Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine Statement

At a time when there are many accusations of racism, and especially antisemitism,  being made, we have taken time out to carefully look at our own social media policy in order to ensure that we firmly uphold the ideals of human rights, social justice, equality, international law and free speech, while acknowledging the dangers of implied or implicit racism. It is a difficult path,  but one that stands at the heart of Lib Dem values.

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine take a robust approach to fighting antisemitism. It is important for us to make this clear, given the fact that standing up for the rights of Palestinians frequently involves severe criticism of (a) Israeli government policies, (b)  some aspects of political life in Israel, (c) actions by supporters of Israeli government policies in this country and (d) the Israeli government’s preferred historical narrative of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. The Constitution of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine sets out the aims and objectives of LDFP in Clauses in 2 and 3. We would urge you to study these Clauses in their entirety, but draw your attention in particular to paragraph 2.3 which runs as follows:

“We oppose all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia in any circumstance and we categorically and unequivocally condemn all violence and use of force against civilians no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be.”

The Liberal Democrats have adopted the IHRA non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism, together with the caveats to the definition expressed by the Home Affairs Select Committee on antisemitism. LDFP acts within the party’s policy of adopting the definition and the caveats. The examples section of the IHRA document is written in the conditional sense, i.e. the examples “may serve as illustrations” and “could, taking into account the overall context…” be construed as antisemitic, which is consistent with the highly contested nature of debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore, specific remarks have to be considered in their context, and by the language used, before they are judged to be antisemitic on the grounds that they match one of the examples. There are eleven examples, some of which are so blatantly antisemitic that it is very difficult to imagine context changing that. However, others are such that statements appearing to match them might or might not be seen as antisemitic, depending on the context.

The basic test or whether a criticism of Israel is antisemitic is the language used. If the language refers to what Israeli governments do or did, or what Zionists historically did, and doesn’t ascribe the actions to Jews or Jewish people because they are Jews, then the presumption must be that they aren’t antisemitic without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

 We interpret Clause 2.3 of LDFP’s constitution as obliging LDFP to be vigilant against all forms of racism, including instances of antisemitism that are not clearly covered by the IHRA document as they do not clearly fall into the category of “hatred towards Jews” which the definition cites or match any of the illustrative examples. Obvious instances would be prejudice, discrimination and disdain, all of which are less than hatred. For instance, if prejudice towards Jews was to manifest itself in refusing employment to a Jew, that would appear to fall outside the scope of the IHRA definition but we would consider it to fall within Clause 2.3 of the LDFP Constitution.