Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:57 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Tonge Baroness Tonge Independent Liberal Democrat 12:57 pm, 20th June 2019

My Lords, I felt a little like Daniel in the lions’ den at the beginning of the debate today; I just trust I will be spared, as he was, at the end of the debate. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, on an excellent, informative and interesting speech. I also single out the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and endorse what he says about Jeremy Corbyn. He is not anti-Semitic; he is a man who feels passionately about human rights and, like me, does not always express it in the right sort of way. Nevertheless, he cares deeply about human rights.

I was born during the Second World War, and stories of the Holocaust haunted my childhood—and I mean haunted. We heard them at church, Sunday school and home; it was a dreadful time.

I have seen the statistics and accept that there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents over the last three years, but I also note—from reports by Tell MAMA and the recent report from the all-party group led by the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi—that there has been a much greater rise in Islamophobic incidents over the same period and that they are more frequent and severe. I am therefore saddened that we cannot discuss the rise in prejudice generally and—this is very important—the actions of the far-right political movements fanning the flames and poisoning our society. It is a very worrying development indeed, and we should have a debate at some stage.

However, according to the Kantor Center, which produces reports on anti-Semitism annually, there was a surge in violent anti-Semitic activity during and after Operation Protective Edge in 2014—a vicious and deadly attack on Gaza by the Israeli armed forces, in which thousands of Gazans were killed and injured. The killing and maiming continue, of course, with further attacks on Gaza and at the Friday protests.

These events are not quickly forgotten, and I suggest that some if not many people who commit anti-Semitic acts do not distinguish between ordinary Jewish people—I know that noble Lords hate that phrase—and the Zionist Israeli Government of what is now called the Jewish State of Israel. It is too difficult a distinction for many people to make.

I have said harsh things about the Government of Israel and their cheerleaders in this country over the years—I know that. But I am sick of the filthy abuse that I get online, sick of the accusations of anti-Semitism being levelled against me and appalled that I never get any apology, even when the accusations are found to be fabricated, as they were two years ago.

Finally, I wish noble Lords to know that I am not anti-Semitic. I have never been anti-Semitic, and I never will be anti-Semitic. I have Jewish and gentile friends who will vouch for me. But I am anti-injustice, and I think that the people of Palestine have suffered a terrible injustice over the last 100 years at the hands of the Zionist movement—I apologise if noble Lords do not like that phrase—and presently by the Israeli Government. On that I shall not be silenced.