Britain is not immune to a revival of anti-Semitism currently taking place across Europe, Michael Gove warned as he pleaded for people to “stand united against hate”.
The Chief Whip highlighted a fivefold increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK recorded by the Community Security Trust (CST) and said there had been “insufficient indignation” about the problem.
Mr Gove condemned attempts to compare Israel’s actions in Gaza to the horrors suffered by Jews at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust.
In a speech at the Holocaust Educational Trust’s appeal dinner, Mr Gove said: “Today, across Europe, there has been a revival of anti-Semitism which the enormity of the Holocaust should have rendered forever unthinkable.
“In France, in July of this year, more than 100 Jewish citizens had to be rescued from one synagogue and another was firebombed.
“The leader of an anti-Semitic party – the Front National – is France’s most popular politician.
“Heroes of popular culture – like the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala – try to make hatred of Jews a badge of radical chic.
“The virus is spreading across other European nations. In Germany Molotov cocktails were lobbed at one synagogue. In Belgium a cafe displays a sign saying ‘dogs are allowed but Jews are not’ while a doctor refuses to treat Jewish patients.
“In May of this year, four people visiting the Jewish Museum in Brussels were killed by a jihadist terrorist.
“We must all remember where this leads. Now more than ever. And we must not think that Britain – gentle, tolerant, civilised Britain – is immune.”
He said CST officials recorded 302 anti-Semitic incidents in July, up from 59 in July 2013.
“In 101 of those cases, there were explicit references to the Holocaust including attempts to equate Israel’s actions in self-defence with Nazi crimes,” he said.
“On our streets our citizens have marched with swastikas super-imposed on the Israeli flag.”
Mr Gove, a member of David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission, continued: “We need to be clear about what is going on here.
“There is a deliberate attempt to devalue the unique significance of the Holocaust, and so remove the stigma from anti-Semitism.”
He said as the “relativisation, trivialisation and perversion” of the Holocaust goes on “prejudice towards the Jewish people grows”.
Mr Gove highlighted the refusal by The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London, to host the UK Jewish Film Festival while it is sponsored by the Israeli Embassy.
“The Tricycle Theatre attempts to turn away donations which support the Jewish Film Festival because the money is Israeli and therefore tainted,” he said.
“In our supermarkets our citizens mount boycotts of Israeli produce, some going so far as to ransack the shelves, scatter goods and render them unsaleable.
“In some supermarkets the conflation of anti-Israeli agitation and straightforward anti-Semitism has resulted in Kosher goods being withdrawn.
“We need to speak out against this prejudice. We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past ended with a campaign against Jewish lives.
“We need to spell out that this sort of prejudice starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. We need to stand united against hate. Now more than ever.
“I believe that in the face of this prejudice there has – so far – been insufficient indignation, an insufficient willingness to recognise that civic freedom is indivisible, that an attack on one is an attack on all.
“The British rightly pride themselves in their long and relatively peaceful political evolution based on a widespread acceptance of British values.
“But this can have an unfortunate consequence: complacency in the face of threats from those who care nothing for peace, democracy or British values.
“Anti-Semitism is an obvious early manifestation of the growing threat and we are all in this together.”
Mr Gove, who as education secretary clashed with Home Secretary Theresa May about the right approach to tackling extremism, called for a “robust” response to jihadis at home and abroad who threatened all Britons.
He added: “We know that in the twisted world view of Islamist extremists anti-Semitism is a central strand, but we also know that when Islamist extremists embrace violence they have us all in their sights.
“That requires a robust approach from us – at home and abroad.
“Because we know that the jihadist terrorists responsible for horrific violence across the Middle East are targeting not just Jews and Israelis but all of us in the West.”