MPs have warned of the challenges Jewish people face amid modern-day antisemitism, as the Commons reflected on the horrors of the Holocaust.
During a Commons debate following Holocaust Memorial Day, SNP MP Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) said the Covid-19 pandemic had seen “age-old tropes” re-emerge about Jewish people, and Labour MP Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) said online forums were harbouring antisemitic activity.
Meanwhile, Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge (Barking) said her party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer had made “a huge difference” in re-establishing trust with the Jewish community.
She said: “When I was first an MP I was a Labour MP who happened to be Jewish, but when antisemitism moved to the mainstream of my party, I became a Jewish Labour MP – my identity interwoven with my work.
“The last five years have been difficult, long and lonely. I did enjoy support from the brave activists in the Jewish Labour Movement and from those colleagues who did call out antisemitism.
“And I’ll never forget the friendship and support between the four Jewish Labour women; Louise Ellman, Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger and myself. It was the women who stood together, worked together and simply wouldn’t give up. The tragedy is that they are no longer MPs and I salute their brave contribution and I miss them.
“A year has made a huge difference. By his actions, our new leader is demonstrating zero tolerance of Jew-hate. Not just of suspending and expelling individuals, but transforming our culture, re-establishing trust with the Jewish community who were hurt and genuinely frightened.
“As a party we are finally focused on eliminating antisemitism, responding to the shameful findings of the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) report and restoring our core values.”
Later, Ms Cameron said: “A recent briefing by the Antisemitism Policy Trust found that throughout history Jewish people have been blamed for diseases and pandemics.
“Indeed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, these age-old tropes have re-emerged in updated forms on our social media channels and popular antisemitic online forums.”
Mr Tami said antisemitism could be “found at a disturbing level” online.
He added: “In the 1920s and 1930s, that hate and antisemitism was whipped up at rallies and pamphlets were published and transformed Germany from an advanced liberal democracy to a vicious dictatorship.
“Today, those poison and lies have not gone away. We rarely see the mass rallies and events but the battle has moved online where hate speech and Holocaust denial can be found at a disturbing level.”
Former Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Crabb said “the cancer of antisemitism” continued today.
He added: “How can it be that Jewish students in this country do not feel protected by our institutions?
“Places of openness and learning turned into dark corners where Jewish young people experience fear.
“The adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance modern definition of antisemitism should merely be the first step in tackling rising levels of antisemitism.
“Yet even this is seen as too much to ask for some universities whose academics spuriously claim that this definition will shut down legitimate debate about Israeli government policies.
“We mustn’t shy away from the reality that modern antisemitism invariably morphs into anti-Zionism and the demonisation of Israel itself.”
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