Sheffield Council adopt working definition of antisemitism

Councillors voted to adopt a working definition of antisemitism which they will use to guide decision making.

By Molly Williams
Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 12:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 4:57 pm
Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall

The motion was brought forward at a full council meeting by Labour councillor Adam Hurst and was seconded by Coun Paul Wood.

Coun Hurst said: “For too long since the end of World War Two there has been complacency about the existence of antisemitism along with other racism in this country.

“To be clear, antisemitism is a form of racism. It does not distinguish between a religious and non religious Jew it does not acknowledge that people can be of mixed heritage, because it believes if somebody has Jewish genes they are perceived as inferior to others…

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“Antisemites believe that all Jews are the same, in short it is a discriminatory dislike and hatred of Jews because they are Jews. Not because of how they behave or their individual merits or shortcomings as people.

“In adopting this policy, the Labour Party nationally has made a statement that people with Jewish heritage must be awarded the same rights as everyone in society.”

The definition comes from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance who state: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Some councillors and members of the public raised concerns about having a clear definition that could not be left open to interpretation and manipulation.

Coun Joe Otten, of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I disagree with one point in this debate and that is it isn’t good enough to say ‘you must show me evidence of intent’. That is too strong a caveat to put on something like this. If somebody is being sexist you don’t say ‘it’s fine if you didn’t mean it’ we say that’s wrong and you need to stop doing it.

“So you don’t water down the definition to accommodate people’s ignorance of the issues. You have a robust definition and you challenge people who get it wrong.

“I understand why you’re worried about people being wrongly accused but please be robust in standing up for the rights and dignity of Jewish people equal with everybody in the world because that is what this is about.”

Coun Dore said the definition was used by many organisations around the world including the national Labour Party, the UK Government, European Parliament and the US Senate.