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Holocaust Memorial Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:01 pm on 24th January 2019.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy) 2:01 pm, 24th January 2019

I agree with my hon. Friend that such lies must be called out whenever they are heard.

As my Jewish constituents have made clear, the terror of the holocaust does not fade for our Jewish communities. Incidents that may seem marginal and inconsequential to some are experienced from the point of view of survivors and their children and grandchildren as harbingers of horrors too awful to think about. Fear echoes down the generations while many of us go about our business feeling safe and secure. Recent studies have revealed the degree to which the first antisemitic legislation passed by the Nazi party was modelled on the racist laws of the American south and of British colonies such as South Africa. Remembrance must mean eternal vigilance against the politics of hatred and dehumanisation and the recognition that they do not make their first appearance as mass murder, but as a climate of religious or racial intolerance and political expediency.

Nowhere is that recognition more important than in discussions about the middle east. Those of us who support the cause of Palestinian rights must recognise that we see antisemitic ideas surface time and again in debates over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There must be zero tolerance of antisemitism in such debates, just as there must be space for an honest appraisal of the actual issues and behaviours of those involved in the conflict.

There must be zero tolerance within the Labour party, too. I am sad to report that Jewish constituents have told me that they no longer feel welcome in our party. I have written to and met both our leader and our general secretary to discuss the matter, and I have also met representatives of Jewish groups in Newcastle and nationally. I have been assured that the party is developing policies and allocating appropriate resources that will provide demonstrable evidence that we are committed to rooting out antisemitism. Antisemitism cases will be heard more quickly and the backlog cleared, and anyone using antisemitic tropes must be called out and subject to appropriate sanction.

However, we also need appropriate educational resources to help Members understand the history of antisemitism and antisemitic tropes, ensuring that we can express a wide range of views, particularly on Palestine and Israel, without implying any antisemitic views, either directly or indirectly. I have been assured that that will be developed and delivered soon.

In the party, in Newcastle and in the country, the holocaust must be remembered in words and in deeds.