The campaign for widespread adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism is well underway. Ever since Campaign Against Antisemitism led the effort for adoption of the Definition by the British Government – which became the first in the world to do so – two Secretaries of State for Local Government have joined our push for local authorities to follow suit.
As this first-of-its-kind report shows, that campaign is yielding results, with much success owed to the work of grassroots local activists and organisations right across the UK. We applaud them and the local authorities that have listened, but there remains much to do.
The current Secretary of State for Local Government, the Rt. Hon. Robert Jenrick MP, recently warned local authorities that those refusing to adopt the Definition would risk losing public funding. This report examines where pressure is needed by naming and shaming for the first time those local authorities that have failed to adopt the full Definition in line with Government policy.
The report gives a fuller picture of the fight against antisemitism at the local level, exposing which local authorities take this issue seriously and which do not, and enabling local activists and voters to make informed choices.
This brings us to the bad news, which is that there is still a long way to go. While the number of local authorities adopting the full Definition is encouraging, in total fewer than a third of local authorities have adopted the full Definition so far. With some exceptions, which the report analyses, this failure is national and cross-party.
The purpose of adoption of the full Definition is not only to send a message of where local councillors stand on antisemitism but also to ensure that the Definition is applied in disciplinary cases involving councillors or staff. As this report shows, the number of local authorities that have actually incorporated the Definition into their codes of conduct for councillors and staff is negligible.
The report also discusses the shortcomings of the existing disciplinary and sanctions systems in place for dealing with misconduct by local councillors. Adoption of the Definition and its incorporation into codes of conduct are still insufficient if appropriate sanctions are unavailable and local councillors can engage in antisemitic conduct without consequence.
A separate Campaign Against Antisemitism project exposing antisemitism in political parties has shown just how extensive antisemitism is among local councillors and council candidates. Adopting and applying the Definition in antisemitism cases and enforcing judgments with real sanctions are critical if anti-Jewish hatred is to be eradicated from local politics in the UK.
British Jews should not have to endure antisemitism from their elected representatives, and all opponents of racism in our country should root out prejudice at any level of our politics. It is easy to say that antisemitism is unacceptable, but words must be followed by action. Widespread adoption of the Definition is the bare minimum.