Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:27 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Dykes Lord Dykes Liberal Democrat 12:27 pm, 20th June 2019

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow Daniel Finkelstein—the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein—who is considered to be the main Times journalist with a sense of humour. He has shown it again today and we thank him for his wise words. I am also looking forward to listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi. I am sandwiched between two very intelligent people who will contribute enormously to this debate. I am also very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, is the Minister replying. He is greatly respected in all parts of this House.

I will speak, briefly, from the heart. I tried to follow the complicated description of anti-Semitism given by the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, but it is still a mystery for someone such as me. I was close to many Jewish friends and other Jewish people in my constituency. I was informally and unofficially an honorary member of at least five synagogues and went regularly to shul whenever I had the opportunity. I still cannot understand anti-Semitism, and that is why this debate is so important. The horrific examples described by the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and other noble Lords are so grotesque and horrible that they are very difficult to believe. That is why we have to keep reminding people that anti-Semitism exists in this world. The contribution of the Jewish community in Britain—what they have done for this country—has been truly magnificent. I am glad that there is less of that feeling, at least among people who are intelligent enough to study these things closely. Perhaps many people do not bother, but those who do would feel that to be the case.

I live in France as well, which also has a great connection with the Jewish community, which is slightly bigger than the official number in the United Kingdom. There is anti-Semitism in France as well, which is a terrible thing. I can understand why Labour Peers are deeply upset about what is happening in their own party; I feel very sympathetic towards them as well. On many occasions when I was in Harrow I noticed that people were fearful, even in the safe environment of a wealthy area of north-west London, because of their background and history.

I am very closely connected with Germany: I speak German, I go there frequently and I admire the way the Germans faced up to the sense of guilt that they have all accepted—with a few peculiar exceptions. They have done that in a way that fills me with great pleasure when I think of what happened in that country—unbelievable things that are still difficult to believe. That is why there are still so many books written about the Holocaust and the Third Reich, not only in Germany but elsewhere. It is interesting to note that in Berlin there is now a huge, or at least relatively large, Jewish community of young Israelis, for example, who have gone there to work or study and who live in Berlin or Düsseldorf or other cities. That is an example of what we all need to do, to really get to know the details of all this tragedy over the years, to make sure that it is never repeated.

I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, was quoted as saying in one of her recent books. None of that has anything to do with me wishing to criticise the present Government of Netanyahu in Israel. That is a perfectly legitimate thing for anyone to do, be they Jewish or not: there are many Jewish critics of Netanyahu’s Government, both in Israel and outside. That is a totally separate subject; it cannot be confused with this deep, huge ur-psychological disease of anti-Semitism. We all need to work together to make sure that we eradicate it for ever from our world society.