Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP today addressed parliamentarians at the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism Conference, likening the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement with the boycott of Jewish goods in Nazi Germany and called for vigilance in combating anti-Semitism.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman said that the only difference between the boycott of Jewish goods in World War Two and the BDS movement is time, stating: “There’s nothing complicated to it, it’s the same thing happening 70 years later. It’s the same ideology, it’s the same language, it’s the same threats. After all, the BDS picket and threaten people who are trading with Israel – it’s the same thing”.
The difference between now and 70 years ago, he said, is that boycotters can do it “from the comfort of their home”.
He continued: “If Twitter and Facebook had been available in Nazi Germany, Goebbels would have been an enormous hit. This guy exploited film, he exploited newly-invented radio, you bet he would have worked hard at Facebook and Twitter”.
The former Communities and Local Government Secretary said that “we need to preserve freedom of speech, but we also need to ensure that Jewish students can get an education without fear… We need to redouble our work with internet companies to make sure they deal with prejudiced views on their sites”.
He underlined: “We need to continually work to combat anti-Semitism, and its new disguises and means of expression. In the UK we’re determined never to let our guard down and to be ever-vigilant”.
The MP for Brentwood and Ongar told the audience about an anti-Semitic incident that took place at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester last year.
He said that a group of “privileged and expensively dressed left-wing activists” shouted at a young man with a kippah: “Why don’t you go back to Auschwitz, why don’t you go up the chimney?”
Sir Eric described this incident as “unacceptable”, with policemen “just standing by”, indicating “something deeply wrong in society”.
He encouraged those present to read the recently published guide to “Combating Anti-Semitism”, stating that “it’s important that communities not only see Government tackling anti-Semitism, but that the community can also raise concerns”.
He said that education is not the cure to anti-Semitism, as anti-Semites are “completely immune to education, to facts and to tolerance… They live by bigotry, so while education can be a good foundation, constant vigilance is required”.
“Anti-Semitism is like the cockroaches that creep out from under the oven after Armageddon. It will always be with us. We must always be vigilant, and we must not allow free speech to masquerade as a defence to this wicked, evil, doctrine”, he concluded.
Sir Eric is the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues.