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About a motion

BRANCH members have asked for an explanation of what happened with the London Freelance Branch delegation and Motion 162 to the Delegate Meeting that took place in Stockport in April. The full text of Motion 162 is appended.

The Branch Delegation was elected at the Branch Annual General Meeting in January. It met before Delegate Meeting and went through the agenda noting positions it was likely to take on each of the 181 motions on it.

As has been its practice for many years, the Delegation annotated each motion as one of:

  • Support
  • Oppose
  • Listen to the debate

(The Branch rules imply that "listen" means that either Delegation members have a free vote or one or more delegation members call for a vote within the Delegation on how all our votes should be cast. Complications such as "Support motion 666 only if the amendment from Mummetshire Branch is passed" do not figure in this case.)

The Delegation understood Motion 162 (from Magazine Branch) as an anti-fascist motion and was minded to support it.

As happens before each Delegate Meeting, the Delegation presented the Branch meeting preceding Delegate Meeting with its recommendations. These serve as a reminder to any full member of the Branch that they are free to propose a motion for debate at the Branch that could specifically mandate the Delegation to vote a particular way on any of the motions at Delegate Meeting.

There was no such specifically-mandating motion. As in previous years, the Delegation's sheet remained a guide.

At Delegate Meeting, Pennie Quinton spoke with the delegation - in her capacity as a member of National Executive Council, not as a Branch officer. She summarised the legal opinion from the eminent barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC that the motion referenced.

She pointed out that the movers of the motion had not summarised the legal opinion accurately. It was very clear that the UK government's "adoption" of the definition of anti-Semitism offered by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) should and could have no effect on freedom of speech. Were Delegate Meeting to adopt the motion and the NUJ to implement it, the NUJ would be seen and presented as trying to supersede this definition produced by representatives of the victims of the most atrocious anti-Semitism (that is, the IHRA).

That was not something the NUJ should agree to.

The Branch Delegation agreed to meet and to vote to oppose motion 162 if it came to a vote. In the event, Delegate Meeting voted instead to "remit" Motion 162 for the consideration of the NUJ's National Executive Council, rather than taking any other action.

Motion 162
remitted to the National Executive Council
For the avoidance of doubt, this is therefore not a policy of the NUJ

This DM notes:

1. That the rise of far-right and fascist organisations across Europe and the US has led to a rising level of antisemitism, alongside Islamophobia and anti-refugee and anti-migrant hate.

2. The UK government's adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism and its associated "guidelines".

3. The comprehensive and robust opinion of counsel Hugh Tomlinson QC on the IHRA definition which concluded: "Properly understood in its own terms the IHRA Definition does not mean that activities such as describing Israel as a state enacting policies of apartheid, as practicing settler colonialism or calling for policies of boycott divestment or sanctions against Israel can properly be characterised as anti-Semitic. A public authority which sought to apply the IHRA Definition to prohibit or sanction such activities would be acting unlawfully."

4. That despite the above counsel's opinion there is an attempt by government institutions, college authorities and local authorities institutions to use the definition's guidelines to restrict, censor or ban meetings and campaigns in support of Palestinian rights or in opposition to actions by the Israeli state.

This DM believes:

1. Any manifestation of antisemitism must be condemned and action taken against it.

2. That in order to counter the threat from the far-right we require unity between all those who are targets of this threat. This will include those who hold different, even opposing views, of the state of Israel, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and Zionism.

3. Despite Tomlinson's advice, the IHRA definition and particularly its guidelines have been used to conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel, threatening free expression and civil liberties; actions which are dangerously divisive and undermine our ability to unite against the real threat of antisemitism and other forms of hate.

This DM resolves to instruct the NEC to:

1. Publish a press release making clear the union's opposition to the use of the guidelines accompanying the IHRA's definition in order to silence criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian liberation.

2. Encourage members to monitor and challenge racist coverage in the media.

3. Set up a page on the union's website dedicated to monitoring anti-Semitic reporting and offering guidance on challenging it.

Proposed: London Magazine Branch