Anger as UK Labour Party Adopts ‘Toothless’ Definition of Anti-Semitism

Protesters hold placards as they demonstrate in Parliament Square against anti-Semitism in
Jack Taylor/Getty

The UK Labour Party’s new anti-Semitism code of conduct has been rejected as “toothless” by angry campaigners and community groups.

They say the code claims it’s not anti-Semitic to compare Israel to Nazis, or smear the Jewish state as racist.

The code was initiated in the wake of an ongoing row that saw Jewish groups protest outside Parliament against Labour and its continued inability to control the anti-Jewish elements of its membership.

The code states explicitly “anti-Semitism is racism. It is unacceptable in our party and in wider society”, however critics point to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism as a better example for the party to adopt.

It also does not consider as always anti-Semitic claims people are more loyal to Israel than their home country, claims that creating Israel was racist, holding Israel to higher standards than other nations or comparing Israeli politicians to Nazis.

The document does say such actions are “wrong” and specifically warns comparison to Nazis carries a strong risk of breaking the rules.

Key party members such as MPs Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and Anna Turley are among those who have publicly disagreed with the new definitions.

Labour Against Anti-Semitism (LAAS) said that the recommendations omit ‘significant aspects’ of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

It said the code also “misrepresent other aspects, leaving a toothless document that will only encourage Jew-hate in the Labour Party to flourish further, unchallenged and unpunished.”

“The Labour Party already has very little credibility left as the anti-racist body it has always claimed to be,” said LAAS in a statement. “The formal adoption of this document would see any remaining credibility lost, perhaps permanently. We urge the Labour leadership to think again.”

Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, and Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, issued a joint statement. They said “it is for Jews to determine for themselves what anti-Semitism is”:

The UK Jewish community has adopted in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, as have the British Government, Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament, 124 local authorities across the country and numerous governments around the world.

It is impossible to understand why Labour refuses to align itself with this universal definition. Its actions only dilute the definition and further erode the existing lack of confidence that British Jews have in their sincerity to tackle anti-Semitism within the Labour movement.

Last March Jewish leaders and thousands of their supporters took to London’s streets to voice their opposition to the rise of anti-Semitism in the party.

They gathered outside Parliament demanding action as they accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of not doing enough to tackle anti-Jewish sentiment, and in a strongly-worded open letter told him “enough is enough.”

Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: or e-mail to:



Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.