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11 March 2024

Jewish-led group challenges DfE’s proposed education programme which fails to address antisemitism or protect free speech

2 mins

Bindmans has issued judicial review proceedings on behalf of Diaspora Alliance, a Jewish-led group that fights antisemitism.

The challenge relates to the Secretary of State for Education’s decision to adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as the ‘cornerstone’ of its proposed training programme for schools, colleges and universities, without making any proper provision for the protection of free speech and wider equalities obligations.

The IHRA working definition has been criticised by many leading academics and human rights organisations (including more than 100 Israeli civil society groups) as ambiguous, difficult to apply in practice and as tending to conflate criticism of the State of Israel or of the political ideology on which that state was founded – namely, Zionism – with antisemitism. The conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism undermines free speech, relations between Jews and other groups, between Palestinians and other groups and the safety of Jews themselves.

Shirin Marker, one of the solicitors representing Diaspora Alliance said:

The Secretary of State’s decision to centre the IHRA working definition at the heart of its training programme is unlawful in circumstances where no provision is being made for bidders to demonstrate how they will ensure that their training programmes comply with free speech or equality issues. This is particularly important in the academic context, where the law has recognised freedom of expression to be paramount.

Emily Hilton, UK Director of Diaspora Alliance, said:

To truly root out antisemitism we need a framework that doesn’t silo the fight against antisemitism from other oppression struggles, including the struggle for Palestinian human rights.

Ultimately we are deeply worried that the shortcomings of the procurement threaten the fight against antisemitism, and thereby the safety and wellbeing of Jews in the UK (and beyond). The government must think again – and seek an inclusive definition of approach to antisemitism training that will best protect our community [and all communities]. We need an approach that reflects the multitudes of frameworks available.

Diaspora Alliance are represented by Alice Hardy, Shirin Marker and Lily Seaborne of Bindmans, Phillippa Kaufmann KC and Danny Friedman KC of Matrix Chambers and Zac Sammour and Ben Mitchell of 11 KBW.

For more information on our judicial review services for organisations, please visit our page here.

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