Antisemitism in Modern Society

Part of Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) – in the House of Commons at 5:03 pm on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 5:03 pm, 20th February 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Guto Bebb. Although some time has passed since his resignation from the Government, this is the first chance I think I have had to say to him in the Chamber that Defence questions are not the same without him. His contribution was heartfelt and welcome, as indeed was the tone set by the Secretary of State at the beginning of the debate. I should acknowledge, not least because he is a fellow Glaswegian, the tone struck by the shadow Secretary of State.

It is somewhat depressing, as the hon. Member for Aberconwy has said, that we are debating antisemitism for the second time in less than 12 months, and we are doing so against the backdrop of Members of this very Parliament feeling that they have to leave their political party because of antisemitism. Although I have no desire to tread on the broader political grief of the Labour party, I will single out, if I may—I did not tell her beforehand that I would do this—Luciana Berger. Having looked at some of the vile poison that she has put up with, I can tell her that she has the solidarity of Scottish National party Members and our admiration for the way in which she has stood up to it.

In the previous debate on antisemitism, I was able to say, in setting out the history of antisemitism in Scotland, that we are one of the few countries, if not the only country, never to have had an antisemitic law on the statute book. Indeed, the declaration of Arbroath, which is understood to be the most ancient medieval text in existence, specifically refers to Jews and gentiles as equal. To bring things a bit more up to date, I am pleased to say that the Scottish Government have accepted in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

I do not want to deceive Members into thinking that all is well and rosy north of the border, because the sad fact is that it is not. I thank Joel Salmon from the Board of Deputies of British Jews for the briefing he has given me, with some specific key figures on what is going on in Scotland. There have been 21 recorded incidents of antisemitism in the past year. Although that may not seem like a huge number, it does not feel all that small to Scotland’s Jewish population, given how small it is.

I want to read out a few examples of what has happened in the past 12 months. A brick was thrown at a glass door on a synagogue, but thanks to their foresight in expecting something like that to happen, a non-smash coating had been put on the glass so it did not shatter on that occasion. In another example, a woman who was converting to Judaism was spat at in the face while being called a Jew on a bus in Edinburgh.

In possibly the most vile of the examples sent to me, a Jewish organisation in Scotland received the following email:

“I’m going to kill every single one of you ugly rat-faced kikes. I think I’ll use a knife. Then after I’ve cut you, I’ll shut that dirty, filthy, lying Jew mouth of yours once and for all. Make sure you have a good hiding place ready. I’m gonna stick your children into an oven and then I’m gonna serve roasted kike to my dog. Good luck finding, you worthless piece of shit.”

I will not read out the rest, as though that was not bad enough.

A few weeks ago, the front page of the Sunday Herald featured a story about the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities highlighting the deep problem of antisemitism that too often plagues elements of Scottish society. Too many responded to that story with conspiracy theories or by saying that somehow that could not happen in Scotland or that the Jews were complaining about nothing. That is rubbish. As with any other minority community, when the Jewish community complains about being the victim of hatred and highlights it on the front page of a national newspaper, any decent person would respond by extending a hand of friendship.