Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s newly appointed Communities and Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has pledged to come down hard on local councils and universities that fail to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
Jenrick made the pledge in a speech to the British Board of Deputies on Sunday, while also promising over $100,000 from the government to tackle anti-Semitism on social media and to go after supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
He said he will come down heavily on both local councils and universities that did not adopt the IHRA definition, which has been the source of controversy in the UK. Critics say the definition conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and undermines free speech. Jenrick dismissed these concerns. He insisted that the “suggestions that the IHRA definition curtails legitimate criticism of the Israeli government is wrong and must be countered.”
The Representative for Newark said that he “will be writing to all councils insisting that they adopt the IHRA at the earliest opportunity and use it at all appropriate occasions — including in their disciplinary proceedings.”
In his comments regarding BDS, Jenrick alleged that the global non-violent movement was “divisive” and promised not to tolerate supporters of the movement on his watch. He expressed unease about the annual Israel Apartheid Week on campuses, and said he would look at the issue in his department.
Jenrick assured the Board of Deputies that he can be relied on to contact local councils as well as vice-chancellors of Britain’s universities who should expect to get a phone call from him to oblige them to adopt the IHRA definition.