A senior cabinet minister has lamented how antisemitism “now finds a home in British politics” in reference to the Labour Party, while arguing that the test of any nation’s civility lies in its approach to Jews.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, made the comments at an event promoting UK-Israel trade in central London on Tuesday evening, sponsored by Teddy Sagi’s LabTECH. The event was organised by UK Israel Business.
Gove, who narrowly failed to make the final cut in last week’s Conservative leadership selection process, said antisemitism was today being “nurtured and encouraged by British politicians… it is one of the struggles of our time”.
He argued that anti-Zionism and antisemitism were now one and the same, saying: “The form antisemitism takes now is an attack on the Jewish home, an attempt to undermine and delegitimise Israel… The idea that the Jewish people should not have their own home, their own nation, a right to self-determination, that is antisemitism pure and simple.”
Saddened by its reappearance in British politics, he said: “The test of how civilised a country is, throughout history, does it stand with the Jewish people? Do Jewish citizens feel that they have a friend and are free in that country?
“The test of how civilised a country is, throughout history, does it stand with the Jewish people? Do Jewish citizens feel that they have a friend and are free in that country?
“If you look back to medieval times, Spain’s antisemitism [during the Inquisition] was a sign that that country was going backwards. In the 19th century, Vienna’s antisemitism was a sign that that country was going backwards. Even now in Russia, antisemitism there is a sign of [President Vladimir] Putin’s erosion of freedom of liberty in that country, which is taking it into darker times.”
He added: “Throughout history, the country that is friendliest towards, and most supportive of its Jewish neighbours and friends, is a beacon. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the Netherlands. In the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, it was the UK. Now the UK and America stand with Israel, showing that we are truly countries that believe in liberty.
“So the test for any civilised society… is whether it stands with the Jewish people, and whether it stands with Israel. It is a pleasure to stand with the Jewish people. It is a duty to stand with Israel.”
The Edinburgh-born MP, who received a long ovation for his note-less 15-minute speech, addressed the evening gathering just hours after announcing a new law forcing food firms to fully list all ingredients in pre-packed food, under the new ‘Natasha’s Law’ proposals.
The law is named after a girl who died from an allergic reaction to ingredients in a Pret-a-Manger sandwich in 2016. Introducing Gove to the floor, UK-Israel Business chair Leon Blitz said he had a child with a severe food allergy and personally thanked the minister for the change.