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University Rector Ann Henderson under fire in antisemitism row

ByNoa Hoffman

Aug 7, 2018

University of Edinburgh rector Ann Henderson has refused to advocate for the UK Labour party to adopt the complete International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Henderson declined to respond to the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) when asked for her “views on the IHRA definition on antisemitism”. The JLM, officially affiliated with the UK Labour Party since 1920, have publicly stated that “allowing Jews to define their own prejudice is a matter of principal”.

Henderson, who is running to be a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), was elected as university rector earlier this year on a platform of standing up for minority rights and against oppression. The role of the university rector is to chair the university’s governing body, the court.

Henderson has also continued to support the election of Peter Willsman to the NEC on Twitter, despite his recent antisemitic comments. Willsman has been condemned for his remarks that Jewish “Trump fanatics” were behind accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, while not naming Willsman specifically, said in a video posted on social media that “anyone who denies that this [antisemitism] has surfaced within our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem”.

Momentum, a left-leaning group within the Labour Party set up in 2015 following Corbyn’s successful leadership bid, have labelled Willsman’s words as “deeply insensitive and inappropriate” and have removed him from their NEC re-election list.

Edinburgh Labour Students have strongly condemned Henderson’s actions, posting a statement on their Facebook page that can be read here. The society conclude by saying that “as long as Ann continues to sideline the legitimate concerns of other party members and British minorities, Edinburgh Labour Students will make it clear that we do not support Ann holding office in either the Labour Party, or our own university”.

In the same statement, Edinburgh Labour Students (ELS) criticise Henderson for following an account on Twitter called Woman’s Place UK, raising further questions regarding her support for marginalised communities. Woman’s Place UK have been accused of spreading deeply offensive and prejudiced views about transgender people.

ELS have reached out to Henderson, who has spoken at a range of their events, for comment and have received no response. The Chair of the society, Andrew Wilson, told The Student, “I am extremely disappointed that Ann is failing to address the legitimate concerns from other party members and British minorities. I wish to reiterate that while Ann continues to ignore these concerns, ELS will not support Ann holding office in either the Labour party or our own university.”

When asked to comment on Henderson’s stance, Edinburgh University Students’ Association President Eleri Connick told The Student, “We as a Students’ Association do not condone any form of antisemitism. All Jewish students should feel safe and comfortable in Edinburgh. Therefore, it is disappointing that our rector has chosen not to advocate for the UK Labour Party to accept the complete IHRA definition of antisemitism”.

Henderson has been contacted for comment and  told The Student that she would provide a response by midday today. She is yet to do so.

The Students’ Association liberation campaigns stress self-identification as a defining factor in being part of a minority group. More information on their liberation campaigns can be found here.

Image: JewishLabourMovement via Twitter.

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