Hackney Town Hall

The vote was held at Hackney Town Hall off Mare Street

Hackney Council voted unanimously last night to adopt a definition of anti-semitism which has seen protests in other boroughs.

All parties backed Conservative Party councillor Harvey Odze’s motion to adopt a working definition of anti-semitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The definition has seen protests in boroughs including Haringey over its guidelines on the relationship between anti-semitism and criticism of Israel.

Cllr Odze, speaking at the 21 February council meeting, said: “Anti-semitism continues to rear it’s ugly head, and in order to combat it we need a definition of what anti-semitism is.

“This definition is supported by over 30 governments, including the UK, the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Over 120 councils have adopted it, including 18 London boroughs.

“In fact, the only inner London boroughs that have not adopted it yet are Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and as yet Hackney.”

He noted that councillors had been written to by opponents of the motion, who claimed it would restrict free speech about Israel.

Cllr Odze said: “The IHRA definition specifically says criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-semitic.”

But he said some attacks on Israel can use the language and imagery of anti-semitism, such as “Nazi analogies, blood libel” and conspiracy theories about Jewish power.

“Most campaigners for the Palestinians are able to passionately criticise Israel without using any of the vile imagery caught by the definition”, he added.

The motion was seconded by Liberal Democrat councillor Abraham Jacobson, who said growing up in Gateshead he used to carry a penknife and tear gas to defend himself from anti-semitic attacks.

The discussion was cut short because the meeting was about to run past the 10.30pm deadline, which was already an extension of the scheduled hours.

A vote was called just in time and the motion passed without a dissenting hand.

The IHRA definition was adopted by the UK government in December 2016, and states: “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.”

Last year there were 92 anti-semitic incidents in Hackney, according to the Community Security Trust, amid a national rise in anti-semitic incidents to 1,382.

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