Free speech ad­di­tion ‘a get-out clause,’ says MP

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

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.”

PHOTO: CHRIS MCAN­DREW / UK PAR­LIA­MENT

Dame Mar­garet Hodge

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