Labour urged to ban ‘Zionist’ as term of abuse

Keir Starmer

The Government’s “Independent Adviser on Antisemitism” has urged Labour leader Keir Starmer to outlaw the use of the words “Zionist’’ or “Zionism’’ as negative terms of abuse.

Lord Mann, who used to be an anti-Corbyn Labour MP, said: “The thing Keir Starmer has to do is stick with the clear definition of antisemitism, and not waver from that. The second thing he should do if he wants to really imbed comprehensive anti-racism including antisemitism across the Labour Party – then the use of the words Zionist or Zionism as a term of hatred, abuse, of contempt, as a negative term – that should outlawed in the party.

He added: “If he does that, it gives him the tools to clear out those who choose to be antisemitic, rather than those who do so purely through their ignorance as opposed to their calculated behaviour.’’

Zionism is the Jewish nationalist movement that espouses the re-establishment of and support for a Jewish state in the historic Land of Israel (roughly corresponding to the region of Palestine).

The movement led to the creation of Israel in 1948 and the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Palestinian activists have long used the terms “Zionism/Zionist/Zio” in a negative way to denote an Apartheid-like system or supporters of that system. But the Labour Party, as well as several other political parties and institutions, have now labelled the latter term (Zio) as “antisemitic.”

John Mann

The former Labour MP said Starmer must also work closely with the pro-Israel Jewish Labour Movement. And he added that he was “actually very encouraged by the start” Sir Keir has made on the issue.

“I think he is seeing tackling antisemitism as one of those things that will be shown to mark that he is a leader. If that’s the case then all power to his elbow – go and do it and he’ll have my backing if he does.’’

Since becoming Labour leader Keir Starmer has positioned his party closer to Israel in comparison with his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

Last month parliamentary data showed that he received a £50,000 donation from pro-Israel lobbyist Trevor Chinn, a member of the executive committee of the Israel lobby group the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).

During the Labour leadership campaign Starmer said: “I support Zionism without qualification.”

And in his victory speech in April he said: “Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party. I will tear out this poison by its roots… and judge success by the return of our Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”

The very same day, Starmer wrote to the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an Israel lobby group which had been vehemently anti-Corbyn, repeating his apology.

He also reiterated an earlier commitment to a list of demands by the Board of Deputies which included the stipulation that training on antisemitism in the party be run only by the Jewish Labour Movement.

In 2018 Labour announced it would fully adopt a definition of antisemitism promoted by the Israel lobby.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism conflates harsh criticism of Israel with antisemitism, meaning that many Palestinian activists would fall foul of it.

A party spokesperson said at the time that Labour had also adopted “a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”

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