The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP, led the debate, which was secured following an increase in high-profile incidents of antisemitism within the Labour party. Last month, as many as 2,000 people gathered at Parliament Square to protest against antisemitism within the Labour Party at a rally arranged by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.
The unprecedented rally was organised following reports that Jeremy Corbyn had defended an antisemitic mural in East London six years ago in a Facebook post.
Mr Javid said in his opening remarks that “what we need to achieve today is to show the Jewish community in our country… that we do get it, that both sides of this House stand united in recognising the pernicious prejudice of antisemitism and in recognising the anxiety that is felt within the community here in Britain in 2018, and that we are listening to their concerns carefully, with humility and determination”.
He said that the UK was the first country to formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in December 2016, and paid tribute to former CFI Parliamentary Chairman Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles for his role in drafting the definition.
The Secretary of State outlined the provisions made by the UK Government to protect the Jewish community and support Holocaust education, including the annual commitment of £13.4 million in security measures, the construction of a national Holocaust memorial and learning centre beside Parliament, and the newly announced funding to combat antisemitism on campuses.
Conservative MPs to contribute in the debate included Nigel Evans MP, Sheryll Murray MP, Simon Hoare MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, Jonathan Djanogly MP, Richard Graham MP, Alec Shelbrooke MP, Nick Boles MP, Andrew Bridgen MP and Neil Parish MP, with speeches from Sir Graham Brady MP, Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon MP, Andrew Percy MP, Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP, Paul Masterton MP, Steve Double MP, Simon Clarke MP, Maria Caulfield MP and Chris Green MP.
A number of MPs called for the expulsion of former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone from the Labour party. Since remarking in 2016 that Hitler supported Zionism, Mr Livingstone has been suspended from the Party pending investigation.
Sir Graham Brady MP highlighted the “insidious growth in the number of antisemitic incidents” reported in the UK in recent years, and former Cabinet Minister Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon MP said that antisemitism is “out in its naked viciousness for everyone to see”.
Mr Halfon added that he believes the “current Labour leadership is, at best, turning a blind eye to the problem and, at worst, condoning antisemitism”.
CFI Vice-Chairman Andrew Percy MP condemned the “rise in antisemitism on the left of politics”, and the accusation that those who raise this issue are “trying to smear the Labour party”.
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP said that antisemitism has been “given a new lease of life by radical Islamism and the militant anti-Zionism of the radical left”, and given a “powerful new platform by social media”.
Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP paid tribute to the Community Security Trust, “which has done so much to support the Jewish community and keep it safe”, as well as “Labour Members who have stood up to antisemitism in their party”. She added: “We must all stand shoulder to shoulder with them”.
Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire, Paul Masterton, reflected on the contribution of the Jewish community in his constituency, which has been “immeasurably positive”.
Steve Double MP, who visited Israel last week with CFI, said that visiting Yad Vashem for the national Yom HaShoah opening ceremony was a “deeply moving experience”. He underlined that “every single one of us in this House has a responsibility to root out antisemitism, to make sure that we are addressing these issues at their root, and to ensure that the UK continues to be a place—whatever else is going on around the world—which Jews are welcome to call their home”.
Simon Clarke MP added that antisemitism is “a force that is still present in society—albeit adopting, as it always does, new guises in a new era”. He associated himself with calls for Ken Livingstone to be expelled from the Labour party, and called on the Labour party leader to “respond meaningfully” to criticism of his handling of antisemitism accusations.
CFI Officer Maria Caulfield MP said that “it is our duty now to speak out about antisemitism to make sure that that never happens again, because the lessons of history tell us that the start of an increase in antisemitism is a slippery slope”.
Conservative MP for Bolton West, Chris Green, emphasised that “we see the frequent and unique demonisation of the State of Israel”. He said that this “happens only to the Jewish state; nothing comparable happens with any other country in the world”, and that the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign represents a unique attack on Israel and lends itself to not just anti-Zionism but antisemitism”.
Home Secretary Rt. Hon Amber Rudd MP closed the debate, thanking numerous Labour party members for “bravely and courageously” sharing their experiences of antisemitism with the House.
She underlined: “The Labour party is a noble and honourable party, and it is absolutely wrong that this corner of anti-Semitism has been allowed to flourish. He has an obligation to take action. We expect nothing less”.
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