New stance on anti-semitism from Rotherham Council sparks political accusations

Rotherham Council has taken an internationally recognised step against anti-semitism in a move which echoes the stance taken by the Sheffield City Region, though the move provoked political back-biting as it was debated.

Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 7:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 7:12 pm
Rotherham Council has adopted the IHRA definition of anti semitism

Councillors voted unanimously to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism, which is widely recognised and already adopted by many organisations – including councils – in this country.

The motion, carried at a full meeting of Rotherham Council, was proposed by council leader Chris Read and a string of councillors spoke, some with clear emotion, in the debate which followed.

Coun Read said he had previously stated his intention to bring forward the motion, adding: “We have not encountered particular issues with anti-semitism in Rotherham and we hope it stays that way.

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“Fortunately, we have never had to use a practical definition of anti Jewish hatred and I hope we never will.”

The Jewish population in the town was small, he said, but larger in the wider mayoral city region.

“It seems not just symbolic but also practically useful that we adopt it,” he said.

He acknowledged the spread of anti-semitism nationally, including the Labour party, and said: “The sooner its practitioners in my party realise they are not welcome in my party, the better.”

Adopting the definition did not prevent criticism of the Government in Israel, he added, saying: “We send a message not just about anti semitism but about prejudice against all faiths.”

Coun Allen Cowles, leader of the opposition Brexit group said he was surprised the definition had not been adopted by the council earlier and went on to criticise the national Labour party over its problems with anti semitism.

That provoked responses from several councillors, including Victoria Cusworth, who said: “I never thought I would be lectured by a member of the Brexit party.”

Coun David Roche described Coun Cowles response as “cheap, political comments” with Coun Emma Hoddinott describing his speech as “predictable party political point scoring.”