Deputations (if any)
To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 39.
The Mayor advised that one deputation had been received within the timescale set out under Standing Order 39(c). The deputation had been requested by Rabbi Dabba Smith and related to the motions due to be considered on Hate Crime and Antisemitism.
In addition, two further deputation requests had been received in relation to the motion on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHR) definition of Antisemitism, although the Mayor advised these had been submitted after the formal deadline had expired. These requests had been from Mr Peter Firmin and Mr Padraic Finn. Given that both of these requests had been received late, the Mayor advised Members that if they were minded to accept both deputations there would be a need to suspend Standing Order 39(c) in order to allow them to be heard.
Given the subject matter of both of the additional deputations, Members indicated that they would be willing to make an exception in order to allow them to be heard. It was therefore RESOLVED that Standing Order 39(c) be suspended to enable the two additional deputations from Mr Firmin and Mr Finn to be heard.
The Mayor then welcomed Rabbi Dabba Smith and invited him to address the meeting.
Rabbi Dabba Smith began by thanking the Mayor for allowing him to address the meeting, advising that he was speaking in support of the motions listed on the agenda relating to Hate Crime and the IHR definition of Antisemitism. He began by highlighting the difficult times in which he felt people were now living given the enhanced forms of nationalism and exploitation of hatred now being experienced in many countries. He felt that both motions complimented each other and advised that whilst he shared concerns about the actions of the Israeli Government he was also concerned at the level of hatred being directed towards the Jewish community. Rabbi Dabba Smith felt there was nothing in the text of the motion on Antisemitism that would deter legitimate or reasoned criticism of the policies of Israel and outlined his close work with colleagues in the region on a cross border basis, as part of his relationship with the Eco Peace organisation. He also supported the concerns highlighted in the motion on Hate Crime around the increase in religious hatred and supported inclusion of the specific reference towards Islamophobia, which he felt was even more of an issue than antisemitism. He highlighted work he was involved in locally to tackle this issue, particularly in relation to Muslim women, and supported the need to continue working collaboratively in addressing these concerns.
Rabbi Dabba Smith ended his deputation by highlighting the positive atmosphere within Brent which encouraged sharing and tolerance between different cultures, ethnicity and religions and generated a stronger feeling of community. He urged members not to take this for granted and to continue working together with the local community to encourage and support this approach.
The Mayor thanked Rabbi Dabba Smith for his comments and then invited Mr David Kaye (speaking on behalf of the deputation requested by Mr Peter Firmin) to present his deputation.
Mr Kaye introduced himself and advised that he was sadly speaking against the motion due to be considered on the IHR definition of antisemitism, which he felt was both unnecessary and divisive. He felt it important to recognise the good work being undertaken in Brent to tackle racism and felt that if this needed to be strengthened for any reason in relation to antisemitism, this should be based on a much broader definition than proposed in the motion. In his view, which he pointed out was shared by a number of Jewish colleagues, the motion was not required and would not strengthen the position in tackling antisemitism given:
· the vagueness of the definition provided, which had also been subject to counsel opinion; and
· the link which the definition made to the state of Israel and criticism of its policies in relation to self-determination;
In addition Mr Kaye expressed concern at inclusion of the term “tropes” in the wording of the motion in terms of any criticism being made towards Israel. In his view there was no link between antisemitism and criticism being directed towards Israel or any other state. As a result he urged Members to vote against the motion on the basis he felt it to be both unnecessary and divisive.
The Mayor thanked Mr Kaye for his comments and then invited Mr Michael Coleman (speaking on behalf of the deputation requested by Mr Padraic Finn) to present his deputation.
Mr Coleman began by advising Members that he would be speaking against the motion on antisemitism and on behalf of a number of Brent residents (both Jewish and non-Jewish) who were concerned about the Council’s potential adoption of the IHR definition of the antisemitism.
He advised that these concerns were based on the fact the definition had no legal status. There was no requirement on the Council to adopt such a definition and he highlighted there had been widespread and robust opposition to the IHR definition including from amongst leading Jewish lawyers. In addition he pointed out that the definition did not appear to be consistent with the requirements of Article 10 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights in terms of Freedom of Expression and could potentially be unlawful if applied. He also queried the basis on which the definition was being promoted, which he felt appeared to focus on antisemitism as separate from and obscuring the need to tackle other forms of racism and hate crime. Finally he was concerned at the way in which the definition appeared to link antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel.
He also felt there was a need to consider the motion in a wider context, recognising that according to a recent Jewish Policy Research report incidents of antisemitism in the UK were amongst the lowest in the world. At the same time there was a need to recognise the general rise in hate crime with a much higher instance amongst other groups such as Muslims, people of colour, LGBT community and those with disabilities. Rather than focussing purely on antisemitism he felt there was a need to concentrate on tackling hate crime in its broadest form and not just in relation to the Jewish community.
Whilst recognising that the definition was being promoted by a number of organisations, Mr Coleman highlighted they did not speak for everyone and the Council should be seeking to defend the right to freedom of expression. In summing up Mr Coleman felt that the IHR definition the Council was being asked to consider adopting would not assist in helping to defend the Jewish community from the most common form of anti-semitic hate crime and would also obscure the need to tackle other more prevalent forms of racism and hate crime. He therefore urged Members to reject the motion either in full or at least by the removal of the definition of anti-semitism that had been included.
The Mayor thanked Mr Coleman for his comments and advised, by way of response that as all of the deputations related to motions listed on the agenda the meeting would now move on to consider these motions.