Chris Williamson: NEC should add 'caveat' to IHRA examples to preserve freedom of speech

Chris Williamson: NEC should add 'caveat' to IHRA examples to preserve freedom of speech

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Labour MP Chris Williamson has defended the re-election of Peter WIllsman to Labour’s National Executive Committee and said his comments about 'Jewish Trump fanatics' were “misrepresented”.

Arriving at Labour HQ to discuss the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and its illustrative examples, Williamson was met by protestors on both sides of the argument.

He said the IHRA examples were flawed and the NEC should add a provision to protect free speech.


Willsman comments 'misinterpreted'

Watch: Jeremy Corbyn refuses to answer whether the Labour Party will adopt the full IHRA definition

On Peter Willsman, Williamson said, “I think his comments have been misrepresented. We heard a snippet of a longer conversation and I don’t believe that that’s his view.

Critics have claimed that the wording of the examples could prevent criticism of the Israeli government's actions against Palestinians, but some Labour figures have urged the body to adopt the full definition in order to help draw a line under an issue which has brought about much disruption to the party.

Williamson went onto to say that “The Jewish community is not a homogenous group; there are a range of different opinions in the Jewish community.

“There are many Jewish members of the Labour party here today, and other unaligned Jewish members of the public, who’ve come to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people and urge their National Executive Committee not to adopt the full IHRA examples.

“Some people have said Labour isn’t accepting, or is dragging its feet about accepting the IHRA definition. The Labour party has accepted the IHRA definition in full, the only issue really is the working examples, which were never really drawn up to act as a code in the way it’s being used now. They were drawn up many years ago to help gather statistics on antisemitism.

Labour’s NEC is expected to make an announcement imminently about whether it will accept the full IHRA definition.


'Preserve freedom of speech'

Chris Williamson talking to Julia Hartley-Brewer on talkRADIO on Tuesday morning

The Labour MP argued that the NEC will “accept full IHRA examples” but add a “caveat to preserve freedom of speech”.  

“Should the NEC reject those examples?” he questioned.

“Many people in the Jewish community believe that, many eminent legal minds believe that, and many Jewish academics believe that.

“If you have the pressure being mounted, the NEC will in all probability accept the full IHRA examples, but add a caveat to preserve freedom of speech to make it clear that it will be acceptable to continue to criticise Netanyahu’s apartheid regime.


‘Unite’ against far-right threat

Williamson urged the motion that the Labour party is a party that fights “bigotry” and “racism” in all its forms, and has urged people to unite against “the far right on the rise across Europe”.

“I think the important thing is that we stand up for the Jewish community, that we stand up for the Palestinian community.”

“We fight bigotry and racism in all its forms. The Labour Party has gone down through the ages right from Cable Street through the iteration of the anti-Nazi league in the 1970s when I along with many other members of the Labour Party were on the street confronting the racist antisemites in this country at that time.

“There’s a very troubling trend at the moment when we’re seeing the far right on the rise across Europe. My message would be that we need to unite and stand against that threat. That is the threat to this country that is a threat to the Jewish community and other minority groups in this country, not the Labour party.”