Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has published evidence from Campaign Against Antisemitism which counters claims that the International Definition of Antisemitism restricts freedom of expression.
The written evidence was submitted in February and was published by the Committee earlier this month on 12th May.
The campaign to encourage universities to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism has encountered opposition on the basis that adoption somehow stifles freedom of expression, but this argument does not have merit, and the evidence that we have submitted lays out in detail why this is the case. “The claim that adoption of the Definition conflicts with the duty on universities to protect free speech is a familiar and flawed argument, notwithstanding its persistence,” our letter says.
The letter proceeds to analyse the difference between speech that is ‘merely’ insulting or offensive, and speech that is antisemitic, and the implications for whether those types of speech are protected under Article 10 of the European Charter of Human Rights.
We also cite the legal opinion, produced for us in 2017 by Lord Wolfson of Tredegar QC and Jeremy Brier, which argued that “this Definition should be used by public bodies on the basis that it will ensure that the identification of antisemitism is clear, fair and accurate” and emphasised that “Criticism of Israel, even in robust terms, cannot be regarded as antisemitic per se and such criticism is not captured by the Definition.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has consistently backed efforts by the Government to encourage widespread adoption of the Definition by local authorities, universities, public bodies and other institutions. The UK was the first country in the world to adopt the Definition, something for which Campaign Against Antisemitism, Lord Pickles and others worked hard over many meetings with officials at Downing Street.
The full letter to the Joint Committee can be accessed below, and we have made the material available on our website, in particular for students, here.