Justice Secretary Michael Gove has used a high-profile speech in Berlin to warn of a “resurgent” hatred of Jews in Europe as German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed her commitment to stamp it out.
The two senior politicians were speaking at the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism Conference alongside British Labour MP John Mann, who chairs the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism.
Gove, who is currently under pressure as to his role in a story about the Queen’s alleged preference for Britain exiting the European Union, said new ways of expressing the world’s oldest hatred meant “Jews still live in fear”.
He said: “In the Middle Ages, anti-Semitism was focused on the religious identity of Jewish people… Today, it targets the collective identity of the Jewish people.”
In a call-to-arms, Gove said that he and his peers had a duty to pursue the scourge through law, adding: “Our work is needed more than ever.”
During Merkel’s conference speech on Monday, she praised organisers for addressing anti-Semitism in sports, online and on the street, adding: “If gravestones are defaced, then our country itself is defaced. If synagogues are vandalized, this shakes the foundations of our free society.”
The German chancellor, herself under pressure at home as a result of the country’s response to refugees, sympathised with Jewish community concerns about recent migrants and the threats some may pose.
She defended Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, for expressing fears about anti-Semitism among new refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, more than a million of whom have sought entry in the last year.
“It is perfectly legitimate for someone to share his concern,” Merkel said, given that many refugees “have grown up with certain stereotypes”.
Elsewhere in her speech, she appeared to wade into the topical debate about the difference between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, arguing that many of the country’s critics were just “giving vent to hatred of Jews”.