Virus of anti-Semitism ‘is an attack on all of us’, warns Labour MP

Virus of anti-Semitism ‘is an attack on all of us’, warns Labour MP

Louise Ellman MP

The “virus of anti-Semitism has not gone”, a Labour MP has warned ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Louise Ellman said it was important that in marking the event, people not only remember the Holocaust but also “relate that to the ills of today both in this country and elsewhere”.

Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The MP for Liverpool Riverside, who is a vice president of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, reflected on the attacks in Paris earlier this month, adding that while the situation in Britain is different, “there are disturbing trends which must not be ignored”.

She said: “The Holocaust was a horrendous event. The fact there is still anti-Semitism and the virus of anti-Semitism has not gone is something that should cause all of us concern and all of us reason to reflect.”

Ms Ellman said an attack on minorities in the UK, whether on the Jewish community or other communities, “is an attack on all of us”.

She said: “In reflecting on Holocaust Memorial Day and reflecting on the Holocaust we should register what is happening and be determined as a society to recognise that minorities are part of our community and that anti-Semitism should not be tolerated.”

Ms Ellman said she was at a meeting of the Board of Deputies of British Jews on Sunday, adding: “That meeting was dominated by the horrendous recent events of the murder of journalists at Charlie Hebdo, the murder of a policewoman and the murder of Jews in a kosher supermarket, murdered because they were Jews.

“Those anti-Semitic murders were not murders of French Jews in isolation, that was just not one isolated event, it was one of a series of anti-Semitic murders and attacks onJews that have taken place in France in recent times.”

She added: “The cumulative effect of those murders and series of attacks on French Jewshas led to many French Jews deciding to leave France, something which I think we should all reflect on.”

Ms Ellman praised “excellent” addresses by the Home Secretary Theresa May and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles pledging support for British Jews and promising to increase security for British Jews “in view of what was happening”.

She echoed their sentiments, saying Jews and other minorities are the fabric of British society and adding: “We are all part of British society.”

Ms May has called for efforts to be redoubled, telling a memorial event for the Paris victims she never thought she would see the day when members of the Jewish community would be fearful of staying in the UK.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate about Holocaust Memorial Day, she said: “I could only feel that it was shocking and outrageous that at this time we were thinking of having to concentrate on and be concerned about anti-Semitism in Europe, French Jewsfeeling they need to flee their homes because of fear of anti-Semitism.”

Theresa May speaking at the Board’s plenary

In the UK, she said the situation is different.

She said: “Jews here are not being murdered because they are Jews. However there are disturbing trends which must not be ignored and the Community Security Trust has monitored the increasing numbers of anti-Semitic incidents, up very sharply, and the increasing intensity of anti-Semitic discourse, anti-Semitic comments that are made that at one time would have been seen as unacceptable but now seem to be accepted almost as the norm.”

She noted that during a demonstration, a kosher counter at a major supermarket in London was closed due to the pressure of demonstrators outside.

She added: “All of these things are deeply, deeply disturbing. While British Jews do not feel they are in the same position as French Jews, and indeed they are not, British Jewsfeel very, very firmly part of British society and strong members of the British community as well as of the Jewish community.

“There is a growing sense of unease across the British community here in the UK and I think that should be registered, not just by other Jews but by the community as a whole.”

Tory James Clappison (Hertsmere), who introduced the debate, said it was important to keep the testimonies of survivors alive for future generations to listen to and understand what took place.

He added it was a “remarkable experience and a privilege to hear them”.

He said: “It is hard for us to comprehend the scale of human loss in respect of those who perished and the severity of suffering of those who survived through the unique horror of this event, but it is so very important that we should continue to hear their views.

“Of course we know that there have been subsequent genocides since 1945 in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and and Darfur.”

Mr Clappison said he welcomed the Prime Minister’s “robust statement” that he had a policy of “zero tolerance” in respect of anti-Semitism, adding: “Because, as he says, whilst the situation in this country is better than many other countries, it is unacceptable that we have seen evidence of anti-Semitism here including boycotts and attacks of Jewish charity shops, and the disturbing survey of attitudes published by the Campaign Against Antisemitism very recently.”

Tory Robert Jenrick (Newark) said his parents-in-law were the children of Holocaust survivors.

He said: “It was in essence a virus that says that all that matters in life are our differences and that virus takes different forms all over the world, but it continues and is alive and well today and we see that in Isis, in Boko Haram, in anti-Semitism in Paris and, I’m afraid, in anti-Semitism and extremism in this country also.”

Conservative Lee Scott (Ilford North) said he had experienced death threats and anti-Semitic abuse as an MP.

He said: “I am proud to be British, I am proud to be honoured to be a MP and I am proud to say I am a Jew and that will never change. No matter how many people might phone and say I should be killed for being a Jew that will never change the fact that while I’m honoured to be a MP, I will continue to fight for all communities, for all religions, because prejudice against anybody is unacceptable.

“And if we have not learned anything from history then we should be ashamed of ourselves.”

Responding, Lib Dem parliamentary under secretary of state for communities and local government Stephen Williams said people had a duty to remember the past, adding: “We need more than ever to ensure that never again means never again.”

He added: “These events do repeat themselves and the UK at the moment is having a reported increase in anti-Semitism. It is very clear that we should all say this is completely unacceptable in modern Britain.

“It is important never to stand aside when we encounter prejudice and hatred of any kind.”

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