the wrong direction. What is happening needs to be named in order to be challenged. We need to broaden our understanding, sympathies and respect for people of all backgrounds in order to aim for justice and for peace.
We have experience already that the IHRA definition will encourage misunderstanding, fear and censorship. In March 2017, a local community centre withdrew a room booking for our entirely positive International Women’s Day celebration, because of the climate caused by the IHRA definition. This is the tip of an iceberg.
We strongly urge you not to adopt this IHRA definition and in particular its examples.