Council to adopt IHRA antisemitism definition

Leeds could become the latest local authority to adopt the definition.
Leeds could become the latest local authority to adopt the definition.

Decision-makers at Leeds City Council look set to adopt an internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism in the wake of an incident where Nazi symbols were daubed at the entrance of a city Synagogue.

It follows what the authority calls a rise in “casual anti-Semitism” nationally, and warned that failure to adopt the definition could impact on the council’s relationship with the city’s Jewish community.

A report to the council’s executive committee also cited the incident last year when the Etz Chaim synagogue in Harrogate Road had its sign daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti.

The report read: “The issue has sadly increased in prominence again over the last few years. Whilst numbers of serious recorded incidents remain low, national reports point to a general rise in ‘casual’ anti-Semitism.

“There have been a number of widely publicised incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti on religious buildings over the last few years; most recently in Leeds, Nazi symbols were daubed at the entrance to the Harrogate Road Synagogue.”

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism is: “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The council report adds: “The IHRA definition has had significant public and media attention over the last 12 months with considerable debate and discussion over the definition and its attached examples.

“These have particularly focused on the right to free speech and ongoing debate and discussion over the Israel/Palestine conflict and whether the definition or its examples may restrict legitimate views being expressed in this area.

“It is the view of the UK government and other public bodies that have adopted the definition and its examples that this does not restrict debate about the situation in Israel/Palestine or the holding of views supportive of either side in the conflict.”

The report concludes that the authority should adopt the definition, adding: “Failure to adopt the IHRA definition could have a significant impact on the council’s reputation and relationship with communities In Leeds; in particular the Jewish community. There is a clear steer from central government for local authorities to adopt the definition in their work.”

Nigel Grizzard, an historian and Jewish life commentator from North Leeds, says that while he believes the issue has been largely confined to national political debate, he welcomes the move.

“I think it’s a very good thing to do,” he added. “Bradford Council has already adopted it and I see no reason why this city should not either.

“Leeds should adopt it as other local authorities have, and I am very happy to see it has.”

The Jewish community in Leeds today numbers almost 7,000 based on the 2011 Census, but these are believed to be an underestimate, as many do not specify religion on census forms.

The report states 130 councils across the UK have already adopted the IHRA definition.

A decision will be made on whether the council adopts the definition at a council executive meeting on Wednesday, October 17.