Mendip rejects calls to adopt international anti-Semitism definition saying it is already doing enough

  Posted: 01.10.20 at 17:34 by Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter

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Mendip District Council has rejected calls to adopt the international definition of anti-Semitism – claiming it is already doing enough to protect people from abuse.

Mendip was asked in February to adopt the widely-recognised definition of anti-Semitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

A decision was delayed to allow councillors from different parties to discuss whether adopting the definition was necessary given the council’s existing policies on equality and preventing discrimination.

The full council voted yesterday evening (September 30) that it was not necessary to adopt the IHRA definition for this reason – though several councillors abstained from the vote in protest.

The IHRA defines anti-Semitism has “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews”, leading to rhetoric directed towards “Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities".

Examples of contemporary anti-Semitism listed by the IHRA on its website include:

* Justifying the death of or harm to Jews in the name of religion or a racist ideology
* Making stereotypical allegations about Jews or the power of Jews – such as the myth of a global Jewish conspiracy
* Denying the “fact, scope, mechanisms or intentionality” of the Holocaust
* Accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel than their own nations
* Denying the right of Jewish people to self-determination (e.g. by claiming the state of Israel is “a racist endeavour”
* Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel

While numerous other councils across the UK have adopted this definition, it is not legally binding – meaning the government cannot punish a council for not signing up to it.

Councillor Philip Ham said in a report presented to the full council that adopting the definition would be unnecessary since its provisions were already covered by the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

He said: “While we agree with the sentiment of the definition, we feel it duplicated existing legislation and protections that were in place.

“A more practical way to respond to the definition is to identify where protections were already provided and strengthen where they are needed in council policy.”

Councillor Liz Leyshon, portfolio holder for corporate services and projects, said: “I’m really glad to say we’ve had the time to consider this properly, and that colleagues from all parties have given it really due regard.

“If nothing else, it proves that sometimes a little time to consider properly is a good thing.”

Council leader Ros Wyke said: “We wanted to confirm that Mendip is already a safe workplace for people of all religions, and remains a place where everyone can be their best and be valued well into the future.”

The council voted to not adopt the IHRA’s definition by a margin of 35 votes to zero. Seven councillors abstained, believing the definition should be adopted, and one was unable to vote due to technical issues.

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