ePetition details

Palestine and the IHRA

We the undersigned petition the council to We believe that it would be a positive and very helpful act, if the council, in keeping with their position as an ‘inclusive’ employer, adopt a caveat to the IHRA statement of 1 November to clearly demonstrate that the council does not as an employer wish to prejudice the rights of Palestinians, and the right of others to campaign for Palestine in Harlow. CAVEAT: "It is not antisemitic, without additional evidence of anti Jewish prejudice, to criticise the Government of Israel; or to criticise Zionism as a political ideology; or to describe any policy or law or practices of the state of Israel as racist, including acts leading to Palestinian dispossession as part of the establishment of the state of Israel; or to define Israel as an apartheid state; or to advocate Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel."

We are concerned that on 1st November Harlow councillors passed, unopposed, a motion to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, along with its highly controversial examples.

Antisemitism needs to be taken seriously and we support any attempts by the council to challenge it. As the far-right grows in Europe, the US and in Britain, it is vital that we stand against the poison of antisemitism and all forms of racism, wherever they emerge. We were horrified at the murder of eleven Jews in Pittsburgh, in an attack clearly motivated by antisemitism and the hostile environment of current US politics.

However we must all ensure that none of the examples contained within the IHRA definition adopted by the council can be used to prevent council members, officers, staff or our community from expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for equality and human rights.

We are extremely concerned that the adoption by Harlow Council of this working definition could lead to a situation where citizens expressing support for Palestine, or criticising Israel, could be subject to legal or work place sanctions. This has happened in Dudley where UNISON member Paul Jonson was suspended from his council job for stating on social media that ‘Israel is a racist endeavour’.

There is widespread concern about the IHRA definition including within the Jewish community. Many legal experts have questioned it, including Sir Stephen Sedley QC, Hugh Tomlinson QC and Sir Geoffrey Bindman. Even the man who drafted the IHRA definition of antisemitism has condemned its use to curb freedom of speech.

Any misinterpretation (or intentional misapplication) of the examples attached to the definition could conspire to silence Palestinian voices; and it is the responsibility of those of us campaigning for Palestinian rights to raise concerns where the IHRA definition has been adopted.

There are Palestinians living in Harlow whose families have experienced great suffering at the hands of Israel. We can't allow them to be prevented from discussing their personal or family experiences of oppression, or openly advocating for their human rights. We must also avoid a situation in which they believe that to do so excludes Harlow Council as a possible employer.

This ePetition ran from 03/01/2019 to 04/02/2019 and has now finished.

74 people signed this ePetition.