Yesterday, during a debate in the Council of Europe, CFI Vice-Chairman John Howell OBE MP called on political parties to take a “zero tolerance policy against antisemitism”, emphasising that they “have to set an example”.
He praised the Conservative Government’s action on this issue, stating that measures such as the adoption of a broad definition of anti-Semitism drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and commitment of more than £13million for security measures in the Jewish community can “rid this scourge of hatred from the soul of our country”.
The MP for Henley said that parties should “take a firm stand on this issue”, underlining that clearly defining the term is the “first step in defeating anti-Semitism”, as this removes “any doubt about what is unacceptable, and so that no one can plead ignorance or hide behind any kind of excuse”.
Mr Howell, who is the Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group, raised concerns that “two political parties in the United Kingdom have members who have been accused of anti-Semitism, including the Liberal Democrats”. His remarks followed an announcement that Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron had sacked General Election candidate David Ward, a former Liberal Democrat MP who had been accused of antisemitic remarks.
During the debate on ‘European values under threat: addressing rising xenophobia, antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe’, Mr Howell said that there has been “serious concern about the safety of the Jewish population across Europe in recent years, especially after a series of terror attacks that specifically targeted Jewish communities in France and Belgium”.
He noted the 36% rise on the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom in 2016, which reached “unprecedented levels”, with just over 1309 incidents reported – the highest number on record.
Mr Howell went on to emphasise the importance of education in combating Islamophobia and other forms of racism, and in recognising that “communities are not simply blocks of people with the same views”.
He said that “what stuck with [him] after the dreadful terror attack on Parliament was not the attack itself, but the groups of Imams who got together to say that this terror does not belong to Islam”.
The full transcript of the debate can be read here.