Anti-Semitism 20 June 2019
To move that this House takes note of the incidence of anti-Semitism worldwide.
Baroness Berridge (Con)
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who are speaking in today’s debate, which is the second on anti-Semitism within a year in your Lordships’ House—perhaps evidence that this is a light sleeper, to borrow a phrase. Of course, I am not Jewish, but I co-chair the APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, and anti-Semitism is a denial of such freedom. I am also a professing Christian who attends Protestant churches but has Catholic lineage.
When first preparing for this debate, I was struck by the origins of the word “anti-Semitism”. To use “ism” makes it sound to ordinary people like an ideology or a religion such as Hinduism, pluralism or capitalism. Of course, “Semitism” relates to the Semite people, who, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, include,
“Arabs, Akkadians, Canaanites, Hebrews, some Ethiopians and Aramaean tribes”.
Modern usage does not include all those people, but it does definitely tell us that what we are talking about is hating people, not a religion or an ideology. That is a vital distinction that enables us to maintain freedom of speech. But the use of “ism” was deliberate, as the term was first used in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to make the anti-Jewish campaign seem more reasonable, rational and perhaps more like the European Enlightenment. It is a great shame that the term has stuck as it is anything but rational. I fear that using “anti-Semitism” today could make it seem like a concern of the liberal elite.
My initial instinct is supported by the recent survey by the Jewish Chronicle that fewer than half the people in Britain know what anti-Semitism means, so using the substance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition—“hatred of Jews”—makes things simple and clearer, and I commend it.
Globally, we are seeing in Europe, America and even Argentina a resurgence of hatred, threats of violence, harassment, vandalism and even murder and kidnap of Jews because of who they are. The hatred that led to the Holocaust and 6 million dead Jews in Europe is a lesson from history that is not being taught in enough history lessons. From Berlin to Buenos Aires, incidents of Jew hatred have increased drastically in recent years. According to the Kantor Center of Tel Aviv University, in the last year alone, Italy saw a 60% increase in recorded incidents, South Africa a 25% increase, France 74% and Australia 59%. The number involving violence or the threat of violence also rose globally by 13%. The US had the largest number of violent cases—more than 100—including of course the tragic shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October that claimed 11 lives.
In the city of Rosario in Argentina as recently as last week, a local rabbi was attacked by three men who shouted anti-Semitic words at him before removing his rabbi’s hat, trampling it on the ground and assaulting him. That attack is the third physical attack and anti-Semitic assault in Argentina in less than two months. Similarly, the UK last year recorded a record high of anti-Semitic incidents for the third year in a row.
One key feature of this trend is the increasing prevalence of materials online. According to Tel Aviv University, in Argentina last year complaints of anti-Semitic incidents doubled compared with 2017, and 80% were online. All of Belgium’s 101 documented cases were online in what mostly involved the spread of conspiracy theories and Nazi rhetoric. In a CNN/ComRes poll, 15% of all people surveyed in Poland and 19% in Hungary said that they had unfavourable views of Jews and about 10% of all respondents in seven European countries said the same. That is quite an admission even in a confidential poll.
The nature of Jew hatred includes imposing false stereotypes and conspiracy theories. In Poland and Hungary, about four out of 10 people said that Jews had,
“too much influence in business and finance”,
around the world, and 20% of British respondents thought that the global Jewish population was 20%. Those figures are deeply concerning and it is not a surprise that when 16,500 Jews from 12 European countries were interviewed by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights last year, 85% said that the community’s main concern was anti-Semitism. Less reported was that 72% of those Jews surveyed also expressed concern about the increasing intolerance towards Muslims. Hatred of the other does not usually stay with one category of “the other”. The main threat in Europe is neo-Nazi far-right views which extol hatred of Jews, not predominantly extreme Islamist views on Jews.
In her recent book, Antisemitism: What It Is. What It Isn’t. Why It Matters, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Neuberger, references research by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research that put the rates of emigration from France, Belgium and Italy to Israel beyond that which would normally be found due to economic factors. Jews leaving Europe because they do not feel safe—who ever thought we would be saying that in the 21st century? Jews are not asking for special treatment. The atrocities of the Second World War led not to a UN declaration on just Jewish religious freedom but on freedom of religion or belief for all. Jews are not saying we cannot criticise the Israeli state and its policies. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Neuberger, says in her book:
“It is one thing to deny Israel a right to exist at all. But arguing about Israel’s borders, or criticising its treatment of its Arab population, or of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, is another thing entirely. The argument is about policies, not about a right to exist. And though many Israelis, and the Israeli government, would not agree with me in saying this, those are legitimate issues to raise”.
She also says that,
“it must be legitimate to criticise Zionism as a political philosophy”.
I hope this deals with the myth that Jews do not believe in freedom of speech and that you will be told you are anti-Semitic if you criticise Israel per se. When I visited Israel it seemed to me that free speech between Israelis and criticism of their Government were alive and well on talk radio.
There are hundreds of images and posts on the internet, let alone on the dark web, by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the far right claiming Christian inspiration for their views. If only we could say that this is a new phenomenon. This is why I outlined my own faith at the start. In 2017 there was a muted celebration of 500 years since the Reformation. With the state of Europe’s attitude towards to Jews, celebrating a man for his undoubted doctrinal brilliance but whose views on Jews moved from warmth to hatred and wrath was difficult. Martin Luther’s 1542 treatise On the Jews and their Lies is staggering. He refers to “whoring and murderous people” and “a rabble of snakes”, saying:
“Even if they were punished in the most gruesome manner that the streets ran with their blood, that their dead would be counted, not in the hundreds of thousands but in the millions”.
Did this pave the way for Hitler and the views posted today? In a talk given at St Aldate’s Church, Oxford, the Reverend Simon Ponsonby persuasively outlined that Hitler, some of the German Church, the Nazis, the populists, the Jews and the English Church all made the link. After all, Kristallnacht was on Luther’s public birthday. William Temple, then Archbishop of York, said:
“It is easy to see how Luther prepared the way for Hitler”.
Time does not permit similar analysis of the struggle within Catholic thought, but the comment of Cardinal Maridiaga, who was a papal runner-up, is quoted in the book written by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Neuberger. He blames the “Jewish-controlled media”—namely, the Boston Globe—for the sex scandal of the Catholic Church. That is the kind of comment that Vatican II at the very latest thought to make a thing of the past. It is at such moments that I have put down many of my reading materials this week and said “What? These are intelligent people”.
I am not responsible for the collective views of the Church of the past, but due to the rise of Christian imagery once again I want Jews to know that I am convinced—and distressed—that without these awful teachings at the time of the advent of the printing press it is hard to think that Jew hatred would have taken root in Europe in the way it did. Aggressive nationalism and assertions of Christian Europe, particularly in eastern Europe, are feeding on this history and putting at risk anyone considered other—Jew, Muslim and, potentially, Roma, alike.
Today we have the advent of the internet. We have a virtual oil slick, like the pollution streaming out into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It is not merely a conduit, as European law would like us to believe. It connects people to spread their hate-filled views. Thankfully, in the past few weeks there seems to be a new wave of contrition from ISP executives, with Instagram’s Adam Mosseri saying,
“We can’t solve bullying on our own”,
and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook saying only last Sunday at Stanford University to graduating students that the tech industry,
“is becoming known for a less noble innovation: the belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility … If you build a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos”.
While the internet is undoubtedly bringing immense good, parts of it are a verbal cesspit which we all must clear up. The next generation want us to clean up the ocean, but they have good cause to ask us why, when ISPs have all that money—with more cash reserves than most nation states—we did not make them use it to clear up the internet and spread the message, for instance, that there is no “other”—we are all human; that the individual’s mistakes or crimes are not the fault of the collective group; and that you can hate my views, my behaviour and my politics, but verbal or physical violence or threats are unacceptable and often unlawful.
National Governments must pool their authority. The world is watching us here in the UK as to how we deal with online harms. Our leadership is important as a nation that respects free speech within the law. Generally, our law makes an important distinction between the hatred of ideas, philosophy or opinions, and words or actions expressing hatred of people. Our law applies to everyone and should be so enforced. I have a quote:
“I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends”—
these are the words of the Prime Minister of Malaysia at the Cambridge Union a few days ago, and the audience laughed. Is this what we expect of a visiting Commonwealth Head of Government—that he should think this is appropriate, and lawful? I will use an analogy to force home the point: “I have some black friends, very good friends. They are not like the other blacks, that’s why they are my friends”. This is unacceptable. UK law and its enforcement have to get this right, stamping out safe spaces for hatred. Obviously, we have the Metropolitan Police talking to Jo Brand. We have to get the enforcement right; we have to do this together. So I ask my noble friend the Minister: what mechanism will be used supranationally to bring ISPs to book? Is it on the agenda of the G20? I am not hopeful that the United Nations really has the clout to deal with this.
It is always an honour to speak in your Lordships’ House, but preparing this speech was not a pleasure. It was not a healthy diet for my mind, so goodness knows what it is like living any of the experiences that I have outlined. I hope noble Lords will forgive me, but I am looking forward to returning to the different echo chamber in which I live.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, as I am sure the whole House is, for securing the debate on this important subject. Quite rightly, she has highlighted shocking examples around the world. The re-emergence of hatred of Jews—to use the phrase she prefers—in continental Europe less than 75 years after the Shoah ended is a stark warning of the fragility of our post-war norms. Surveys show that, in many parts of Europe, Jews feel unsafe and insecure while far-right parties that unashamedly parade anti-Semitic tropes gain significant numbers of votes.
However, I want to focus nearer to home, on this country; with a deep sense of shame, I want to talk about the party I have been a member of for almost 50 years. Labour has a proud history of combating racism and discrimination, and of opposing fascism and anti-Semitism. It is therefore profoundly shocking for those of us brought up in that tradition to find our party now the subject of a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This is nothing short of humiliating for those of us on these Benches, it is causing dismay among party members outside this House, and is deeply alienating for those we might hope would vote for us, whether they are from the Jewish community or not.
It undermines the Labour Party’s whole ethos, the values of equality, decency and solidarity that brought so many of us on these benches into the Labour Party in the first place. Over three months ago, I wrote as chair of the Labour Peers’ group to Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the party. That letter expressed our dismay—no, worse than that, our alarm—at the continuing failure to remove anti-Semites from our party. I have not had the courtesy of a reply. Last week, I met two women who had been verbally and physically harassed at a meeting of their local Labour Party because they were Jewish.
I wish I could say that this was an isolated instance but, alas, it was not. The process of dealing with complaints of anti-Semitic behaviour within the party has been slow, tortuous and frequently inconclusive. Too often individuals are suspended only when their cases receive external publicity. Action was taken against one member of the party’s National Executive Committee only after a second anti-Semitic rant was recorded and publicised; he had been let off with a warning after the first one.
Too often those who have complained about anti-Semitism have been dismissed as being apologists for, or even in the pay of, the Israeli Government or Mossad, or we are told that the cases are few and far between. Any anti-Semite in the Labour Party is one too many. The party’s abject failure to deal effectively with anti-Semitism over the last three years cannot be ascribed to inadequate resourcing of the complaints and compliance function in the Labour Party head office, or blamed on inadequate or outdated processes. The failure is a political one; it is a failure of leadership.
Those of your Lordships who have been responsible for major organisations know that the tone, style and ethos of such organisations are set at the top. That is what leadership means. Leadership is not about hiding behind procedure, blaming more junior officials or allowing your acolytes to dismiss legitimate complaints as the spite of those who disagree with your political approach. We on these Benches must take on the task of cleansing our party of anti-Semitism and those who condone and foster it. If this debate tells us anything, however, it is that this is a global problem as well. Parliamentarians both here and elsewhere in the world need to make a stand. The lessons of the millions who died in Europe must never be forgotten—never.
Baroness Ludford (LD)
My Lords, I congratulate strongly the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, not only on securing this debate but on an excellent speech. Like her, I am not Jewish, but I am very sensitive to anti-Semitism not only as the oldest hate, but also as a bellwether for other types of hate. I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and a supporter of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews.
The fact that this debate is more necessary than ever in my lifetime shows how anti-Semitism is becoming pervasive, as was brought out in the report last year by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. The report found that negative stereotypes are being reproduced and ingrained and that this pervasive anti-Semitism is undermining Jews’ feelings of safety and security throughout Europe, such that they and their family and friends cannot live lives free of worry. I am deeply ashamed that this is happening to my fellow citizens. I do not want to live in a society in which they are afraid and subject to prejudice, discrimination and hate.
The same survey found that anti-Semitism is not only pervasive but has also become normalised. The report states,
“people face so much antisemitic abuse that some of the incidents they experience appear trivial to them”.
That is totally shocking. One clue to this sense of normalisation is that the range of perpetrators is wide, spanning the entire social and political spectrum. Like the noble Baroness, I was truly outraged not only that the Malaysian Prime Minister made the remarks he made at the meeting in Cambridge, but that they were apparently followed by a round of laughter. I find that incredible.
I talked earlier of stereotypes. A poll by the news organisation CNN last September showed that three in 10 adults said that Jewish people have too much influence in finance and business; one in five said they have too much influence on the media; and three in 10 said that Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their own position.
Some of your Lordships, like me, will have heard Allan Little’s recent series for BBC Radio 4 called “A History of Hate”, covering events in Rwanda, Bosnia, apartheid South Africa and other places. His first programme was about pogroms in Russia a century ago. Anti-Semitism originated as traditional religious prejudice, but it transformed into what a historian called “modern anti-Semitism”: visions of Jews conspiring to take over all the main institutions of the state, encapsulated in the fake news Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Interestingly, Professor Deborah Lipstadt saw the origins of that Jewish lobby stereotype in ancient times, in perceptions of a small group of Jewish money changers persuading the mighty Roman Empire to kill Christ because he threatened their lucrative business in the temple. These prejudices are very ancient.
This is, of course, a debate on anti-Semitism, but people who hate on the basis of faith often hate on the basis of other features—other faiths, race and gender. I know that we are all conscious of that fact. I do not have time to talk about Islamophobia, but I think it noteworthy that the candidates for the Conservative leadership have pledged to look at Islamophobia in their own party. As the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, said, we need a step change in education. That is the top priority.
Lord Pickles (Con)
My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests as a member of organisations involved in post-Holocaust issues and countering anti-Semitism. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Berridge on securing this debate. It comes at a very apposite time, in that it coincides with the first joint meeting on Monday of special envoys on anti-Semitism, organised in Bucharest by the Romanian President of the Council of the EU and the World Jewish Congress. I represented the UK at the event and spoke during one of its plenaries on how the UK had implemented the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, spoke of the need for international effort to counter anti-Semitism, and these are the first tentative steps.
The meeting concluded with a four-point action plan. The first is on the security of Jewish communities, and states that public authorities—central and local—have a responsibility to ensure the security of the members of the Jewish community and the institutions, and to support and protect the victims of anti-Semitic and hate crimes. The German ombudsman on Jewish issues, Felix Klein, has been rather misquoted in some of the briefing, with his worries about Jewish people wearing outward signs of their religion on the street. This is a misrepresentation; he was expressing a worry.
I have seen this with my own eyes at the Conservative conference in Manchester a couple of years ago, when a young man wearing a kippah was abused by a very well-dressed, middle-class, left-wing crowd. The Y-word, the C-word and the F-word were used. There were references to the smoking chimneys of Auschwitz. He was spat upon and, to their eternal shame, the police stood by and did nothing. A true test of a civilised society is that outward signs of someone’s religion should be able to be displayed openly and without fear.
The second action point was the endorsement of the non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It is a matter of some pleasure that the UK was the first to adopt that definition.
The third action point was financing Holocaust research, education and remembrance in an efficient way to combat existing threats to the remembrance of the Holocaust, such as Holocaust denial and distortion, together with encouraging academic research and protecting academic freedom from undue influence. The Holocaust Educational Trust, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the memorial planned for outside this building are a good example. I met with a prominent objector to the memorial yesterday. At first we talked about views, trees and open spaces. He said that it was a good idea but in the wrong place, going on to say, “I don’t see why we should have a monument outside Parliament to the so-called Holocaust”. I queried the qualification “so-called”. He said, “Holocaust means ‘burnt offering’, and most of them were gassed”. Leaving aside the victims of the Nazis who were starved, worked to death, hanged or shot, pedantic semantics is no real defence of casual anti-Semitism.
Fourthly, the recording and collecting of hate crime data should be improved, including that on combating anti-Semitism. Compared to other countries our figures are high and, I suspect, underreported. Some countries feel smug by comparison, because they do not record those figures, but ignorance is not bliss. If you do not record, you do not know.
In conclusion, why are we fighting anti-Semitism? Why is it so important? The US envoy, Elan Carr, put it far more eloquently than I could:
“Antisemitism is not just about Jews. Every society that has drunk anti-Semitism has rotted from the inside”.
The Lord Bishop of Chester
My Lords, I echo the excellent opening speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, by saying that I view anti-Semitism as perhaps the greatest tragedy and disgrace in the history of the Christian Church.
Christian complicity arose after the break between the Church and the Synagogue in the late first century of our era, and with the emergence of the view that the Christian Church had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. The properly New Testament view that Christians had been graciously grafted into Israel to share its promises and inheritance reasserted itself only in the 20th century, after nearly two millennia. This was partly the result of renewed biblical scholarship and partly due to the efforts of a small but distinguished group of continental Christian theologians led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth, who saw the evil of Nazism.
The Bonhoeffer-Barth view, with its rejection of the previously well-nigh universal belief that the Christian Church had replaced the Jews was expressed in its own terms by the Second Vatican Council, and is now widely accepted across all the Churches. I had hoped—naively, no doubt—that these changes would come to exert a downward pressure on anti-Semitism. I have been shocked and deeply disappointed by the contemporary re-emergence of anti-Semitism. What are the underlying causes? Further research into this question is still needed, but clearly today there is a connection with opposition to the current policies of the State of Israel—which so easily becomes falsely associated with the belief that Israel itself has no right to exist. This seems to be the crux of the problems that have beset the Labour leadership in recent times.
I have taken a keen interest in these issues, and have visited Israel seven times in my time as a bishop, taking around 500 people from my diocese there over the years. One cannot but be deeply impressed by modern Israel in many ways—its economy, its cultural life, its protection of ancient archaeology and its commitment to democracy and the rule of law. Anyone who thinks that the modern State of Israel should somehow disappear is tilting at the moon from every possible angle. Quite beyond the facts on the ground, including the military facts, there is another reason why the State of Israel is here to stay. Studies of Jewish life on the continent before World War II have demonstrated that, paradoxically, Zionists who wanted a new Jewish state in Palestine shared this hope with many anti-Semites, who wanted large numbers of Jews to leave Europe. Continental anti-Semitism wanted Jews expelled or destroyed, and their influence curtailed. Zionists could in this sense agree that Jews, like everyone else, must have a national home which would be open to all Jews, as is still the case today. It is largely forgotten that in the late 1930s, Nazis could assist Zionists to organise the departure of Jews to Palestine, before the dark reality of the Holocaust took over.
There is a sense in which the appalling and tragic anti-Semitism of the Holocaust itself helped to achieve the Zionist hope. In the great sweep of history—and, I would add, from my perspective, the providence of God—it is hardly an accident that the modern State of Israel was founded just after the most systematic attempt in history to erase Jewish people from the earth. The challenge for us today is to do our best, in every way we can, to erase anti-Semitism from future history.
Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con)
My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lady Berridge on securing this debate. As your Lordships will see in the register of interests, I am somewhat involved in the Jewish community and am constantly deeply moved by, and in awe of, those people from outside that community who clearly care about and are prepared to fight anti- Semitism, as opposed to others who just walk away.
What is anti-Semitism? When I was 15, Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen, a former Lord Mayor of London, told me that it was disliking Jews more than was strictly necessary—but that was a while ago. I pay public tribute to my noble friend Lord Pickles for his incredible work in securing the internationally recognised definition in the UK, which has eventually been adopted even by those who fought against it, including the recently elected Labour MP for Peterborough.
The Anti-Defamation League’s survey in 2014 really is an extraordinary piece of work; I speak as president of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Berridge. The ADL interviewed 53,000 people in 96 languages in 100 countries. Sadly, it found anti-Semitic attitudes in around a quarter to a third of all global citizens, even though 27% of people had never met a Jewish person. Somewhat reassuringly, it found that 99% of people in the UK had heard about the Holocaust, although this dropped to under 10% in certain other countries. Perhaps not surprisingly, 70% of people in the Middle East had heard about the Holocaust but chose to dismiss it as a myth, or as having been greatly exaggerated. It is, of course, not surprising that we see such anti-Semitism in the Middle East. Most Arab countries expelled their Jewish populations without notice or compensation some 60 years ago. It is estimated that some 800,000 people were simply expelled from the countries in which they had lived—not for decades but for millennia—simply because they were Jewish.
We need to challenge those who do not enjoy our enlightened approach to anti-Semitism much more rigorously, particularly when it invades our shores. My noble friend Lady Berridge quoted the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who spoke at Cambridge last weekend. Malaysia is the country that would not allow disabled athletes to swim in the Paralympic Games to be held in Malaysia, simply because they were Israeli. What action do the Government propose to take in speaking to the Prime Minister of Malaysia?
Considering our own country, I am sure we have all asked ourselves how it is possible that a political party with strong Jewish roots, which prides itself on compassion for the underdog, social justice and an abhorrence of racism, has become so mired in anti-Semitism that it faces an investigation by the EHRC. This question was posed most eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. All the surveys consistently show that the UK is one of the world leaders in its abhorrence of anti-Semitism because citizens in the UK are tolerant, open, and welcoming, so how has this been completely reversed by some political leaders? Has left-wing anti-Semitism risen because antagonism to Israel has made it a rallying cause? I am aware that I speak in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, but do not forget that my ancestors left the slavery of Egypt—seeking to live in peace in Israel—well before they became Jews. Tragically, the slur that Zionism is racism has taken hold.
I have not the time to examine the depressing path down which otherwise good people were led by lies and misinformation about Israel and who, like Mr Abdullah Patel recently, may have allowed this misplaced hatred of Israel to morph into anti-Semitism. But no one can deny that it exists, and it is left to the bravery of speakers such as those in today’s debate to try to change this flow. Even more parochially to this House, I am sorry to say that many members of the Jewish community were hugely disappointed in the Chakrabarti report, which missed a golden opportunity when it could so easily have changed the attitudes and direction of the Labour Party. The worldwide fight against anti-Semitism is a very noble one, but for us it must start in this country. Let us hope that it is reinforced by this debate today.
Lord Parekh (Lab)
My Lords, I come from a country with no history of anti-Semitism, namely India. In the 11th century, the maharajah of Travancore-Cochin made a declaration to Joseph Rabban, who was leading Jews from Syria into India, offering him all the facilities of a local potentate. He could collect taxes and ride in a palanquin, and his people could follow their own customs. As a result, Jews have flourished in India, and I was taught by a Jew who was a professor of English literature. In business they have flourished too.
There are Jewish characters in the literature, and they are always represented as decent, well-behaved, clean and tidy, good at making money and loyal to the country. These views of what it is to be Jewish spread, and it is also striking that Mahatma Gandhi’s closest friends were Jewish—Polak and Kallenbach. In the 1930s, he even suggested that several Jewish refugees could come to India as, he said, “In a population of 300 million, what is a few hundred thousand?” The British Government said they could not come because they needed work permits. Anyway, this was my brief history, not having been exposed to the history of the Holocaust and systematic Jewish persecution. I heard about that when I came to England about 45 years ago, and I have been very bothered about this whole question.
This systematic persecution of a whole people lasted over 2,000 years, culminating in the Holocaust, when millions were humiliated, despised, made into the objects of stupid experiments and dehumanised. The question that I have asked myself is: why is there anti-Semitism? What are its causes? From where does it spring? Some light was thrown on this in the 1980s, when people said that Indians will have a Jewish future and Afro-Caribbeans will have an Irish future. That set me thinking about whether the Indian experience of being thrown out of four countries—Sri Lanka, Myanmar and all that—can throw some light on what happened to the Jews. In trying to understand this, I will submit a few observations that I have made over the years.
Anti-Semitism springs from a variety of factors. Some are specific to a particular historical period; some are common to all historical periods. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester said, the Jews have been accused of killing our Lord—deicide—and this is not assuaged by simply talking about Judeo-Christian tradition, because to talk about Judeo-Christian tradition is to reduce Judaism to a mere precursor to Christianity. It is to assimilate it into Christianity and not to appreciate its autonomy and identity.
There is also the intolerance of difference. Jews, in my view, were the first multicultural people who asked for their laws, dress and other things to be respected. In a society where multiculturalism was resented, obviously, the Jewish community was resented. Then, of course, a highly successful community, in all walks of life, is resented for obvious reasons. There is also a deep sense of guilt about what happened in the Holocaust. Every European nation was involved in this, not just Germany. Other countries also co-operated in rounding up Jews and treating them abominably. There is a sense of guilt—every time they think of the Jews, they think of the Holocaust and they note there is a sense of guilt. Nobody likes to be reminded of a horrendous period in one’s history.
There is another factor that is specific to our age, which is Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which should not go unmentioned. The relationship between the two is basically that between the lion and the mouse. What are Palestinians? If Israel wanted, it could snuff them out in a few seconds. Here is a country with enormous soft power and enormous strength. It should have the sense of security and self-confidence to say to helpless people, “You send out rockets and do silly things, but we are prepared to be magnanimous and forgiving. Let us open a new chapter in a peaceful relationship”. Such an act of generosity and self-confidence would do a great deal. A community that has suffered so much could easily turn its suffering into a signal of sympathy with suffering elsewhere.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, deserves the thanks of the whole House for securing this important debate and for the eloquent way in which she introduced it. No one, as a consequence of their beliefs or who they are, should have to live their life in abject fear of racial or religious hatred, yet, as we have been reminded, recent research and reported instances of attacks show that far too many people do.
The rise in anti-Semitism, sometimes incubated within the walls of this Palace, is completely unacceptable. I have watched with incredulity and dismay as Luciana Berger, who inherited some of my former Liverpool constituency, has been hounded and vilified. It is truly shocking to read reports of Jewish homes being daubed with offensive graffiti and of the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, along with the promotion of hatred on university campuses and through social media. In 2018, the Community Security Trust logged 1,652 anti-Semitic incidents, a 16% increase.
I attended the recent launch of the ComRes polling data on anti-Semitism commissioned for CNN and referred to earlier. It was abundantly clear that we have become far too complacent about this cancer. Forty per cent of those surveyed said that anti-Semitism is a growing problem in this country today; 41% said that Jewish people are at risk of hate speech, while 49% thought that the Government should do more to combat anti-Semitism.
To the question why people were hostile to Jews, the answers ranged from the usual canards about Jews having too much influence, to antagonism towards Israel. It was striking that half of the adults surveyed were unaware of ever having socialised with a Jewish person. Absurdly, one in five thought that more than 20% of the world’s population is Jewish. Disturbingly, less than half thought that Israel had a right to exist as a Jewish state.
Earlier this year, some of us heard Helen Aronson, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto in Poland, tell parliamentarians:
“It is vital that we do everything in our power to ensure that these things never happen again, anywhere in the world”.
To do that, we need much better teaching resources and, as the last survivors die, interactive learning hubs where their stories go on being told to future generations. We can also do far more to promote religious freedom, using initiatives such as the newly created United Nations International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief—there will be an event here in the House on 23 July to mark its creation.
In 1933, the Jewish writer, Franz Werfel published The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, a novel about the loss of 1.5 million lives in the Armenian genocide. Those mass murders led to Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish lawyer, 43 of whose family were murdered in the Holocaust, coining the word “genocide” and framing the genocide convention. Werfel’s books and those of Stefan Zweig were burnt by the Nazis. Zweig’s The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European charts the rise of visceral hatred and how scapegoating and xenophobia, cultivated by populist leaders, can morph into the hecatombs of the concentration camps. Zweig described how university professors were forced to scrub streets with their bare hands, how devout Jews were humiliated in their synagogues and how apartments were broken into and jewels torn out of the ears of trembling women. And the world remained largely silent.
The haunting question remains: can we do better and act more decisively in our own generation?
Lord Finkelstein (Con)
My Lords, I declare my interests as a member of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue, a columnist on the JC and a consumer of the products of B&K deli in Hatch End. I thank many noble Lords for wonderful speeches: the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, the super-magnificent noble Lord, Lord Pickles—that is his official title—the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for his superb speech and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. On one occasion, I ran into the Peers’ Writing Room, smashed my leg on the table and, I am rather ashamed to say, exclaimed, “Jesus!” very loudly. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester looked up and said, “Can I help you?” Today, he did exactly that.
I will start with one of the most interesting books I have read this year, The Communist Party of Great Britain: A Historical Analysis to 1941. Published in 1995, it was written by Andrew Murray, one of the closest friends and advisers of the leader of the Opposition. Mr Murray defended the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and described the fall of the Berlin Wall as an,
“historic setback for human progress”.
This was not the end to the illumination that his book provided. The most useful parts were those that explained the centrality to his thinking of Lenin’s theory of imperialism. This genuinely opened the door to me: I felt that I finally understood the mystery that I had been puzzling over. I have so many wonderful, lovely progressive friends, and great admiration for Labour Members of this House. I know that, like me, they puzzle over how so many progressive, compassionate, humane people can be prey to anti-Semitism.
I think I do get it now—at least a little bit—and, necessarily briefly, I will share it with the House. Lenin argued that capitalism is economically sustainable only because companies seek profits abroad. They then need Governments to protect their foreign investments through military adventure. So imperialism protects capitalism, and to bring down capitalism you have to bring down imperialism. So anti-colonial resistance movements—Iran, Chávez, Hezbollah—are the core of the anti-capitalist movement. Why does this lend itself to anti-Semitism? First, because anti-imperialists such as JA Hobson have always seen Jews as the owners of finance houses on whose behalf racist imperialism is conducted. In other words, these particular anti-imperialists are anti-racists who blame Jews for racism. This is an explanation of the mystery of how people who claim that they are anti-racist can in fact be anti-Semitic. It is the Jews’ fault.
Secondly, anti-imperialists now see the great world empire as the United States, see the Middle East as the centre of this empire and see Israel and Zionism—the Jews, in other words—as the great creators and symbol of this imperialism. In other words, left anti-Semitism is not a few stray tweets and a gaffe or two. Nor does it belong to all members of the Labour Party. It is a system of thought that belongs to a strand of progressive thinking which can only be eradicated by challenging the central tenets of that thinking.
Lord Dykes (CB)
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow Daniel Finkelstein—the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein—who is considered to be the main Times journalist with a sense of humour. He has shown it again today and we thank him for his wise words. I am also looking forward to listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi. I am sandwiched between two very intelligent people who will contribute enormously to this debate. I am also very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, is the Minister replying. He is greatly respected in all parts of this House.
I will speak, briefly, from the heart. I tried to follow the complicated description of anti-Semitism given by the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, but it is still a mystery for someone such as me. I was close to many Jewish friends and other Jewish people in my constituency. I was informally and unofficially an honorary member of at least five synagogues and went regularly to shul whenever I had the opportunity. I still cannot understand anti-Semitism, and that is why this debate is so important. The horrific examples described by the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and other noble Lords are so grotesque and horrible that they are very difficult to believe. That is why we have to keep reminding people that anti-Semitism exists in this world. The contribution of the Jewish community in Britain—what they have done for this country—has been truly magnificent. I am glad that there is less of that feeling, at least among people who are intelligent enough to study these things closely. Perhaps many people do not bother, but those who do would feel that to be the case.
I live in France as well, which also has a great connection with the Jewish community, which is slightly bigger than the official number in the United Kingdom. There is anti-Semitism in France as well, which is a terrible thing. I can understand why Labour Peers are deeply upset about what is happening in their own party; I feel very sympathetic towards them as well. On many occasions when I was in Harrow I noticed that people were fearful, even in the safe environment of a wealthy area of north-west London, because of their background and history.
I am very closely connected with Germany: I speak German, I go there frequently and I admire the way the Germans faced up to the sense of guilt that they have all accepted—with a few peculiar exceptions. They have done that in a way that fills me with great pleasure when I think of what happened in that country—unbelievable things that are still difficult to believe. That is why there are still so many books written about the Holocaust and the Third Reich, not only in Germany but elsewhere. It is interesting to note that in Berlin there is now a huge, or at least relatively large, Jewish community of young Israelis, for example, who have gone there to work or study and who live in Berlin or Düsseldorf or other cities. That is an example of what we all need to do, to really get to know the details of all this tragedy over the years, to make sure that it is never repeated.
I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, was quoted as saying in one of her recent books. None of that has anything to do with me wishing to criticise the present Government of Netanyahu in Israel. That is a perfectly legitimate thing for anyone to do, be they Jewish or not: there are many Jewish critics of Netanyahu’s Government, both in Israel and outside. That is a totally separate subject; it cannot be confused with this deep, huge ur-psychological disease of anti-Semitism. We all need to work together to make sure that we eradicate it for ever from our world society.
Baroness Warsi (Con)
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.
Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab)
My Lords, my concern is the dilution of the term “anti-Semitism” and the resultant public response. The line between legitimate criticism of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza as against real anti-Jewish prejudice has become blurred. The danger in blurring is that the public will set a high bar for the treatment of accusations of anti-Semitism. I find that deeply disturbing, and the international definition is not resolving the problem.
Equally strongly, I reject accusations that my party is institutionally racist. I accept that there is a problem in my party—as, indeed, in all parties—but what is happening is that many in my party are deeply concerned and confused by Netanyahu’s attitude to the settlements and calls for annexation. There is a particular problem in Labour-supporting ethnic minority communities, who join with Palestinians in feeling targeted as fellow Muslims, and a small minority of whom are clearly anti-Semitic. The treatment of the Palestinians is being used by racists across Europe to foster prejudice against Jews. It is all very frightening, and Israel needs to reflect.
This brings me to Corbyn. I do not believe that Corbyn is prejudiced; caught in the headlamp of public outrage, he is agonising over how to respond. He needs to fight back by repeatedly clarifying where he draws the lines and by leading the attack in ridding my party of any anti-Semitic elements which have infiltrated it. I suspect that he is not responding adequately because he is wary of being trapped in a dialogue, defending questionable and sometimes ill-conceived past actions which have on occasion been interpreted, quite reasonably, as anti-Semitic.
However, I firmly believe that, had Corbyn been in Parliament in the 1930s, given his current record on human rights—his lifetime cause has been human rights, often taking positions with which I have profoundly disagreed—he would have been the British politician championing calls for Jewish immigration into the United Kingdom while others across the parties were battening down the hatches and blocking the pre-Holocaust movement of Jews in flight from Nazism. People simply do not understand what Corbyn is all about. He is obsessed with human rights and sometimes he gets the nuances completely wrong.
Finally, I will comment on anti-Semitism on the internet. As the Janner case unravels, we and IICSA will have to face up to the truth: we will find a strong link between anti-Semitism and the accusations. Equally, we will find that the lead accuser, repeatedly named in the media in November 1991 as Paul Winston, who has not been linked in any way to anti-Semitism but who has a substantial criminal record arising from problems in his childhood, is now being used by anti-Semites to foster hatred of the Jews.
I am troubled by the blurring and dilution of the debate, and by online racism. We need to act now.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
The Runnymede report on anti-Semitism had as its title some very telling words of Conor Cruise O’Brien—A Very Light Sleeper. Sadly, since that report was published in 1994, particularly in the past two years, there has been a terrible increase in anti-Semitic incidents and verbal abuse. This has been well set out with facts and figures from other noble Lords and I will not repeat what they have said, except to stress that I find this deeply disturbing and totally unacceptable.
For nine years, I had the privilege of being chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, which continues to do so much good work to combat anti-Semitism and put the State of Israel in proper, true perspective. However, there is no doubt that the historical link of churches in this country with those in the Middle East, and the fact that many Christian aid agencies work there, mean that the State of Israel is, as we know all too well, a source of continuing tension.
My starting point is some words of an American scholar, Paul Van Buren, who surveyed all the Protestant church documents on the subject of Israel since World War II and concluded:
“Because the state of Israel is in part the product of the ancient and living hope of the Jewish people and is of deep concern to almost all Jews, disregard for its safety and welfare is incompatible with concern for the Jewish people”.
That, I stress, is the bare minimum: disregard for the safety and welfare of Israel is incompatible with concern for the Jewish people.
In this connection, I find it very disturbing that the word Zionist has become so tendentious in modern times. The hope of returning to Jerusalem has been part of the soul of Judaism ever since the first century, when the Jews were expelled from their country. It gathered pace in the 19th century with the emergence of what we think of as Zionism, a noble movement expressing the legitimate desire of the Jewish people to return to their historic homeland with the freedom to create a society of their own. The word Zionist should not be used as a term of abuse. When it is, we have to ask why.
The excellent new book by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, is entitled Anti-Semitism: What It Is. What It Isn’t. Why It Matters. She is quite clear that there can be legitimate criticisms of the policy of particular Israeli Governments without these being anti-Semitic. It is always important to note that the fiercest critics of particular Governments come from Israel itself and are often echoed by Jews in this country. There is, however, no doubt in her mind—or the minds of many of us—that legitimate criticism has too often recently morphed into an anti-Zionism tinged with anti-Semitism.
It is clear, as the Government repeatedly state, that the settlements are illegal under international law, but that criticism must not be allowed to detract from the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Whatever criticism there may be of recent legislation on the position of Arab citizens in Israel—and the noble Baroness is very critical—it is not true that Israel is a racist state. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism contains 11 examples. One states:
“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”.
We are right to hold Israel accountable to the high standards of David Ben-Gurion, who said:
“The State of Israel will prove itself not by material wealth, not by military might or technical achievement, but by its moral character and human values”.
If we judge that particular policies sometimes fail that test, we need to bear in mind that Israel safeguards fundamental human rights not even acknowledged in some of the surrounding countries.
The present increase in anti-Semitic attacks and verbal vitriol, both in the UK and abroad, is deeply worrying, totally unacceptable and must be countered at every opportunity.
Lord Polak (Con)
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.]
Lord Mitchell (CB)
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.
Lord Sheikh (Con)
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.
Baroness Tonge (Non-Afl)
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.
Lord Sacks (CB)
My Lords, I am exceptionally grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for tabling this debate, and to the many speakers who have conveyed to the Jewish communities here and elsewhere that we are not alone—that we have friends. At this time, that is very important.
I have just returned from a conference in Warsaw. It is a city that I do not know well, and I was shaken to discover that the Warsaw ghetto, which existed between November 1940 and May 1943, was pretty much in the centre of town. With its nine-foot-high walls topped by barbed wire, holding 400,000 Jews, its existence must have been known by everyone in Warsaw.
It was there that Jews were systematically starved and enslaved. In the summer of 1942, 254,000 of them were sent by train to their deaths by gas in the extermination camp called Treblinka. In April and May 1943, the Germans set about the destruction of the ghetto and the extermination of its population—300,000 were killed by bullet or gas, and 92,000 died through typhoid and starvation. That happened in open view in the centre of one of the great cities of Europe and no one protested. Try to imagine 400,000 Hindus or Sikhs imprisoned within ghetto walls in the middle of London. Imagine people passing those walls every day, knowing that behind them thousands were dying or being sent to their deaths, and no one saying a word. How did it happen?
It happened because in the 19th century, in the heart of emancipated Europe, anti- Semitism, once dismissed as a primitive prejudice of the Middle Ages, was reborn, mutated, promoted and tolerated throughout Europe. By no means was it confined to Germany. If you had been asked at the turn of the 20th century what were its epicentres, a reasonable answer would have been the Paris of the Dreyfus trial and Vienna under its mayor Karl Lueger. People who should have known better gave it respectability. They created the climate for a great crime against humanity.
That is where we are today. Within living memory of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism has returned, exactly as it did in the 19th century, just when people had begun to feel that they had finally vanquished the hatreds of the past. Today, there is hardly a country in the world, certainly not a single one in Europe, where Jews feel safe. It is hard to emphasise how serious that is, not just for Jews but for our shared humanity, and not just for what it represents now, but for the danger that it signals for the future. A society, or for that matter a political party, that tolerates anti-Semitism—that tolerates any hate—has forfeited all moral credibility. You cannot build a future on the malign myths of the past. You cannot sustain freedom on the basis of hostility and hate.
Baroness Altmann (Con)
My Lords, it is an honour and a privilege to speak in this debate and to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Berridge for introducing this debate so passionately. What can one say about the rise in global anti-Semitism within living memory of the Holocaust? That far-right extremism is increasing, and its traditional nationalist hatred of the other is worrying. But even more disturbing is that the far left has taken over mainstream political leadership with its own version of anti-Jewish rhetoric about the arch-capitalists, bankers and enemies of the working class. Those anti-Semitic sentiments are not about the situation in Israel: they predate the Jewish state, as so brilliantly explained by my noble friend Lord Finkelstein.
Across the globe, there are signs of increasing intolerance and normalisation of verbal acts of hate. Politicians perhaps believe that tapping into fear or hatred wins elections. Some support hatemongers perhaps hoping for support for another cause that they believe in or for a quiet life, or sometimes their own self-interest. As human beings, there are reasons to tremble at the current political landscape.
Exploiting hatred as political currency has its price, and I briefly build on the example already cited by the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, of Karl Lueger, who founded the Austrian Christian Social Party in the 1890s. His political support was drawn largely from petit-bourgeois tradespeople. Lueger discovered that anti-Semitic rhetoric was a vote winner. Historian Léon Poliakov, in his book The History of Anti-Semitism, noted,
“in Vienna any political group that wanted to appeal to the artisans had no chance of success without an anti-Semitic platform”.
Lueger is often cited as one of the first politicians who made use of populism as a political tool. Although his Jewish friends at the time considered that it was just a pose to get votes, exploiting the popular sentiment for his own purposes, it had dire consequences. His style of politics inspired right-wing Austrian leaders in 1918 to 1933, which began to undermine the cohesion of the Austrian state and, more importantly, inspired Adolf Hitler, who paid enthusiastic tributes to Lueger in Mein Kampf.
As parliamentarians, we must stand up against the fires of hate. The flames cannot be deployed strategically and remain contained. Conspiracy theories that shrug off facts, promulgation of propaganda or anti-Semitic tropes can unleash uncontrollable forces. What is the appropriate response? Do we follow our instincts for a quiet life and hope that it will all go away, even as it creeps further into the mainstream? Do we stand by and read one more book on the Holocaust believing that it is a way of standing up against the evils of hatred? No, we must speak out. We must consistently reject denial, dissembling and diversion and claims that anti-Semitic sentiments were apparently endorsed accidentally, unwittingly and unknowingly. We must keep speaking up against anti-Jewish hyperbole spread by left-wing racist ideology whether masquerading as anti-Zionism or anti-capitalism. Those views are lapping at the shores of Governments across the globe, not just in the Middle East but here in Europe and beyond.
Therefore, I am enormously grateful to parliamentary colleagues who have stood up against the rising anti-Semitic tide—for the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism and other APPGs that support tolerance and respect, to the leadership of the Conservative Party and to Conservative Friends of Israel, to Labour Friends of Israel and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, and to my noble friend Lord Pickles and Ed Balls, who have pushed for the Holocaust memorial to be established in the heart of Westminster, as well as many others whom I do not have time to enumerate.
Will the Minister detail which European programmes to combat anti-Semitism the Government will withdraw from or continue to support after Brexit? Has he had discussions with others in government about the effectiveness of the German approach to outlawing Holocaust denial and whether there are any plans to discuss such measures in the UK? Doing nothing must not be an option. Jews must not be sheep again. We promised we would never let it happen, and we must live up to that commitment.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB)
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Berridge for obtaining this important debate. I have many wonderful Jewish friends, none more so than my good noble friend Lord Sacks and his wonderful family. We share the same family values and quirky sense of humour.
I have visited Auschwitz and seen something of the horrors that thousands of Jews—innocent men, women and children—suffered. In the collective madness of the 1930s and 1940s, Jews were vilified not only in Germany but across much of Europe, including this country. As child I was frequently called a Jew by those who wished to hurt me. However, I believe that talk of a worldwide anti-Jewish conspiracy is misleading and, importantly, takes us away from the real problem which is the way in which unprincipled politicians play on ignorance and majority bigotry, regardless of the consequences suffered by others, to achieve their ends. In Germany, Hitler blamed the Jews. In the India of 1984, it was the tiny Sikh minority. The killing of innocents in gas chambers is evil, but is it any more evil than dousing men, women and children with kerosene and burning them alive? In Hitler’s Germany, Jews were made to wear distinctive clothing to show their inferior status. More recently, a decimated Sikh community in Afghanistan has been made to wear distinguishing patches and to fly a yellow flag outside their homes to make them an easy target for majority bigotry. Majority bigotry knows no boundaries and, as my noble friend Lord Sacks reminded us, has no constraints.
We like to believe prejudice is found in only a few. Sadly, it is far more widespread. We are all, in effect, hard-wired to be wary of difference. Unacceptable but understandable prejudice is easily manipulated to become irrational hatred. Since the Second World War, we have seen unspeakable acts of violence against targeted groups in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, and I could go on. Special sympathy-seeking terms such as anti-Semitism or Islamophobia are understandable, but they take us away from the real problem, which is combating the more widespread bigotry suffered by all faiths. To borrow from Shakespeare, if Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others are cut, do we not bleed? Taken to an extreme, this giving of special consideration to some groups at the expense of others is, at best, unintended racism. Bigotry will continue to flourish until, in the closing words of the Sikh daily prayer, we look beyond ourselves and our group to the well-being of all members of our one human family.
Lord Shinkwin (Con)
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Berridge on securing this debate, and I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the register.
Before today’s debate, I asked some Holocaust survivors for their thoughts on the increasing incidence of anti-Semitism. Survivor Manfred Goldberg told me:
“I recall politicians from right across the political spectrum committing themselves to policies which would ensure that such an avalanche of hatred could never, ever recur. I remember again and again hearing them utter emphatically ‘never again’ in their speeches. I truly did not dream that in my lifetime there could be such a thriving industry of Holocaust deniers. It is unbelievable while survivors are still alive. I just cannot comprehend how this denial momentum developed”.
Fellow survivor Mala Tribich MBE speaks at schools and organisations to pass on the message, which she insists each new generation has to understand, that racism, discrimination and intolerance have to be challenged by us all or we have learned nothing from history. She told me that at the end of World War II,
“when I was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, the revelation of what had been happening in the occupied countries to Jews brought about such worldwide revulsion that I thought anti-Semitism would be a thing of the past. Sadly, the irrational hatred of Jewish people has not disappeared, and the rise of anti-Semitism makes me fear for the future once more. As a Holocaust survivor, I am especially concerned that young people understand what prejudice and discrimination can lead to”.
Child survivor Eve Kugler told me:
“I am hugely concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism. For me, what began with signs everywhere in our German city warning ‘Jews forbidden here’ ended with the pogrom of Kristallnacht, the night when half a dozen Nazis invaded my home, arrested my father and consigned him to the concentration camp of Buchenwald. I cannot stress enough the fact that the increase in anti-Semitism is a danger not just to Jews but to everyone, a danger we ignore at our peril”.
That was the message I gave at the various Yom HaShoah ceremonies that I was recently honoured to address as a guest of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. I put on record my thanks to the board for its kind and generous hospitality and also my admiration for the wonderful work that its national director Wendy Kahn and her colleagues do to promote the Jewish community and its continuing and significant contribution to South Africa. I also thank the high commissioner to South Africa, Nigel Casey, for his support.
Like other noble Lords, I applaud the excellent work done to counter anti-Semitism in the UK by organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Holocaust Day Memorial Trust and the Council of Christians and Jews. In conclusion, we must listen to survivors. As my noble friend Lord Polak reminded us, how we respond to the resurgence of the racist poison that is anti-Semitism says so much about our values. Only by standing in solidarity can we, together, defeat it.
Lord Gold (Con)
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lady Berridge for initiating this important debate and congratulate her on such a powerful opening speech. Most disturbingly, the existence of anti-Semitism remains, as we have heard, a major worldwide problem in 2019, when in so many ways we are a more liberal and tolerant society than ever before. We have heard horrific statistics of increased anti-Semitic incidents, which are not just verbal but violent. More Jews were killed in anti-Semitic violence around the world in 2018 than during any other year in decades. The number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the UK alone in 2018 was the highest ever. As we have heard, anti-Semitism is no longer confined to the activities of the far left or the far right but has become mainstream; it is seen in public forums, debates and discussions and manifested in all media channels, including most notably the social networks.
The Jewish population today feels increasingly insecure. In Europe, a survey conducted by the Fundamental Rights Agency reported that more than 40% of Jews surveyed feared that they might be physically attacked, and almost 47% feared becoming victim to anti-Semitic verbal insult or harassment. Often, anti-Semitism is hidden—loosely, I might add—behind criticism of the State of Israel. That was an excuse recently used by students at Essex University to vote against the creation of a Jewish society there—a decision happily now reversed after media outcry.
We can speculate as to why anti-Semitism has been increasing but, as other noble Lords have said, there can be no doubt that social media is making it easy for hate groups to find each other and join up to spread their hatred. Just earlier this week, two young men were convicted at the Old Bailey of encouraging acts of terrorism after describing Prince Harry as a “race traitor”. These two blatant anti-Semites had used a social media platform to link up with like-minded individuals in the USA through a frightening neo-Nazi group which I will not give publicity to by naming.
How can we stop this rise in worldwide anti-Semitism? I shall make four suggestions, as there is clearly no one answer. First, as other noble Lords have said, there is a need to control social media. Here in the UK, the Government have promised measures to regulate companies over harmful content, including through fines and blocking services. If these companies cannot self-regulate, however, action must now be taken without delay. Will the Minister let us know what plans the Government will be unveiling in this respect?
Secondly, the justice system must come down hard on those who perpetrate anti-Semitic hate material; they must know that there will be serious consequences. But it is also clear that we need far better education to make people realise that everyone should be treated equally and nobody, including Jews, should be demonised. That education must spread to our universities, too. The Government should support those universities that stand up to fight anti-Semitism, ensuring that teaching staff do not spread hatred and that anti-Semitic guest speakers such as the Prime Minister of Malaysia, whom we have heard about, are not welcome in our universities or on these shores.
Next, we must call out all incidents of anti-Semitism. We must not be afraid to speak up when we witness anti-Semitic acts or hear anti-Semitic statements. I have tremendous admiration for those brave people in the Labour Party who have stood up against the anti-Semitism they have seen perpetrated in their party. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, with such admiration, and I thank him. Action has been promised by the Labour leadership but it remains elusive. I am not equipped to say whether Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic, but if he is not, let him demonstrate that fact by his actions.
Finally, as my fourth idea, I want to mention role models—especially for young people—who should stand up and denounce anti-Semitism. Recently, the Building Bridges campaign at Chelsea Football Club, which has been working with children and young people in schools, demonstrated what can be done. The club has teamed up with the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Jewish Museum London and others to raise awareness of anti-Semitism, as well as its impact on the Jewish community and society as a whole. It is action of this kind that we must encourage; we must never give in or give up.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD)
My Lords, I first thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for introducing this debate in such detail. I declare my interest as president of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel; having heard the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, I must also declare my shopping habits in Golders Green.
The Motion asks the House to take note of anti-Semitism worldwide. A strange feature of anti-Semitism is that it occurs even in areas where there are no Jews. Anti-Semitism is possibly the original source of fake news. This can cover many areas. The most popular appears to be blaming Jewish bankers, the favourite being the house of Rothschild due to the difficulty in finding other so-called Jewish banks. The lie is to portray these bankers as aiming for world domination. They also falsely accuse George Soros. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Ludford and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for giving all the statistics so that I do not have to repeat them.
Then there is the preposterous fake news blaming the Jews, the Zionists and the Israelis for the disaster of 9/11 and the Twin Towers. This is despite documented proof that these were a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terror group al-Qaeda. None of this fake news on anti-Semitism is new. Still quoted in some countries is the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was briefly mentioned earlier. This is a fabricated anti-Semitic text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. This hoax—yes, it was a hoax—was first published in Russia in 1903 and translated into many languages. It is still widely available and presented as a genuine document. In the 1920s, Henry Ford funded the printing of 500,000 copies to distribute throughout the USA, and it was, of course, widely read in Nazi Germany. A translation appeared in Cairo in 1929 and again in 1951.
The third-largest Jewish community in the world is in France. That country has suffered from anti-Semitic murders, including in Toulouse and Paris. Last year, more than 3,000 Jews emigrated from France to Israel; the numbers for earlier years are similar. In 2015, 6,628 Jews emigrated from France to Israel—of course, this does not count all those in France who emigrated elsewhere. The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, identified many countries; let me add a couple. A survey identified Hungary as the most anti-Semitic country in eastern Europe; incidents included phone threats, vandalising Jewish tombstones and vandalising a Holocaust memorial. Let us look further afield: in Venezuela—loved by dear Mr Corbyn—under Chavez and Maduro, the Jewish community has declined from 20,000 to less than 7,000. In the Middle East, outside Israel, Jews are not welcomed. Jews have difficulty entering Saudi Arabia and it is forbidden for religious minorities openly to practise their religion there. In the United States, the most shocking incidents were when 11 were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and four killed in Poway, California. This is against a background of anti-Semitic cartoons in the New York Times and a supremacist march in Charlottesville with chants of “Jews will not replace us”.
Mention has been made of the Prime Minister of Malaysia; I will not repeat that. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, for mentioning Poland because it gives me an opportunity to say—I had not thought to say it—that my late maternal grandmother never left Poland. She was never heard of after the end of the Second World War. This affects many of us in this country personally; we are still alive remembering our close relatives such as my maternal grandmother.
Having set the worldwide scene, let me be more parochial. I am pleased to say that, as an Orthodox Jew born and living in the UK, I had not until recently seen a growth of anti-Semitism. I will, however, relate how I experience anti-Semitism, which some may not recognise as such. My noble friend Lady Ludford said that many of these things are often thought of as trivial, but they are not.
In 1997 I was a candidate in the general election, having fought four previous general elections. The Labour Party canvassers had a doorstep patter along the lines that they were calling on behalf of the Christian gentleman. The clear implication was that I qualified as neither a Christian nor a gentleman. At all public meetings one of the first questions from the audience was whether the candidates, including me, subscribed to Christian values. My reply was that I agreed with Judaeo-Christian values, which sort of got me out of the hole. It was the election in which I was stopped and told—believe it—“Jew, go home”. Has the modern, Corbyn-led Labour Party changed other than to get worse? I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for his very brave comments about the Labour Party and I am proud that he said them. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, or the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, that we do not understand what Jeremy Corbyn is about. I understand what he is about and I do not approve of it. It is as near to anti-Semitic as one can get.
We have not heard a lot of campus stories. What happens to students on campus is sometimes quite horrific. At a prominent UK university, a Jewish student went out for the evening without locking the door to his room. When he returned, he found that a swastika had been etched into the pinboard on his wall. That is a genuine story. A lecturer at a Midlands university recently hosted and spoke at an event titled “Palestinian Rights, Prevent and the Misuse of Antisemitism”. Three Jewish students attended the event and afterwards went up to talk to the lecturer who had hosted the meeting to disagree with some of the points made. The net result was that the lecturer made an official complaint against these Jewish students, accusing them of intimidation for approaching her at the end of the meeting and of having recorded the meeting, which they had not. Some of those who attended may have done so but these students did not. The Jewish students spent three months worrying about this until they were eventually told that it had been dealt with.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, for her speech because it gave me great comfort. If we have a debate in this Chamber on Islamophobia, which is also a problem, many of us will rise to speak in that debate as well.
The modern manifestation of anti-Semitism is the way in which Zionism is portrayed. Wikipedia, always a good source, states that Zionism is the notion of creating a sovereign, self-ruling homeland for the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Zionism is a nationality as well as a religion, and these people deserve their own state in their ancestral homeland, Israel. I welcome the right reverend Prelate’s comment that it would be tilting at the moon for Israel to disappear—I think I have got that right. I take that as a blessing, and maybe it will help Israel in the future. I fail to see how a desire for a homeland for Jews can be seen as apartheid or racist, but it is so portrayed. Why is this anti-Semitic?
I stress that in Israel all religions are accepted; apostates, those who change their religion, are not harmed. LGBT people are accepted, and the country has one of the largest Gay Pride marches in the world. I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for what he said about religions in Israel. Who knows what is happening in Israel with its politics at the moment—it could be anything, including another general election in September. The interesting thing is that in the most recent general election in Israel, the third-largest group in the Knesset was made up of the Arab parties. In the previous Knesset, when they stood as one group, they formed the second-largest group. This hardly sounds like an apartheid state. Compare this with Israel’s neighbours and near neighbours. Such accusations are anti-Semitic because no such accusations are made—nor should they be—of countries in which the official religion, often the only religion accepted, is Islam, Hinduism, Christianity in all its forms or Buddhism, or even of atheist countries. I stress that criticising certain actions of the Israeli Government is not on its own anti-Semitic. In fact, criticism of that Government is a very popular sport among Israelis. However, when someone attacks Israel, homeland of the Jewish people, and attacks no other country, that is anti-Semitic.
Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, not only for securing this debate but for her excellent and powerful introduction. Like her, I found it difficult to prepare for the debate. I thank the APPG for its briefings because they told us how horrific the situation is. It is a wake-up call.
My parents—not my school, sadly—taught me never to forget the evil crimes of the Nazis, as passionately described by the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. Yet as we have heard in the debate, more than 70 years after the Shoah we see the repeated use—in the US by senior politicians and elsewhere—of anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the words of Goebbels. This is a demonstration that the evil of anti-Semitism is still present and remains a real threat to the lives and welfare of Jewish communities throughout the world. In the US, as we have heard, we saw the massacre at the Pittsburgh synagogue. We have heard about the increasing levels of violence across Europe, including in this country.
The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and other noble Lords have referred to the CNN polling by ComRes. Like them, I was particularly shocked by its findings. We have been too complacent about this rise of anti-Semitism. The key findings of the survey are that 28% say that Jewish people have too much influence in finance and business across the world compared with other people; 20% say that Jewish people have too much influence in the media across the world compared with other people; and, what is worse, 31% think that Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their position and to achieve certain goals. That is horrific. Also, 44% of adults in the European countries surveyed see anti-Semitism as a growing problem in their countries. However, their answers to other questions suggest that they may think this is happening somewhere else: someone else is doing the bad thing, somewhere else.
In his speech at the end of last year, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, argued that the rising tide of anti-Semitism and,
“the issues of rising religious hate crime against minority communities”,
posed a real challenge in the UK and abroad. He said that “divisive voices and actions” could be defeated,
“only through collective and collaborative action”.
That is what today’s debate is about—what we, not others, do together. At the General Assembly of the United Nations, the noble Lord stressed the commitment to stamping out anti-Semitism and called on the international community to combat it in all its forms.
Here I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, the UK’s envoy for post-Holocaust issues. He has done a tremendous job in promoting internationally the call for other countries to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. That has been critical. Of course, the Minister has been working at the General Assembly and with UNESCO at a high-level meeting, focusing on the importance of education. That is certainly a vital ingredient in challenging this evil.
The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and the noble Lord, Lord Gold, highlighted the feeling among the Jewish community, particularly in Europe. They feel at risk. We have certainly heard about the surveys that have been conducted: 90% of those surveyed by the FRA, for example, felt anti-Semitism was growing in their country. We have heard reference to the 2014 ADL survey, which stated the Hungary was the most anti-Semitic country in Eastern Europe, with 41% of the population holding such views. That was highlighted in its elections, with Jobbik, a far-right party, receiving 17% of the vote. Its vice-president and vice-chairman proudly refer to themselves as Nazis and anti-Semites. That is in an EU country, a member of our family. We should be concerned about that and how we address it.
The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s choice of language about the investor and philanthropist George Soros reflects the age-old conspiracy theories about Jewish wealth and power. I quote him—this is a leader of an EU country:
“We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world”.
Today’s debate is about what we are doing to challenge such attitudes and how we are meeting our commitments. I hope the Minister will be able to address the commitments he has made and what progress we have been making.
One plea I would make is about what we do not just as a Parliament and a Government, but in civil society, our churches, our trade unions and, of course, just as importantly, our political parties when we hear anti-Semitism.
I will conclude by addressing the remarks of my noble friend Lord Harris. In April last year my honourable friend and trade union sister Ruth Smeeth said in a Commons debate:
“There have always been racists and anti-Semites in our country, lurking on the fringes of our society—both left and right—and I dare say there always will be. What is so heartbreaking is the concerted effort in some quarters to downplay the problem”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/4/18; col. 273.]
I heard the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, and I certainly agree with his analysis. Sadly, like him, I have read many of Andrew Murray’s books. One thing I disagree with him on is that Leninism is not progressive trend. It is anti-democratic and its tradition has no place in a party that believes in parliamentary democracy. We on this side firmly believe that.
In my party, the process of dealing with complaints of anti-Semitic behaviour by individuals, as my noble friend Lord Harris said, has been too slow and far too often individuals are suspended only when their cases receive publicity. As Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, made clear, the reforms made by the party to address this have not been adequate. But this is not an administrative failure; it is, as my noble friend said, a political one. Addressing it requires leadership, which Jeremy Corbyn, working together with Tom Watson, must provide.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
My Lords, I join all noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lady Berridge, not only for securing this debate. I have known her for a long time. I think we entered your Lordships’ House more or less at the same time. I was struck not only by her speech but by her excellent summary. I hazard a guess that everyone in this Chamber could relate to the sentiments and emotions she expressed in her introduction. I congratulate her on setting off this incredible debate robustly and insightfully.
In doing so, I also thank all noble Lords. This has been one of those debates where not only is it appropriate that a Minister answers from the Dispatch Box on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, but it is my immense honour to do so because it recognises the importance of this issue, not just as a country and in terms of what we are doing but as a collective, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, so aptly put it. I stand by that. He and I work on these issues collectively. It requires that collective and collaborative response.
In introducing the debate, my noble friend asked whether it is right to attach “ism” to anti-Semitism. On a slightly lighter note, I was struck by how many isms we got through. There was Zionism, capitalism, Leninism, imperialism—the list went on. Most of those were contained in the four-minute contribution of my noble friend Lord Finkelstein.
On a serious note, this is deeply disturbing. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, and all noble Lords made the point that in the same month that we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, which marked the beginning of the end of the Holocaust, we still have to hold this debate on anti-Semitism. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, reminded us in his powerful remarks, it shows the need to continue to act on this important issue. It is also clear to me that this old evil continues to blight the lives of Jewish communities throughout the world.
At this point, I pay tribute to two of my noble friends from when I took on my first ministerial job in the Department for Communities and Local Government. I of course refer to my noble friend Lord Pickles—should I call him my noble chum?—and my noble friend Lady Warsi. They encouraged me to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau as one of my first trips as Communities Minister. I travelled with a group of students. I am proud of the commitments that Governments have made, both at that time in the coalition Government and subsequently in the Government I now serve in, to continue on the platform of education that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, referred to. I deliberately went with those schoolchildren because I saw for myself what that history would mean to their lives, and the importance of investing in their education early so that tomorrow, when they take leadership of our great country and all the different industries and sectors that define the modern, diverse United Kingdom, they do so with a recognition of the horrors of the past, but having learned from them so they build that cohesive, collective, progressive country we all desire to see. I am grateful to both my noble friends in that respect.
As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, looking around the world and right here in the UK in 2018, the Community Security Trust logged a record high of more than 1,600 anti-Semitic attacks. The USA has suffered appalling fatal shootings in synagogues. People have been attacked simply for practising their faith. In Australia vandalism and intimidation have afflicted Jewish communities, and in the Middle East and elsewhere tensions remain high.
Several noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Leigh, Lord Polak, Lord Gold and Lady Berridge, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, mentioned Malaysia. As many noble Lords will recall, Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth. I am a Minister of State for the Commonwealth and assure them that we were the first to object most vociferously to its holding of the Games, since it sought to ban athletes who wanted to participate, because they were from Israel. I am proud that we did. In response to the recent statement by Malaysia’s Prime Minister, I will digress with a personal anecdote. Many years ago, as I undertook political life and people got to know me, after a while one came forward and said, “You know what, Tariq? You are just normal”. I did not take that as an insult. What they alluded to was that, yes, I was of Indian-Pakistani heritage and Muslim by faith but those things that impacted me as a citizen of this country—as a proud Brit—were exactly the issues that mattered to anyone else. However, when Prime Ministers of other countries come to our country and try to disturb, divide and then dismiss these important issues, we need to stand up and make it clear that they may express those views, but we will oppose them bilaterally. It is important that our institutions also recognise that wherever they find any form of bigotry or—yes—anti-Semitism, they must reject it in its entirety.
My noble friends Lord Leigh and Lord Sheikh and other noble Lords talked of tackling global anti-Semitism. In a couple of weeks’ time it will be a year since I was appointed the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion. It is a great honour, but it would be remiss of me not to recognise, as many noble Lords have also, the important work of the UK’s special envoy, my noble friend Lord Pickles. He raises the subject of anti-Semitism directly with other Governments, many of whom recognise, as we do, the need for specific and collaborative action. Earlier this week, as we heard from my noble friend, he attended in Bucharest the first international meeting of special envoys tackling anti-Semitism, along with members of the World Jewish Congress. In March he was in Poland, in discussion with community leaders.
I did not expect a Brexit question, but my noble friend Lady Altmann managed to weave one in—congratulations on that. I assure her, and my noble friend Lord Pickles, that I am working very closely with Ján Figel, the European Commission’s FoRB envoy. We continue to raise these issues, and will continue to collaborate in post-Brexit Britain.
These channels of communication are vital, because we must never retreat into fearfulness. We must step forward. If we ignore this issue, it will not go away. The theme of next January’s Holocaust Memorial Day is “stand together”. That is what we all must do and the Government are determined to do: stand with people of all faiths and none. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, the worst humanitarian crimes of history have occurred when groups were singled out, marginalised and scapegoated. I am delighted that he has joined us for this debate today, although when he was sitting next to the noble Lord, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, I felt that on those Benches we had our own little “Thought for the Day” going on.
The fundamental democratic values of individual liberty and mutual respect must at this juncture in 2019, as we have heard from many noble Lords, lead us to collectively stand together with our neighbours to call out marginalisation of any community, wherever we see it. I note very carefully the challenges that the Labour Party has faced, which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, spoke about. Equally, as I look towards my party, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Warsi, and her campaign to ensure that if there are bigots in our party, there are people calling out instances of Islamophobia for what they are. They must be investigated fully.
I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Singh. It is important that we act collectively on this issue. He referred to more recent examples, but the history of the Holocaust teaches us that if we ignore these crimes, they become crimes against humanity; therefore, we must stand together to defeat any kind of prejudice, wherever we see it. The UK Government have been at the forefront of calling out prejudice and discrimination in all its forms. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, referred to my speech at the UN General Assembly last year. Education is so important. Interestingly, I was interviewed afterwards and the journalist said, “Minister, despite being a Muslim, you’re very strong on anti-Semitism”. I corrected him, saying that it is because I am a Muslim that I am strong on anti-Semitism because of the common humanity that unites people of every faith. As we have heard time and again, and as my noble friends Lady Warsi and Lord Sheikh have said, the greatest test of an individual is standing up not for the rights of yourself but for the rights of others. Through our diplomatic activity, we actively promote freedom of religion or belief. Indeed, in my role as special envoy I have prioritised the need to tackle discrimination on the basis of religious or ethnic identity in all our posts, wherever we find it—be it through collaborative work at the United Nations, through our work at the OSCE or with the EU. Ministers and senior officials regularly raise individual and community cases with Governments directly, and challenge practices and laws that discriminate on the basis of a person’s belief or religion.
Let me say a word about Israel. I have visited Israel as a Minister, but I have also visited Israel privately, with my family. As we were rightly reminded by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, Israel is a country that brings together communities of all faiths, as I saw when we visited Jerusalem. As I saw when I visited Haifa, it is a country that protects those minorities who are often persecuted elsewhere. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, that because of the strength of that relationship, when it comes to those challenges—when it comes to some of those questions she has raised with me—we are able to raise them bilaterally. We will continue to do so, because being a democracy means being transparent and responsive in defence of any challenge that may be posed, but it is a strength of the relationship that the United Kingdom—
This relationship is an important one, as with any country—I mentioned Malaysia earlier. We must stress in our bilateral exchanges that where we disagree with a country, we will raise it. We will continue to invest in our relationships worldwide. It is the strength of those relationships that allows us to challenge on certain issues.
I turn to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. As my noble friend Lord Pickles reminded us, the UK was among the first to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism in 2016. We value the definition because it illustrates specific examples of behaviour that may be anti-Semitic. This means that while it is not legally binding, it is a useful tool for criminal justice agencies and other public bodies in understanding how anti-Semitism manifests itself in the world today. It also helps combat Holocaust denial, in an age of indifference to objective truth. For these reasons, we are lobbying others to adopt the definition. My noble friend Lord Pickles has been especially active in this area, recently mentoring Australia on its journey to join this alliance.
My noble friends Lord Sheikh and Lord Gold raised specific questions about online abuse. I agree that religious intolerance spreads quickly and globally online. The Government recognises the extent of this threat. I assure noble Lords that we are working with internet providers and other Governments to regulate social media, shut down hate speech and protect users. For example, in November 2018, we supported an international experts’ conference which looked at anti-Semitic abuse online, particularly against women. We are currently working with the Antisemitism Policy Trust on this very issue.
My noble friend Lady Berridge asked about the G20 agenda for the meeting which will take place later this month in Japan. The specific issue of online harms is certainly being looked at. I will also raise the issue that she raised about anti-Semitism, which I am sure will feature in the margins of that meeting.
My noble friend Lord Polak asked a simple question about how we come together on collective action. He will know from our conversations that I have a simple answer to his question: yes, of course I agree. In his powerful contribution, he talked about how communities can achieve the outcomes that we desire only by acting together.
The noble Lords, Lord Harris of Haringey and Lord Campbell-Savours, talked about the domestic challenges. We must acknowledge the global nature of the problem, while knowing that there are actions we can take at home. The Government have maintained a close relationship with Jewish communities through the cross-government working group to tackle anti-Semitism. We have committed £14 million to the protective security grant to keep Jewish schools and institutions safe. I hold regular faith round tables, at which Jewish and other faith leaders join me to discuss current issues and emerging concerns.
I am sure I speak for many in your Lordships’ Chamber when I pay particular tribute to our Prime Minister, Mrs May. When my right honourable friend was Home Secretary, I saw the passion and conviction she had for ensuring that those funds were not just protected and sustained but strengthened. I am sure that, in time, history will judge her for the important role that she played in tackling anti-Semitism.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, talked about the importance of the evidence base and statistics. It is shocking when we see the challenges that we face here in 2019. Again, those underline the importance of acting together.
Reference was also made to the new Holocaust memorial. I am delighted, honoured and proud, as I think we should all be, that the UK is leading in this respect. The additional £25 million in government funding will go a great way towards it. I say to my noble friend Lord Shinkwin that one thing which has struck me—I am sure this will touch the hearts of many, including the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, who referenced it—is that as we see those Holocaust survivors pass on, would it not be incredible if those survivors were the ones laying the first bricks as we break ground on that site? This is one area I am looking at, including in my most recent discussions with the Chief Rabbi. I hope noble Lords will agree that we should work together in pursuit of that aim.
There is much I could say but in the limited time I have, I wish to thank again every noble Lord who has taken part in this extremely important debate. As our Prime Minister, Mrs May, said in May, through that Holocaust memorial we must,
“ensure that every generation understands the responsibility that we all share—to fight against hatred and prejudice in all its forms, wherever it is found”.
In the words of the revered and respected Rabbi Hillel, who said in the Babylonian Talmud 2,000 years ago:
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary”.
We have reflected on these words, which stay true to this day.
The next Holocaust Memorial Day marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide of the Bosniak Muslims in Srebrenica. Only yesterday, I returned from Sarajevo, the capital of a country which is building from its past. I was very heartened by the interreligious council that I met there. There were Muslim and Christian representatives, including Orthodox and Catholic representatives. But the chairman of that council is Jewish and this showed how, in a country that only 20-odd years ago was torn apart by conflict, faith communities and faith leaders are coming together collectively to address the issues, including the priority of bringing justice to the victims of sexual violence in conflict.
I have never felt that faith is to blame. In all faiths and beliefs, collectively, lies the answer; that is what brings us together today. Perhaps I may end with the wise words of my mother, which define my own ideology thus. One day when I returned, as a Muslim attending a Christian school, from learning about Judaism, she said very sweetly to me: “Tariq, there is no confusion. When we build, we build with the foundations and the foundations of our faith are Judaism. After those foundations, the walls of Christianity were erected and after that, the roof of Islam completed the house of Abraham. The other windows and doors represent other faiths and beliefs, which together constitute the house of God”.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions today but in my passion, I think I have caused a little confusion to Hansard, whose staff have been sending me some notes. I hope that I did not confuse your Lordships but when I mentioned Jo Brand, I was endorsing the work of the Metropolitan Police: when people are already throwing milkshakes, to suggest battery acid is inappropriate. To be fair to her, I think she corrected herself immediately afterwards and realised that she had stepped across the line. When I referenced the quote from Luther, I did not put a subject in the sentence, which begins:
“Even if they were punished in that most gruesome manner”.
I will provide the full quote to Hansard, which is from a public lecture in Oxford last year.
There are of course too many speakers to mention everyone individually, but I am sure that all your Lordships wish the special envoys all the best for their meeting on Monday. I hope that theirs will be a meeting of the super-magnificents, as my noble friend Lord Polak described them. I draw attention briefly to my noble friend Lady Warsi’s comment that we should speak on behalf of others; many people in today’s debate have exhibited that quality. I was very inspired by the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, that freedom cannot be built on the basis of hostility and hate.
The theme throughout has been that if our citizens, or European citizens, are listening to this debate and have problems, their problems may be the fault of their Government or of the EU; their problems, perish the thought, may even be their own fault. But what they are not is the fault of the Jews.