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Sinn Fein to oppose DUP’s IHRA antisemitism definition Assembly motion

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Stormont Buildings at Belfast

Stormont Buildings at Belfast

Stormont Buildings at Belfast

Sinn Fein is to oppose a DUP proposal for the Northern Ireland Assembly to adopt a international pressure group’s working definition of antisemitism.

The DUP are bringing forward a motion to the Assembly on Tuesday highlighting the need to tackle antisemitism in all its forms.

The motion calls on Stormont to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition and its examples.

However, Sinn Fein is proposing to amend the motion, removing all references to the IHRA and the examples.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK yet to accept the definition, it has already been adopted by the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

The IHRA's definition has also been accepted by a wide variety of governments and political institutions worldwide, including the US State Department, the European Union and the German Government.

However, critics of the definition suggest it prevents legitimate criticism of the Israeli Government.

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Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said “there are a range of voices, including from Jewish groups, who have concerns over the motivation of the IHRA pledge as they feel it would place the state of Israel above any legitimate criticism”.

"We have tabled an amendment to the motion ahead of the Assembly debate which reflects this position,” the West Belfast MLA said.

"Sinn Fein is opposed to racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.”

On Monday a Sinn Fein delegation met with representatives of the local Jewish community following an attack on Jewish graves at Belfast City Cemetery on the Falls Road.

The IHRA’S definition states: "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

The group gives a number of illustrative examples and states that "manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic".

The DUP motion "notes with deep concern the findings of the Community Security Trust’s (CST) antisemitic incident report for 2020 which recorded 1,668 antisemitic incidents across the United Kingdom".

It stresses "the need to tackle the scourge of antisemitism in every aspect of our society" and calls on the Assembly to adopt the IHRA definition and its examples.

However, Sinn Fein's amendment wishes to remove reference to the IHRA, but has similar wording, without examples.

It also calls on the Assembly to recognise "that antisemitism is a form of racism that is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews, that rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property and toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities; agrees that antisemitism is unacceptable and is totally, unequivocally and loudly rejected by this Assembly; and commits to combating antisemitism, as part of our commitment to prevent hate crime and racism".

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's debate DUP MLA William Humphrey said the Assembly had the chance to "take a clear stand against racism" by endorsing the IHRA's definition.

"Just over a week ago Belfast suffered its latest antisemitic hate crime when the headstones of ten graves in the Jewish section of Belfast City Cemetery were damaged. There have been other similar attacks in the past and anti-Jewish graffiti, including on the synagogue," the North Belfast MLA said.

"Antisemitism should not be viewed as somehow lesser than other hate crimes. It is not an 'acceptable' form of racism and no party in the Assembly should ever seek to justify it or defend those guilty of it."


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