Antisemitism in Modern Society

Part of Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) – in the House of Commons at 5:47 pm on 20th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon 5:47 pm, 20th February 2019

It is hard to follow the speech by Luciana Berger. I pay tribute to her for the actions that she has taken in the past couple of days, as well as for all she has done since first being elected in 2010. It takes a huge amount of courage to do what she has done.

I have a large Jewish community in my constituency, and the work of the Community Security Trust is particularly important there. In fact, I called for this debate after the release of the CST’s figures. I pay tribute to the trust for the work that it does and for its selfless action in looking after the community. I was pleased that my first parliamentary question here asked for money to pay for the trust to look after schoolchildren at their schools. My right hon. Friend Michael Gove agreed with me at the time that he did not see why parents should have to pay to keep their children safe just because they were going to school. We continue to fund that work.

Several hon. Members have mentioned the fact that there have been 1,652 antisemitic incidents in the past year, but that is not the whole story. A further 630 potential incidents were reported, but they were not included by the CST because there was no evidence of antisemitic motivation, targeting or content. However, many of the people who suffered those incidents were from the Jewish faith. Previously, we have seen spikes in the number of incidents following military action in Israel or conflict in Gaza or even the west bank, but that has not occurred in the past year. There have been some border skirmishes in which people have been killed, but two particular periods stand out in which there have been spikes in antisemitic incidents.

The first period when the CST recorded an additional number of incidents came during April and May last year, which coincided with the Leader of the Opposition’s past support for a mural in Tower Hamlets coming to light. The so-called graffiti artist Mear One, whom many of us will remember, produced a mural showing people who very much looked like elderly Jewish men sitting around a table supported on the backs of, presumably, African-Caribbean slaves. Many comments were made at the time, which coincided with an increased number of incidents. The second period came in August and September last year, when there was much discussion in the media about whether the Labour party would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, and the number of antisemitic incidents increased to 150 in those months. I certainly did not want this debate to be about criticising the Labour party per se, but I want Labour to know that when people make comments, there is an effect beyond the coverage in the newspapers.