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Antisemitism in Modern Society

Part of Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) – in the House of Commons at 4:50 pm on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb Conservative, Aberconwy 4:50 pm, 20th February 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. I commend the speech of the Secretary of State, which I applaud and agree with fully, and I welcome the comments from the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, Barry Gardiner, too. It is not for me to comment on what is going on in the Labour party, but suffice it to say that what is happening to our politics and to some Members of this House as a result of antisemitism stains us all. We should all offer solidarity to those Members who have been affected by vile and disgusting abuse, whether online or in person. I have nothing but admiration for hon. Members in this place who are standing up to those threats and doing so with dignity, which shows why they have been elected to this place. I congratulate them all, whether they are in the Labour party or not, for the stand they are taking. They have the support of those of us on the Government Benches.

This is a cross-party issue. One reason I wanted to speak in the debate was that back in 2013, I joined the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism. I represent a small constituency in North Wales—I think it is the smallest constituency in population terms represented by a Conservative MP—and I have a very small Jewish community. I felt that the issue was coming to the fore, however, and I decided to join the APPG. That has been the most informative and valuable work that I have done in Parliament, as well as some of the most depressing. I pay tribute to the chair of the APPG, John Mann, for his leadership of that effort and for the opportunities he has afforded to somebody such as myself.

Back in 2013, one of the few Jewish members of my constituency was elected mayor of Conwy, and I remember having a lot of fun at the fact that Edward I, when he gave Conwy its town charter, stated that no Jews and no Welsh would be allowed to live within the town walls. It gave me a certain degree of pride that Conwy had a Conservative Jewish mayor and a Conservative MP who is as Welsh as Welsh can be.

The APPG gave me the opportunity to see the virus of antisemitism. I went to Amsterdam with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, and I was absolutely shocked by what I saw. Back in 2014, when we were preparing a report on antisemitism, we went to a Jewish high school in Amsterdam, a city that I would consider to be a liberal city in Europe. We met a group of sixth formers, the same age as my children, and asked them a simple question, “How many of you, in a class of 22, see a future for yourselves in Europe?” One hand went up in that classroom—one single hand. If that does not shame us as Europeans, I am not sure what does.