Free speech addition ‘a get-out clause,’ says MP
DAME MARGARET Hodge has said Labour “sullied” its attempt to adopt the IHRA definition by adding the free speech clause.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today the party should have adopted it with “no ifs, no buts”.
Dame Margaret said she was “saddened by the attempt at what looks to me as a get-out clause”.
Jeremy Corbyn tried to include a statement removing certain circumstances involving Israel but withdrew it when it was met with an angry backlash.
Dame Margaret told listeners the dispute and attempt to add the statement “demonstrates a reluctance on his part rather than a very public acceptance to deal with the issue”.
She added: “He should have adopted the full international definition with no if no buts.
He has sullied it.”
She said the “onus is really on” Mr Corbyn as party leader. Shadow Attorney General, Baroness Chakrabarti, who wrote a report on antisemitism within Labour in 2016, rejected Dame Margaret’s claims, saying the free speech clause was “about reassuring people that you can be a critic of Israel without being antisemitic. You you just need to conduct your debate in a certain way.” “There was no sullying,” she said. The statement was “not a caveat or a dilution, the words are true”, claiming it was necessary because of “concerns” around free speech and the right to criticise Israel.
When pushed on whether she thought it was acceptable to call Israel a racist endeavour — which the IHRA definition says could be antisemitic — she said: “It depends how you do it. “I think there has to be a space for disagreement around one of the biggest geo political problems of my lifetime.
“What is not acceptable is to deny the Jewish people selfdetermination. All we are trying to do is reassure people on both sides of one of the most intractable disputes, is that we can move forward.”
Dame Margaret said the Labour leader must prove his commitment to re building trust with the Jewish community.
She said it was “outrageous” that Mr Corbyn was still taking action against MP Ian Austin “for expressing his views, while failing to take action against Pete Willsman”.
Mr Willsman, one of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies on Labour’s ruling body, claimed Jewish “Trump fanatics” were making false claims of antisemitism in the party.
A recording obtained by the JC revealed an explosive audio of Mr Willsman’s angry rant yet no action was taken against him.
Dame Margaret said: “His vile rant at a NEC meeting was so antisemitic, which Jeremy witnessed and did absolutely nothing about.”
During the interview, Baroness Chakrabarti claimed that a 2013 video of Mr Corbyn saying Zionists don’t understand English irony had been misrepresented.
And she pleaded with Jews who have “been hurt” by Labour’s antisemitism crisis “to come back into the room,” adding: “I will open the door and I will put the kettle on.”
Dame Margaret Hodge