Haringey Council anti-Semitism vote sparks row

Protesters gathered outside Haringey Civic Centre on Monday before the council voted to adopt a defi

Protesters gathered outside Haringey Civic Centre on Monday before the council voted to adopt a definition of anti-semitism. Picture: SALIM ALAM - Credit: Archant

A row has erupted between campaigners, inter faith leaders and Haringey Council after a ruling on anti-Semitism.

At a meeting of the full council on Monday, July 24 councillors voted to support an International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism opponents claim stifles criticism of Israel and Zionism.

Chair of Haringey Justice for Palestinians Alan Watts – who joined a Momentum led protest outside Haringey Civic Centre before the meeting – said: “They pushed the decision through in minutes.

“It’s an absolute outrage councillors were stopped from having any debate. They were like sheep being driven around all over the place,” he added, claiming councillors faced removal of the whip or possible deselection ahead of local elections if they voted against.

However, Labour Group Chief Whip Cllr Lorna Reith denied the claims saying some members were allowed to abstain on an issue of conscience

In a statement on Haringey’s website, council leader Cllr Claire Kober said: “No one thinks criticism of any state should be silenced. There is a growing problem of anti-Semitism and that’s why we brought this motion: to make it clear antisemitism is not acceptable.

“I’m proud the council voted together. Haringey is a place of great community cohesion and there is no place for any form of racism, hatred or bigotry.”

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But Bibi Khan, trustee of the Wightman Road Mosque, warned the decision may silence religious and humanitarian groups.

She said: “We as muslims are committed to fighting all forms of hatred and bigotry, but we deeply regret the definition, which we believe will or could shut down legitimate criticism of Israel, was passed without consultation with mosques or other groups.

“Mosques in Haringey stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and the misery they have faced. We also stand in solidarity with our Jewish community who face illegal acts of anti-Semitism,” she added.

After denying the definition would silence criticism of Israel, Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill Synagogue welcomed the vote saying: “It’s a positive move, but within that context we continue to strengthen relationships with other fatih groups in the borough.

“I’m sure lessons will be learnt around consultation moving forward,” he added.

The definition 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.”