It would be wrong, in drawing up guidelines about one form of racism,
to prevent other forms of racism from being called out or to limit the
rights of other oppressed groups to speak about their own oppression.
I was born in what is now west Jerusalem. During the war to establish the state of Israel, my family and I were forced from our home, when I was a young child. To this day, I have been prevented from returning to my home,
simply because I am a Palestinian Arab – whereas any Jewish person from
anywhere in the world could and can automatically become a citizen of
The reference in the IHRA document to banning the identification of
the state of Israel as a racist endeavour would prohibit me and many
other Palestinians from speaking out about our first-hand experiences of
that racism. To prevent us from speaking about the oppression we have
faced would be both discriminatory and directly undermine our rights.
This point seems to have been entirely absent from the debate around the code of conduct.
Of course if, when highlighting that racism, someone were to use an
anti-Semitic trope or blame Jewish people or Judaism for the actions of
the Israeli state, that would be unacceptable. We simply demand the
right to speak about our experiences and make legitimate, evidence-based
criticism of Israel, its foundation, its laws and practices. And we want
everyone to have that right, not just us, as part of an open, free
debate on a major international conflict, for which Britain bears
significant historical responsibility. As a Labour member, I at least
expect to have this right respected within my own party.
those who are insisting upon a word for word repetition of the IHRA
working examples are staunch advocates of Israeli government policies.
What is driving this campaign is clearly an attempt to protect and
improve Israel’s tarnished image, silence Palestinians and discredit
those who support our rights.
right that Labour, as a political party, has clarified and
contextualised this, making sure that the incredibly short, often
vaguely worded IHRA document, cannot be misinterpreted or misused in a
way that would stifle legitimate debate. The code you have
introduced ensures that anti-Semitism is not tolerated within the party,
while also ensuring that the rights of Palestinians are not infringed
and that free and fair speech about Israel is not silenced.
hope that the party will maintain its code of conduct. If replaced with
a word-for-word copy of the IHRA document, then I, as a member, would
be prevented from speaking about what happened to me and my family – our
dispossession, forced removal and permanent ban from our home purely
because we were Arab.
This was conducted by the new Israeli state;
a state that was founded on discrimination towards Arab people on the
basis of religion and ethnicity. If that’s not a racist endeavour, I
don’t know what is. And I should have the freedom, as the victim of that
racism, to say so.
-Ghada Karmi is a Palestinian doctor, academic and author.