'As regular readers of this column will know, the McCarthyite atmosphere in Britain against supporters of Palestinian rights is getting worse. That is down in part to the Labour Party leadership’s acquiescence to the smear campaign to portray the party as anti-Semitic. The Labour National Executive Committee’s acceptance of the bogus IHRA “working definition” of anti-Semitism last year gave the document undeserved acceptance and currency; it deliberately conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel for being the racist state that it so evidently is.
It is no wonder that acceptance of the IHRA document has led local councils that have adopted it into banning even benign expressions of solidarity with Palestinian existence as “anti-Semitic”. Possibly the most egregious example of this came earlier this year, when Tower Hamlets Council banned the Big Ride for Palestine from using any of its public parks and open spaces for its rally and speeches.
After the Big Ride’s organisers applied for permission through all the correct channels, they were initially given the run-around by council officials, before being declined on the basis of an entirely spurious claim that the council did not permit “political” rallies in its public parks. This claim was undermined by Tower Hamlets’ own Labour Mayor, John Biggs, who had previously used the very same park that the Big Ride had asked to use, for one of his own election rallies.
Tower Hamlets emails obtained via a freedom of information request revealed that the true reason for the ban was that council officials had decreed that the event could fall foul of the IHRA’s bogus definition of anti-Semitism. Why? Because the Big Ride for Palestine’s website stated, accurately, that there are “parallels between apartheid South Africa and the state of Israel.”
The Big Ride for Palestine remains the most inoffensive, uncontroversial form of Palestine solidarity that one could possibly imagine. It didn’t plan direct action against arms dealers which could potentially risk arrest. It didn’t involve controversial firebrand speakers. It was simply a sponsored bike ride to raise money for Palestinian children affected by war. More specifically, riders and their sponsors wanted to help children in Gaza suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions caused by multiple Israeli wars on the Palestinian territory, by raising money to buy sports equipment. The fact that Tower Hamlets banned such an event as potentially “anti-Semitic” reveals just how bogus the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism really is.'
Read more: Anti-Palestinianism is the modern day McCarthyism
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