A MODEL for how antisemitism is defined in Bradford has been adopted by councillors after an emotional debate.

At a meeting of Bradford Council on Tuesday evening, the majority of the district’s councillors voted to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which the authority will now use going forward.

Councillors heard it was important the authority stood against racism and prejudice, but the Council’s leader assured colleagues that adopting the definition would not lead to them being prevented from speaking out against the Israeli government.

The motion had been raised by Councillor Dave Green (Lab, Wibsey), the former Council leader.

He said: “We are an open, welcoming city, and over the years have come together as a rich mix of cultures.

“We are faced with people from the far right, and from the far left who look to divide us.

“It has not always been easy, but standing up to prejudice is always the right thing to do. If we stop standing up to racism, if we stop arguing for what’s right, then we fail in our duty.

“In the national level, there sadly seems to be a greater acceptance of racism and intolerance, be it from the left or the right, be it Islamophobia or antisemitism.

“We need to take a stand to stop this, which is something we have always been proud of doing in this city.”

He hit out against “whataboutism” - deflecting criticism by criticising others, saying it was often a means by people to justify their racism or discrimination.

He said “Israel isn’t the cause of antisemitism. Hundreds of years of antisemitism led to Israel, people who try to tell you it is the other way round need to look at a history book.

“If you were a member of a community that had a recent history of being excluded from countries, a cultural memory of the Spanish Inquisition, of pogroms, of hearing lies about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Blood Libel, and had the cultural memory of six million of your fellow community being murdered, you would wish for a safe homeland.

“That wish doesn’t however, mean you have the right to breach international law. Just because you challenge the policies of Israel or stand up for Palestinians, that wouldn’t breech this policy. If it did I would not be arguing for it.”

He told the committee he still had a large amount of emails on his computer from when he agreed to raise the Palestinian flag outside City Hall in 2014 to remember Palestinians who had died in conflicts with Israel, many of which were highly critical of his decision.

He said he hoped this was the first of many policies adopted by the Council to protect religious, cultural and minority groups in Bradford.

An emotional Cllr Green added: “I’ve been told this doesn’t matter, that we don’t have many Jewish people or people of Jewish descent in Bradford. But if there is just one Jewish person who is suffering, if there is just one child being abused or threatened, than this council should be debating this, and should be protecting those individuals."

Liberal Democrat Councillor David Ward (Bolton and Undercliffe), has been highly critical of Israel in the past, and has twice been suspended from the party for comments on Israel.

He said: “The Labour group has made an almighty mess of such an important issue.”

He went on to say the definition of antisemitism being used by the Labour group was one that was not recognised, and described the motion as a “cynical device to limit free speech and shield Israel from criticism.”

He said: “This helps people who want to protect Israel and turn their back on Palestine.” He said true antisemitism was “vile” adding “however, this conflates antisemitism with criticism of Israel.

“You have all been conned - I am not sure who is doing the conning and who is being conned. You need to make your minds up, chose your party or Palestine.”

Deputy Leader of Bradford Council Imran Khan had introduced an amendment to the motion, making it clearer that if it was adopted, it would still be acceptable to criticise the politics or actions of Israel, or speak out for Palestine.

He said: “There is no place for antisemitism in our community. Accepting this motion will show the people of Bradford stand against hate and racism. This doesn’t stop people from criticising Israel, that is entirely legitimate, but you shouldn’t blame someone from the Jewish community for the acts of the Israeli government.”

He referred to the deaths of 58 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces when the new US embassy opened this year, pointing out that the motion would not prevent people from criticising such acts.

Councillor Simon Cooke (Cons, Bingley Rural) said: “This motion is important, not because it is about some far away places, it is what happens in our communities.

“Some Jewish people don’t feel safe visiting our city. I understand criticisms of Israel, but that is Israel, not ‘the Jews’. It doesn’t justify attacking people who think differently than you.

“It is important we have a a strong definition of anti-Semitism in this city. This isn’t about Gaza and Tel Aviv, we are saying we won’t tolerate anti-Semitism in Bradford, that we will never forget the lesson of the Holocaust.”

Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe reiterated that the motion wouldn’t be passing a new law. She addressed the fact that it had proven controversial in the run up to the meeting, and added: “There is nothing in this that is that radical or terrible. It says people shouldn’t call for the killing of Jews, that goes without saying. Also people shouldn’t accuse Jews of inventing the Holocaust. This motion re-iterates that it is wrong to say these things. It isn’t stopping protests or free speech.”

The amended motion was then approved, although the Liberal Democrats voted against it, as did the two Green Councillors, who had asked for it to be discussed by a scrutiny committee before it went to vote.

Earlier in the meeting the Council had discussed Islamophobia in the district. Councillor Nazam Azam (Lab, City) had welcomed the news that an arrest had been made over the “punish a Muslim” day letters sent out to a number of Muslim families and businesses in Bradford earlier this year.

Last month a Lincoln man was arrested and charged with 14 offences, including one count of soliciting to murder.

In response to Cllr Azam, Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “There is Islamophobia our society, and it has to be tackled locally and nationally.”