Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:48 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Mitchell Lord Mitchell Labour 12:48 pm, 20th June 2019

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for introducing the debate, and in particular for starting off by referring to the Prime Minister of Malaysia. He may be 93 years old, but Mahathir Mohamad has given us a powerful backdrop for the debate. Addressing the Cambridge Union a few days ago, he said:

“I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends”.

He even said that some of his best friends were Jewish. Well, with friends like him, who needs enemies? Malaysia is 5,000 miles away from the Middle East. It has no Jews and few Christians, yet 72% of its population have strong anti-Semitic views. Come to think of it, its record on gay rights is not that great either.

In 2015, the Anti-Defamation League in the United States updated its periodic analysis of anti-Semitism around the world. While some of the results surprise, others do not. At the top, 71% of Turks hold strong anti-Semitic views, as do 67% of Greeks, while 60% of Iranians have the same. These countries are followed by the usual eastern European countries, all hovering around 30%. As my own family background bears witness, eastern Europe has been a hotbed of anti-Semitism for many centuries, and old habits die hard. That said, Ukraine, which has a high rating of 32%, not only has a Jewish Prime Minister but a Jewish president. As they say in Brooklyn, “Go figure”.

The lowest scores are also predictable, with the Netherlands at 11%, the United States at 10% and Denmark at 8%. Where does our country stand? We are at 12%, which is not great but not too bad either. The ADL and Jewish policy review surveys both report that Jews are well regarded in the UK. However, these sentiments are not reflected or shared in the opinions of British Jews themselves, who feel that anti-Semitism is a major and growing threat. In the UK, attitudes towards Jews have also been analysed by political leaning. Hostility from the far right is centred around ancient anti-Semitism: Jews have too much power, they have different loyalties from the rest of the population and they get rich at the expense of others. From the far left, the vitriol is centred more on Israel. Israel is an apartheid state, it is committing mass murder in Palestine and it has too much control over global affairs. These attitudes are strongly prevalent in the circles that control the Labour Party and it is why I reluctantly resigned three years ago. Here I must pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, for his powerful and emotional speech. I will reflect on what he had to say.

We have just celebrated the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings, an event that marked the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. Over the next 10 months we will commemorate the liberation of Europe as well as its death camps. Noble Lords will probably be aware that there is a well-developed project for a Holocaust remembrance centre to be constructed next to these Houses of Parliament in Victoria Gardens. It has been backed by all five past and present living Prime Ministers. In Berlin, the German Holocaust Memorial is sited opposite the Bundestag. How fitting it would be for our own national memorial to the world’s greatest crime to be built here, alongside the Mother of Parliaments.