Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:31 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Conservative 12:31 pm, 20th June 2019

My Lords, I am rarely here on a Thursday now, because the Whips have not obliged us to be here. I have been tempted back to the wonderful place known as Yorkshire, surrounded by the amazing vibrancy of a factory making beds; even more so during this time when cricket also beckons. However, when I saw this debate listed on the Order Paper I felt it was necessary for me to be here, to give support and lend my voice to the efforts to highlight the rising challenge of anti-Semitism. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Berridge, who so powerfully and in such a detailed way opened this debate and set the scene for the tremendous contributions we have heard so far and I am sure will continue to hear until the end of the debate.

Racism, as we have heard, is not found just in the kind of circles we would have found it in in the past. It is in very respectable circles; it is rooted in liberalism. There is also faith-based racism: it is not true that people of faith are welcoming of other people of faith. Therefore, I felt it was important, as a Muslim, to lend my voice to this fight against anti-Semitism. It is something I have spoken about before. In 2013 in a speech at Georgetown, speaking about the exodus of Christians from the Middle East, I said that it should not be left to Christians to speak for Christians, for Muslims to speak for Muslims and for Jews to speak for Jews. As a Muslim, this is a fundamental part of my faith. The teachings I grew up with said that everyone in humanity is my brother or sister in faith, or my brother or sister in humanity, and it is therefore right for us to speak when anyone is persecuted.

After all, in the past we have defeated intolerance only when we have come together. Apartheid was defeated in South Africa only when people of all backgrounds held hands to ensure that it was challenged. The American civil rights movement received the boost it needed when the international community—black, white and brown, people of all backgrounds—came together. Here in the United Kingdom, gay rights were truly established only when the wider community got on board. Anti-Semitism will stop rearing its ugly head only when all of us, of whatever faith we belong to or of none, oppose and challenge it.

The rise of anti-Semitism is real and deeply disturbing. The briefing from the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, which all noble Lords will have received, paints a very grim picture: Jews in Europe attacked and threatened for wearing skull caps; attacks on Jewish religious practices such as dietary requirements and circumcision; and the tragic loss of life during the Tree of Life synagogue terrorist attack in Pittsburgh, where Jews were gunned down in their place of worship. There is also the demonisation of a community by politicians such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary, who chooses to use tropes and conspiracy theories—which sadly we have too often heard before—and attempts to revise history to downplay the horrors that led to the Holocaust.

The time restrictions in this debate simply do not allow us to do justice to this subject, but it does allow me, as a Muslim, to stand and speak in solidarity against the racism that Jews around the world face and to ensure that British Jews hear very clearly that they do not need to fight this battle alone: this is a fight for all of us.