By Miriram Scharf
Rob Ferguson, Jewish activist and author of the pamphlet “The Far Right, Zionism and the Left” and several local councillors in an ongoing battle over the council’s ban on a charity cycling event – The Big Ride for Palestine – to use any of the local parks as a finishing point. Freedom of information requests revealed that council officers believed the event might contravene the “working definition” of antisemitism adopted by the council in 2018.
Rob Ferguson outlined the wider consequences of the implementation of the IHRA definition: “We have seen campus meetings on Palestine banned, or threatened with restrictions; the banning of Anti Apartheid Week events, and a chilling effect on pro-Palestinian voices, including within Muslim communities such as here in east London.
These consequences are not restricted to the UK. The German Bundestag has deemed the non-violent strategy of Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions, called for by Palestinian civil society to be antisemitic. I find it chilling that in that debate the deputies of the far-right AfD and its neo-Nazi wing, bayed for an outright legal ban and criminal prosecutions.
In Germany and Austria, artists have been banned from festivals and denied awards for refusing to condemn BDS or refusing to play in Israel. The director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin was forced to resign for signing a statement defending BDS against the charge of being antisemitic, even though he did not support BDS. In the United States the Trump administration is threatening Middle East Studies programmes with withdrawal of federal funding; academics have been hounded from their posts, campus meetings and campaigning for Palestine suppressed.”
Cllr Gabriella Salva sent a message of solidarity to the meeting. Cllrs Ehtesham Haque and Puru Miah explained how upsetting it is to be targetted as ‘antisemitic’ completely unjustly, but that it would not stop them standing up for human rights of Palestinians and others.