There’s no room for complacency, but we’re not alone in our struggle
LAST WEEK’S record-high antisemitism figures, released by the Community Security Trust, made for concerning reading and were a call to action. In this context of rising abuse, it simply beggars belief that Haringey councillors were heckled when they voted to adopt a definition of antisemitism.
But as much as this situation shows there can be no room for complacency, we can take heart from the fact we are not alone in this struggle.
Up and down the country, from Barnet to Bury, from Salford to South Tyneside, local authorities are acting in solidarity with our community and following the government and opposition in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s antisemitism definition after years of advocacy by the Board of Deputies and others to adopt a definition of this sort.
As a local Labour councillor myself, I was proud to be part of Camden Council’s successful effort to adopt the IHRA definition in April this year. Meanwhile, at the Board, we have been encouraging support for the IHRA definition at our seminars for councillors around the UK, and it will be part of the new Jewish Manifesto for Councillors that we will be launching in the coming months. We have also been calling for universities to follow the positive lead set by councils.
Not all of the adoptions have been plain-sailing. But when members of Haringey’s local Momentum shrieked at councillors to try and cow them into giving racism a free-pass, they showed themselves up for what they are. Jeremy Corbyn himself adopted the definition for the Labour Party and Momentum’s national leadership distanced itself from the Haringey protests in a statement. Labour and Momentum need to get a whole lot better at showing the door to people who would be more at home in the British National Party.
It was disappointing that some local Muslims joined these trolls in their little “rally for hate”. In a neighbourhood where synagogues hosted the local Bravanese Somali Muslim community after their mosque was torched in a heinous hate crime, local Jews should have been able to expect their Muslim neighbours would stand alongside them in saying antisemitism is not OK. I am sure most of Haringey’s Muslims agree.
Those who took part in this demonstration did nothing for community cohesion, or to tackle unfair negative images of Muslims, so often the victims of racism and suspicion themselves. Those responsible need to reach out to local Jewish communities to understand the hurt they have caused and why this definition is important.
We can take heart from this process of adoptions of the IHRA definition. We should commend our friends in Haringey and around the country for standing up to the bullies and doing what’s right. As a community we may have many enemies, but we have many allies as well. With them alongside us, we will prevail in our fight against the antisemites.
Phil Rosenberg is Director of Public Affairs at the Board of Deputies, a councillor in Camden, and co-chair of the borough’s Faith Leaders’ Forum