In my role as Communities Secretary I’ve seen first-hand how important the contribution of the Jewish community across the United Kingdom is. Whether through community housing, providing education or even emergency services such as Hatzola, the Jewish community is a cherished and an essential part of what makes Britain great. I want to extend my thanks to all of you who give so much and say how pleased I am to contribute this magazine.
And yet in 2018, despite this wonderful work, there are still some people who would try to diminish the contribution the Jewish community makes to our nation. Even when cloaked by a veil of misinformation, or as so often seems stupidity, we must always be vigilant against the grim rising spectre of antisemitism. That is why the Government remains committed to rooting out and challenging this bigotry wherever it presents itself.
And this is personal for me. My father-in-law escaped Nazi Germany to Britain as a small child and his father – my children’s great grandfather – was interned in Buchenwald in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, although, mercifully, was reunited with the family. I am particularly honoured to be involved in building a fitting memorial to the Holocaust in Britain. Over 70 years on, it continues to shape our society as more evidence and testimony is revealed.
We will continue to keep the Jewish community safe and I am proud that our Government allocates £13.4 million to protect Jewish institutions across the UK. The Community Security Trust’s figures reveal that antisemitic incidents in Britain are the second highest on record, so it’s vital that we relentlessly combat this prejudice and its various guises.
The key to defeating antisemitism and intolerance is through education, and there can be no more powerful symbol of our commitment to remembering the men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust than by placing a new National Memorial and Learning Centre to the Holocaust in Victoria Tower Gardens in the shadow of our Parliament. We must teach future generations what happened and where hatred can lead.
Our Government spearheaded the fight against antisemitism by ensuring the United Kingdom was the first country in the world to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) modern working definition of antisemitism. It has since been adopted by 31 countries, as well as more than 130 UK local councils, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary. As Conservatives this is something we should take enormous pride in and I’d like to pay tribute to Rt. Hon. Lord Pickles who plays such an instrumental role as the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues.
2018 has been a difficult year for the Jewish community. But I want to make a clear promise: This Government will stand shoulder to shoulder with the UK’s great Jewish community in the fight against antisemitism. This is not just your fight. This is a fight for us all.
It’s because of organisations like Conservative Friends of Israel that the messages of remembrance, education, respect and hope remain so fresh in our hearts and minds. Your work to help promote better relations between the United Kingdom and Israel through educational visits and events are hugely important. I’m grateful to its executive and members, past and present, for growing Conservative Friends of Israel from its beginning in 1974 to become the force it is today.
Rt. Hon. James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
This article appeared in CFI Informed Magazine 2018/19. Read the full magazine here.