A former head of the diplomatic service has said much anti-Semitism is a reaction to the “appalling” Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Lord Wright of Richmond said the best way to stop the growth of anti-Semitism was for Britain and its European allies to take steps to stop Israel’s “disproportionate” military action in Gaza and the growth of Israeli settlements.
Addressing the Communities Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon in the House of Lords, the crossbench peer said: “While fully associating myself with your condemnation of anti-Semitism in all its forms, do you nevertheless accept that much anti-Semitism is a reaction to the appalling Israeli treatment of its Arab neighbours, both in Gaza, in Jerusalem and on the West Bank?
“Is not the best action that the Government can take to avert such activity to show that it not only deplores such action, such as the constant growth of Israeli settlements and the disproportionate reaction of the Israeli defence forces in Gaza, but is prepared with our European allies to take effective steps to stop it?”
Lord Ahmad replied: “When it comes to the conflict in the Middle East, the UK has three tier objectives – one is to secure a ceasefire, secondly to alleviate humanitarian suffering, and thirdly and most importantly, and I’m sure all noble Lords adhere to this, is to keep alive the prospects for peace negotiations which are the only hope of breaking the cycle of violence and devastation once and for all.
“The UK is working, let me assure you, closely with the US and European allies in encouraging both sides back to dialogue, supporting the Palestinian Authority, and keeping pressure on Hamas and other extremists, and most importantly also alleviating the humanitarian consequences of this tragic conflict.”
In a later answer, Lord Ahmad said there is “no place” for anti-Semitic behaviour no matter what is happening in the Middle East.
The Muslim said his faith is clear – that in situations such as the conflict in Gaza, Muslims should protect churches, synagogues and all innocent life.
He had been asked by Lord Winston whether Lord Wright’s logic would mean that the violence in Syria should cause anti-Islamic feeling in Britain.
Lord Winston said: “As a grandfather with parents at a Jewish school in London which has to be policed can we hear your reaction to the idea that anti-Semitism in Europe is a reaction to what is happening in Israel and Palestine, much as we regret that?
“Can you not agree with me that actually this would be rather like saying that the affairs in Syria would cause anti-Islamic feeling in this country?”
Lord Ahmad replied: “Anti-Semitic behaviour, irrespective of what’s happening in the Middle East has no place in translating (into) action of a despicable kind against any community and that includes the Jewish community.
“We have to be absolutely clear, there are things which happen around the world. What’s happening in Gaza and Israel at the moment, we all deplore the loss of life, the tragedy and the loss of civilian life, the humanitarian crisis which has taken place on the ground.
“But let me be absolutely clear. As a Muslim as well. The Islamic faith is very clear – in such situations you should protect churches, you should protect cloisters, you should protect synagogues, you protect all innocent life.
“That is the kind of message we need resonating not just in this House but throughout the country.”