A Jewish community leader and councillors say they are "incredibly disappointed" after a council did not adopt a widely-used definition of antisemitism.

Three Rivers District Council last week voted to support a hate crime motion that noted “widely accepted and recognised definitions of antisemitism and definitions of Islamophobia” – but did not mention the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, which has been adopted by many other councils.

While councillors "overwhelmingly" supported the IHRA definition, there was less support for the All Party Parliamentary Group's definition of Islamophobia offered in an earlier version of the motion.

This would have meant the council adopting a definition of antisemitism, which accounts for 20 per cent of hate crimes, but not one for Islamophobia, which accounts for 50 per cent.

Cllr Sara Bedford, who presented the hate crime motion, said in the meeting “we absolutely need to include both definitions”.

The motion also included a clause that postponed any other motions on equality being discussed until another meeting – including one which included adopting the IHRA definition.

Read more: Three Rivers Council 'blocked' from adopting antisemitism definition

After the meeting, Alan Moss, chairman of Northwood United Synagogue, said: “The majority of the Jewish community accepts there is an agreed definition of antisemitism. I’m very disappointed by this motion. All racism is vile and abhorrent but that shouldn’t stop the adoption of IHRA and a separate motion to accept the definition of Islamophobia because it is as vile as antisemitism.

He added: “There’s enough evidence. What evidence do the council need on antisemitism?”

Harrow Times:

Cllr Alex Michaels

Cllr Alex Michaels, who had tabled a motion including the IHRA definition, said: “I am extremely disappointed and saddened by the council’s failure to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The vast majority of councils have adopted it effortlessly and Three Rivers came within minutes of doing so.

“I’d proposed a perfectly good motion on the agenda to adopt the IHRA definition which colleagues had indicated they would have supported unanimously."

Conservative councillor Debbie Morris, who also spoke in the meeting, said she was "incredibly disappointed and angry".

Harrow Times:

Cllr Debbie Morris

She said: “I felt particularly emotional when speaking because antisemitism is something which is part of my personal history. My late father and most of his family fled Germany shortly before the outbreak of World War II but tragically, his grandmother along with other family members died in a concentration camp.

“Unlike our neighbouring boroughs of Watford, Harrow and the London Borough of Hillingdon, who all adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, Three Rivers has chosen to continue to delay its own adoption of this motion – and for reasons that I consider to be unjustified.

“Since the Liberal Democrat Party have already adopted the IHRA definition, it makes absolutely no sense, in the context of Jew hate, for Three Rivers to do all this extra work when there already exists a widely accepted definition.

“They say that they condemn antisemitism but they have a very strange way of showing it."

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Cllr Alex Hayward

Conservative group leader Cllr Alex Hayward said: “As far as the Conservatives are concerned, we absolutely support the IHRA definition which has been endorsed by government but the Islamophobia definition is still to be decided. The Government is taking more soundings and listening to various interest groups and wanting to come to a fuller decision on this.”

Labour group leader Cllr Steve Cox called the motion "profoundly undemocratic" as it contained a "cynical and underhand" clause which gagged debate on other motions.

He added: "In one fell swoop it prevented the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism."

Defending the motion, Cllr Bedford said: “I originally proposed accepting both the definitions of antisemitism and Islamophobia a year ago. Since then, I have come under pressure to remove one or both definitions.

“The council has a duty to ensure that our residents can live in peace and practice their faith and culture without persecution. I do not understand why some councillors want to exclude Muslims, who are the subjects of the greatest number of hate crimes, from that recognition and security.

“I came into politics as a teenager to fight the National Front. I will continue to campaign to defeat racism and to ensure the definitions of Islamophobia and antisemitism are both accepted by the council. It is certainly not me that is blocking this from happening.”

Harrow Times:

Cllr Sara Bedford

In a statement, district council leader Cllr Sarah Nelmes said: "Because the two groups suffering most hate crimes are our Muslim and Jewish communities, Cllr Bedford's aim was to reach agreement on definitions for both.

"Whilst not debated at the time, motions were presented to council both on July 16, 2019 (this was withdrawn, as I understand it, as there was not there was not full support for the suggested Islamophobia definition) and February 25, 2020, as the meeting time was exceeded, which sought to put in to our policies the two definitions, IHRA for antisemitism and APPG for Islamophobia.

"Discussions outside the chamber revealed overwhelming support for the antisemitism definition but some disagreement over the proposed definition for Islamophobia.

"Cllr Bedford sought to find a way forward, outside the council chamber, to ensure that two definitions that were fully accepted could be put in to policy at the same time.

"We will work hard with colleagues to reach agreement on that second definition, to get both into policy in September. We are unwaveringly committed to doing all we can to protect every religious and ethnic minority from hate and injustice."