World

‘Israel Is a Racist Endeavor’: London Bus Stops Plastered With Posters Amid Anti-Semitism Row

A number of London bus stops have been plastered with posters declaring the state of Israel a racist endeavor.

The protest signs were spotted in at least four different central London locations, including one across the road from the Parliament building in Westminster, Haaretz reported. London’s transport authority ordered their immediate removal.

It is not clear who was behind the stunt, but pro-Palestinian activist groups have praised the message.

The posters refer to the wording of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which says calling “a state of Israel… a racist endeavour” could amount to a hate crime against Jews.

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party adopted the IHRA definition on Tuesday, having been rocked by allegations of anti-Semitism against its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for several months.

According to The Jewish Chronicle, the advertising company owning a number of the defaced posters—JC Decaux—said the messages were “vandalism—not advertising.” The company said the incidents had been reported and that new posters would be put up soon.

A spokesperson for London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Haaretz, “These offensive adverts are not authorized and are acts of vandalism which Transport for London and its advertising partner takes extremely seriously. They have instructed their contractors to remove any posters found on their network immediately.”

Others were more supportive. The London Palestine Action activist group tweeted a photo of the poster, declaring: “Rights denied based entirely on ethnicity. Israel is a #racistendeavour.”

British politics has been grappling with anti-Semitism throughout the summer, most of it focused on the left-wing Labour Party. In July, the party adopted the IHRA definition but without the “racist endeavor” wording, arguing it could stifle free speech. Following criticism by Jewish groups both in the U.K. and abroad, the party has now accepted the full definition and all examples of anti-Semitism provided by the IHRA.

Some Jewish groups, however, are still unhappy after the party backed a statement declaring the definition “will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”

The scandal has bogged down the party throughout what should have been a key summer for its members. With Brexit looming and the ruling Conservative Party in turmoil, the anti-Semitism scandal has weighed down efforts to provide a strong alternative to Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

British Jewish groups have worked alongside Israeli politicians and pressure groups to create a concerted pressure campaign on Corbyn. Though his supporters claim the leader has long been an avowed opponent of anti-Semitic politics, the Conservatives and some members of his own party have suggested he is not fit to serve as leader.

Israeli politicians have come in for criticism of their own this summer, having passed the controversial “nation-state” law. The legislation declared that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country, and also downgraded Arabic from an official language to one of “special status,” declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s “united” capital and enshrined the country as the “historic homeland of the Jewish people.”

The bill prompted protests from the country’s Arab and Druze minorities, which said it was discriminatory and racist. President Reuven Rivlin branded the legislation “bad for the state of Israel and bad for the Jews,” suggesting it would only serve to further polarize the country’s different groups.