Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:52 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative 12:52 pm, 20th June 2019

My Lords, I have spoken on several occasions in your Lordships’ House against all types of discrimination. As human beings, we have the right to be judged as individuals, irrespective of ethnicity, nationality or religious beliefs. The number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents, which range from vandalism to physical violence, has risen. The charity, Community Security Trust, counted 1,652 such incidents in 2018 which is the highest annual total since the charity was founded in 1984. The Anti-Defamation League also states that there has been a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents. There is a correlation between the rise of populism and bigotry. The United Nations Secretary-General has spoken about the corrosive impact of populism in fuelling,

“racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia”,

in our societies. We as parliamentarians have a duty to challenge and reject the inflammatory rhetoric used by populists to sow division within our communities. Social media have proven to be an aggravating factor in the fight against all forms of discrimination. I should be grateful if the Minister informed noble Lords about any discussions which have taken place with social media providers about their obligations in this matter.

As your Lordships are painfully aware, anti-Semitism has deep roots in Europe. The number of anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 74% in 2018, and 1,646 instances of anti-Semitism were recorded in Germany last year. A united approach is needed to tackle anti-Semitism in Europe, which is why I wholeheartedly support the action plan of the European Jewish Congress. This plan urges the EU’s 28 member states, individually and collectively, to allocate greater resources for monitoring and measuring anti-Semitism. European leaders have since pledged to work together to make life safer for European Jews. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister informed your Lordships’ House as to the steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to honour this pledge.

One of the greatest tenets in British society is an individual’s right to freedom of speech, but this freedom must be exercised with care. I am concerned when those in positions of influence wilfully spread conspiracy theories about particular groups in our society. I was therefore greatly concerned to learn that the Equality and Human Rights Commission felt it necessary to launch a formal investigation into reports of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Any such behaviour in a political party is totally unacceptable.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is not limited to Europe. The Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and Charlottesville clashes in the United States were bleak reminders of the threat facing innocent people from hateful ideology. Those who harbour such views do not limit their bigotry to one group but discriminate against anyone who is different from them in any way. It is vital that we as parliamentarians show leadership in our communities when it comes to fighting anti-Semitism or any form of bigotry. Let us all get together to fight anti-Semitism.