In Prime Minister’s Questions this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson underlined the importance of combating antisemitism ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January.
He emphasised the need to “continue to inoculate our populations and ourselves against the wretched virus of antisemitism, which has a tendency to recur and re-infect societies, including, tragically, our own”.
The Prime Minister’s remarks came in response to a question from CFI Officer Nicola Richards MP, who highlighted the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust in ensuring students hear survivors’ testimony.
In the House of Lords, cross-party peers condemned antisemitism on university campuses following the publication of a report by the Community Security Trust (CST) in December 2020 that found that antisemitic incidents on campus have increased.
CFI Honorary President Lord Polak CBE paid tribute to the CST’s work and underlined that “Jewish students up and down the country need our support, because, in the words of the late Lord Sacks: ‘A society… that tolerates antisemitism—that tolerates any hate—has forfeited all moral credibility’”.
CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Lords) Rt. Hon. The Lord Pickles raised concerns that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism has been “maliciously represented as a constraint on either academic freedom or free speech”. It “speaks volumes” if academics cannot criticise Israel without using antisemitic tropes, he added.
Lord Grade of Yarmouth CBE said that criticism of Israel on university campuses that neglects the context of the existential threats Israel faces is “nothing but a thin veil to hide deep seated & ill-disguised hatred of the Jewish State and all Jews”.
The mental health of Jewish students is affected by extremist antisemitic material, Lord Leigh of Hurley underlined, calling out those who “attack Israel as a proxy for antisemitism”.
The debate also featured contributions from CFI Officer Baroness Altmann CBE, Lord Wasserman and Lord Gold.
Responding to the debate, Justice Minister Lord Wolfson of Tredegar confirmed that since Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wrote to universities urging them to adopt the IHRA antisemitism definition, an additional 27 have done so.
Read the full debate here,