Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th June 2004.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 11:30 am, 15th June 2004

What representations he has received about anti-Semitism in Europe.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Minister of State (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The Government are aware of a disturbing increase in anti-Semitic remarks and attacks across many European nations, including the UK. We vigorously condemn them and remain in close contact with representatives of the Jewish community, here and elsewhere in Europe, to discuss ways of combating anti-Semitism. We were active participants in the recent OSCEOrganisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe—conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere

The Minister is absolutely right to say that there has been a worrying increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe. Is he aware that a great deal of that is connected with the situation in the middle east? Does he agree that, whatever views might be legitimately held about the situation in the middle east, it is wholly unacceptable for attacks to be carried out on innocent people and communities in connection with that conflict? Will he ensure that the United Kingdom plays its full part in the coming OSCE conference, due to start tomorrow in Paris, and in particular does as much as possible to stop the international peddling of hate on this subject through the internet?

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Minister of State (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I cannot but completely agree with the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The Government, Ministers and MPs are active in the campaign. The most recent anti-Semitic attack took place recently in France, but a large number of gravestones of French Muslims have also been desecrated at Strasbourg, according to yesterday's Le Monde, with remarks such as "Sieg Heil" and "White Power". Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, hatred of immigrants and xenophobia are all parts of a connected continuum that we must combat very firmly and clearly indeed.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Riverside

Does the Minister recognise the gravity of anti-Semitism coming from some Islamic sources that links up with the anti-Semitism of the far right in advocating Jewish conspiracy theories, blood libels and holocaust denial? What steps are the Government taking to counter that?

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Minister of State (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I pay tribute to the way in which the hon. Lady has consistently raised this sickening aspect of modern political discourse. Again, she flags up a concern shared by everyone in the House. That is why I am pleased that the OSCE is focusing on anti-Semitism. I know that the French Government are taking strong steps in that regard, as are the German Government, and we, too, must keep a watchful eye on the situation because hate language in British politics—whether on immigrants, on questions to do with Israel and the right of the Jewish people to their state, or on the problems faced by many of my Muslim constituents—is, I am afraid, on the rise, rather than going down.

Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Conservative, South Norfolk

It would be disturbing, would it not, if it turned out that taxpayers were helping to fund anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish people? Yet when I recently visited OLAF, the anti-fraud agency in Brussels, Mr. Alberto Perduca, the official in charge of looking at funding for the Palestinians, admitted that it could not be ruled out that cash used by the EU to give funding to the Palestinian Authority might in some cases have made its way to groups to which it should not have made its way. What is the Foreign Office doing to keep that matter under review?

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Minister of State (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

It is rather tenuous to get in a jibe at the EU over the serious problem of attacks on Jewish graves, desecrations of other Jewish memorials and anti-Semitic remarks. The Commissioner responsible, the right hon. Chris Patten, is keeping the matter tightly under control. I accept fully the concerns of Mr. Bacon, but if he has one piece of direct evidence of any money circuiting back into anti-Semitic organisations in Europe, I would love to see it because I promise him and the House that I would take that up with every bit of vigour that I possess.