What is Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis about?

Labour’s ruling body is meeting to decide whether to fully adopt an internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism later. Here are some key questions answered about the flashpoint issue:

What is the row about?

When the National Executive Committee (NEC) met in July, it approved a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism despite intense criticism from the some of the party’s MPs and peers as well as Jewish leaders.

The code endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, although it omitted four examples from the IHRA list.

What were the examples?

Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country; claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour; requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations; and comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.

Who says they should be adopted?

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell is the most senior Labour figure to call for the party to fully adopt the IHRA definition and examples, while deputy leader Tom Watson has also backed it.

On Monday, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said adopting it is “a necessary minimum to begin to restore trust”, while former prime minister Gordon Brown has also supported the move.

Backbenchers including Luciana Berger, John Mann and Dame Margaret Hodge have also been vocal critics of the NEC’s failure to adopt the definition in full.

Why would it not be adopted in full?

Critics of the IHRA approach have claimed it could restrict their ability to criticise the Israeli government’s actions against Palestinians.

What has the fallout been?

The NEC’s July decision fuelled a wider row over cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, with Jeremy Corbyn coming under fire for his handling of the issue.

The Labour leader has also seen intense scrutiny over some of his past comments and associations.

In August, Mr Corbyn apologised for appearing at a 2010 event at which a Holocaust survivor compared Israel to Nazism.

Last week he was condemned by former chief rabbi Lord Sacks for comments he made criticising British Zionists for not understanding “English irony”, although an ally said the Labour leader’s words had been misinterpreted.

Has anyone quit over the row?

Veteran Labour MP Frank Field cited the party’s handling of anti-Semitism when he resigned the party whip last week.

The MP for Birkenhead described Labour as a “force for anti-Semitism” in his resignation letter.

Reports have suggested MP Mike Gapes is ready to quit over anti-Semitism and Ms Berger has said comments made by the Labour leader left her feeling “unwelcome in my own party”.

LifeWeb editor