Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:43 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Polak Lord Polak Conservative 12:43 pm, 20th June 2019

My Lords, I refer the House to my entry in the register of interests and pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Berridge for her thoughtful, wide-ranging and somewhat sad speech. I prepared for this debate by typing “anti-Semitism” into the Google bar and clicking on “News”. On 18 June, the Jerusalem Post reported on a panel at a conference under the headline:

“Key to Fighting Anti-Semitism? Encouraging Jewish Communities”.

The Jewish community of the US is now exploring what is done in Europe to protect synagogues, schools and other Jewish communal buildings. Cited in that article, the journalist Caroline Glick put it rather well when she said that anti-Semites are not such because of what Jews do:

“Their hatred defines them … They are beyond our control. They are not antisemitic because of what we are, but because they are bigots and they attach their bigotry to the Jewish people”.

Also on 18 June, another Jerusalem Post article reported John Cusack’s retweeting of a picture. He later admitted that the image was not just critical of Israel but anti-Semitic. On the same day, CBS News reported António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, warning that the world is “in danger of forgetting” the lessons of the Holocaust, saying that,

“we are dealing with something that has spread … and we are facing a massive phenomenon”.

On 4 June, Eva Cossé, a Human Rights Watch researcher, produced an article entitled “The Alarming Rise of Anti- Semitism in Europe”, citing the 2018 survey mentioned by my noble friend Lady Berridge. On 5 June, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted the Volkswagen CEO saying that he had an “obligation” to fight anti-Semitism, stating:

“We have more obligation than others. The whole company was built up by the Nazi regime”.

Significantly, he is not just talking but taking action: a couple of weeks ago, the car manufacturing giant announced that it was funding the return of the Anti-Defamation League in Europe. This is just a snapshot of the past few days. Where are we and how did we get here? I respectfully disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and pay tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for his clear and honest speech. I have said it before and I will repeat it again: when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, I argued that his views and opinions, which had been confined to the far-left corner of our society, would gravitate to the centre of British politics. Sadly, that has happened. His views and friends have become mainstream.

The few examples of the results of my Google search are shameful and unacceptable, as is the singling out of the one Jewish state—even in this House, our House of Lords, where scores of hostile Questions attacking the democratic Jewish state are tabled daily, with little evidence of questions being posed on dangerous totalitarian or despotic regimes across the globe. Just this week, two highly respectable mainstream institutions in British society have shown poor judgment, to put it mildly: the Cambridge Union, in hosting the Malaysian Prime Minister, and the BBC, which clearly has many questions to answer about Abdullah Patel from Bristol.

The time has come for action, not words—in fact, the time for action came a few years ago. I welcome the fine words of my noble friend Lady Warsi. It is time for great British institutions like the Cambridge Union, the Labour Party and the BBC to act and clear out those who seek to divide us. This sort of hate must not be tolerated and must be called out. As I said after the tragic Pittsburgh shooting last October:

“It is often said that anti-Semitism is a problem for the Jewish community … but does my noble friend agree that it should be seen as a grave threat to British values and British decency and to all that we hold dear?”—[Official Report, 29/10/18; col. 1122.]