We got the reply below from the Mayor last week. Obviously we are not pleased, however, we will not stop arguing for the right to campaign explicitly on Palestine in the Borough.
We are expecting the Big Ride for Palestine to be in London in early August 2020. We are shortly applying to use a Tower Hamlets park for the final rally.
Reminder of our Launch meeting in Newham next week
Thank you for your petition regarding the Council’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
I entirely understand your passion for this topic and I am sure many members, myself included, will hold personal sympathies and support for the Palestinian cause.
Similarly to the one we debated last year, this petition asks the council to adopt caveats to an internationally recognised definition which has been adopted by countries including France, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom. I have had correspondence in recent days from both sides of the argument and it is clear this issue is one on which there are significant differing views.
A definition of anti-Semitism is not an issue of restricting free speech, it is an issue of protecting those of a Jewish identity from abuse. Only recently we have seen anti-Semitic graffiti in the borough heightening the anxieties of Jewish residents and I worry deeply about what message those residents would take from a decision to start caveating an internationally recognised definition of anti-Semitism to reference the actions of Israel.
It is entirely acceptable to criticise the actions of any state including Israel, indeed many of us here regularly criticise the actions of our own Government. Equally it is right to be able to show solidarity with the people of Palestine but the definition does not seek to stop people doing that. While I stand with the people of Palestine in solidarity, I also have to stand by our decision to adopt the IHRA definition in full. In my view you cannot qualify or caveat a definition of racism.
With regards to the Big Ride, the Chief Executive has investigated and was clear. While the IHRA was considered, it played no role in the final decision not to give permission for this event. Personally I am disappointed that the Ride was unable to end in Tower Hamlets but it really isn’t for politicians to take a role in operational decisions like this. I have however instructed that a full review of our events in parks policy is carried out to ensure it strikes the right balance and fully takes into account the concerns raised by the Big Ride, this will be complete shortly.
In terms of recognising Palestine, the council doesn’t have the power to do this formally. I have no doubt many, if not all, members of the council, myself included, desire that Palestinians secure self-determination in a territory of their own. Indeed Labour councillors have passed such a motion and had submitted a motion to recognise Palestine for debate at a council meeting but it was ruled out of order by the Monitoring Officer as formal recognition is a matter reserved to the Foreign Office, and not one this Council has power over.
I want to thank you again for your petition and for the passion with which you presented it.
Mayor John Biggs
Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets