The new home secretary has condemned the use of Hezbollah flags at demonstrations in London after delivering the first speech by a cabinet minister to a communal event since Theresa May entered Downing Street.
Amber Rudd was guest of honour at British Emunah’s annual dinner, at which she also pledged to continue the path set by her predecessor in terms of defending the security of British Jewry.
After flags of the terror group were again openly displayed at the annual al Quds rally in central London over the summer, she said: “I hope by speaking out plainly that’s it’s unacceptable, people will feel more confident about reporting it. If they report it we can take action.”
After Theresa May indicated that displaying the flag could be an offence, arrests were made last year during the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu. But no charges were forthcoming. The sticking point appears to be the fact that while Hezbollah’s military wing is proscribed, it’s political wing is not – although both share the same yellow flag.
Jewish News and the Zionist Federation launched a campaign in July – backed by more than 1,600 people – urging May and Rudd to make it clear that any further do ally of the flag would be treated as a criminal offence.
Rudd hailed May’s efforts at the home office in speaking out against anti-Semitism and in backing that up with millions of funds for security measures at communal buildings.
“Making it a priority is one of the things we can do. Apart from continuing the very good work she’s done, the hate crime action plan I unveiled had additional proposals for making sure people who are victims of antisemitism or any sort of hate crime have somewhere to go to and has continued to raise the profile of how important it is to address it.” She also had an unequivocal message for those peddling hate on social media, saying: “It’s unacceptable on the internet just as it is on the streets.”
Referring to an article she wrote in Jewish News days after her appointment, she earlier told the 350 guests at the Guildhall she acknowledged that Britain wasn’t “immune to the evil of anti-Semitism”.
She said: “I know there is much work to be done. I promise that I will continue to work with law enforcement partners and with the Jewish community to ensure your safety and security. Anti-Semitism will be challenged without exemption wherever we find it. The government will never waiver.”
The home secretary – who visited to Israel with Conservative Friends of Israel in 2012 – recalled the “chilling” experience of seeing the remains of rockets fired into Sderot.
Pledging that the UK will “stand steadfastly alongside Israel” and continue to develop burgeoning bilateral ties on trade, science and security, she added: “When Israel is under attack we will support its right to self-defence. We will work with Israel and the Palestinians to help bring about the lasting and peaceful two-state solution that all peoples of the region desire and deserve.”
Addressing the dinner, Maureen Lipman said Rudd’s support was much needed as she launched a fresh attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. “We have a Labour Party that doesn’t represent me and doesn’t represent many of those who supported it for years.” She drew applause when she referring to the boundary change proposals that could see the Labour leader’s Islington seat vanish.
Guests were told about Emunah’s work in Israel with 12,000 orphaned, abused and at risk children. Rudd heaped praise on the charity for “offering a helping hand in times of darkness” and described British Emunah chair Hilary Pearlman and her team as “exemplifying the very essence of the Jewish community in terms of education, commitment, philanthropy”.
Sara Kulp, a graduate of the charity’s Afula residential home, told the gathering that she received help catching up on her studies and one of her siblings benefited from speech therapy after their mother passed away. The 21-year-old, who now works as a dispatcher for Magen David Adom, said: “I am where I am today because Emunah was there for me.”
The most moving moments of the evening came in the appeal video which told the story of David, who was also helped by Afula after he witnessed his father killing his mother at the age of just five.