Australian Young Labor (AYL) adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) antisemitism definition at its national conference in Canberra last weekend.
While AYL’s Left faction remained divided and abstained from voting on the resolution, it passed with unanimous support from the Right faction.
A preamble cited Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) figures showing a 40 per cent increase in antisemitism over the past two years. “Too often, people mistakenly assume that antisemitism is merely historical. Shockingly, the opposite is true.
“The systematic Holocaust denial campaign which saw the distribution of leaflets across nearly every campus in Australia in 2017 is but one example … horrible statements and accusations have been made against Jewish students in university dorms, and Jewish students are routinely heckled with inflammatory and discriminatory remarks … As a result of these incidents, Jewish youth do not feel comfortable joining new spaces, and are often apprehensive about disclosing that they are Jewish.”
Young Labor committed itself to the IHRA antisemitism definition, in line with the Albanese government. While reaffirming that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”, it condemned the “targeting of the State of Israel” among examples of antisemitism in the IHRA definition.
Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) president Alissa Foster, who had engaged widely with the AYL leadership before the conference, told The AJN the decision “will go a long way in showing young Jews who want to get involved at a campus level or beyond that the movement is a space for them. The delegates are the leaders of tomorrow and we are looking forward to seeing the positive impact of this policy on Jewish youth today and our community for years to come … I would also like to commend the Jewish and non-Jewish delegates who spoke on the motion”.
Noting Australia has been a full member of IHRA since 2019, a government spokesperson told The AJN the government “remains committed to combating antisemitism in all its forms, and recognises the alarming rise of public displays of antisemitism and neo-Nazi ideology in recent times”.
Paying tribute to Foster and AUJS for their advocacy work, ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim welcomed AYL’s adoption of the IHRA definition. “The resolution brings Young Labor policy into line with that of the Labor Party, and with the personal views expressed by the Prime Minister and other Labor MPs.”
He said Foster and AUJS “have set a great example of what can be achieved by committed young members of our community”.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “Young Labor’s motto is ‘make a difference’, and that’s exactly what it did with this motion. With antisemitism rising on both the extreme right and extreme left, it is of great comfort to the Jewish community that Labor’s next generation endorsed this internationally accepted definition of antisemitism.”