You report online (Antisemitism definition adopted to constitution, December 14) that Waltham Forest Council has voted to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. As a Jewish resident of the borough, I addressed the council meeting on December 13, and urged councillors not to accept this proposal, which offers no help or guidance in the fight against increasing right-wing anti-Semitic violence across the world.

This is what I said in my address to the meeting:

Unfortunately, we live in a world in which murderous anti-Semitism, and other manifestations of racism, are on the rise. It is just a few weeks since an American fascist murdered eleven worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Last month, I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. This was a sobering experience, making clear the dreadful end to which such racism can lead. While I was there, hundreds of thousands of Poles, including the President and members of the government, took part in a fascist-led parade through the streets of Warsaw.

This is the background to anti-Semitic racism and violence. This is what we have to confront and defeat. And the constitutional change you are being asked to endorse today offers no insight or guidance towards this.

The IHRA Definition of anti-Semitism has been criticised by academics and leading authorities on anti-Semitism, by jurists, and by Jewish organisations. The former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research has described the document as “so flawed it should be abandoned, not tinkered with”. A leading QC has written that any public authority which sought to apply the IHRA document to prohibit or sanction certain descriptions of Israel or certain types of political campaigning in support of Palestine, would be acting unlawfully, and could be in breach of the 1998 Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Scores of Jewish organisations across the world issued a statement earlier this year urging “governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition and instead take effective measures to defeat white supremacist nationalist hate and violence and to end complicity in Israel’s human rights violations”. And Kenneth Stern, the man who originally wrote the document, has insisted that it was never intended to be used to limit free speech, and he described its misuse in this manner as McCarthyite.

This document is divisive, at a time when we need to be united. Here in Waltham Forest, we provided a shining example of how a united community can defeat fascists and protect the rights and security of minorities. Six years ago, we came together to block and ridicule the English Defence League, who wished to march through our streets and spread their message of racism and hate. Anti-fascists across the world, from Poland to the USA, from Brazil to Britain, are coming together to challenge fascism and anti-Semitism. It is quite disgraceful that the council has permitted Ambrosine Shitrit, a supporter of the EDL and Tommy Robinson, to address this meeting.

Today’s proposal, far from contributing to this struggle, is a complete diversion. Rather than blocking anti-Semitic racism, it is an attempt to police speech on Israel and Palestine, and potentially to penalise councillors, council workers and residents of the borough for exercising their right to oppose Israel and its practices. I urge you to reject the proposal.

Roland Rance

Salisbury Road, Walthamstow