YVETTE COOPER: Our solidarity with the Jewish community is unshakeable

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YVETTE COOPER: Our solidarity with the Jewish community is unshakeable

By Yvette Cooper MP, Shadow Home Secretary17 Yvette_Cooper_Ministerial_portrait

In Copenhagen last Saturday, a gunman attacked a man guarding a batmitzvah in the city’s central synagogue, a film director at a free speech event and two police officers trying to keep everyone safe.

Like the awful Paris shootings, Copenhagen shows how extremists are trying to divide us and spread terror.

They attacked cartoonists and journalists for what they said, police officers for the job they did, and the Jewish community for who they are. We must not let them win.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand together against hatred, anti-Semitism and extremism. And although the Community Security Trust has pointed out the important differences between Britain and Paris, or other European cities, we also know that more needs to be done to challenge all forms of prejudice and extremism.

And that every country needs to be vigilant in safeguarding our liberty and security.

That’s why last week’s report from the All Party Group Against Antisemitism, chaired by Labour MP John Mann, was so important.

It had support from all political parties and many different faiths and, as I said at the launch, our solidarity with the Jewish community is unshakeable. In the days after the Paris attacks, people took to the streets holding the sign ‘Je Suis Juif’, alongside ‘Je Suis Charlie’, ‘Je Suis Ahmed’, and ‘Je Suis Flick’.

That unity is vital. There needs to be coordinated international action to celebrate the Jewish community and Jewish culture as an integral part of a modern, progressive Europe. There are more practical things we need to do.

For a start, we need to ensure the close working between the police and CST continues to provide reassurance across the Jewish community that security is being taken seriously.

Everyone has a right to feel safe in their home, street, school or in their synagogue.

In the days after Paris, the Metropolitan Police rightly increased neighbourhood patrols in Golders Green and Stamford Hill, working with CST.

We need to ensure Jewish schools and synagogues have the security they need. More must also be done to challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of hate crime on social media.

For months, the CST and prominent Jewish figures, such as my colleague Luciana Berger, have warned about the rise in online hatred. Over the summer, we saw vile hashtags trending in the UK – and across the world.

Some people were hijacking legitimate debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to spread anti-Semitism, using appalling hashtags, such as #HitlerWasRight, #IfHitlerWasAlive and #killjews.

A strong message needs to be sent out that targeting people with abuse because of their religion, race, sexuality or inciting violence against them is not an expression of freedom of speech.

It is a hate crime and will not be tolerated. We have called for the Government to do more to strengthen CPS guidance on hate crime, so it includes explicit reference to anti-Semitism and hate crimes on social media.

The Home Secretary needs to ensure the police have both the resources and expertise to track and prosecute those committing crimes online. Police leaders say they are deluged by this kind of hate crime and struggle to cope.

Recent Labour Party FOIs suggest that seven out of 10 police officers have had not undergone basic training in investigating online crime.

But social media companies, which play a powerful role in our society, also need to take responsibility when their systems are abused by extremists breaking the law.

For example, Twitter took too long to remove anti-Semitic and violent threats to Luciana Berger from a far-right extremist who was eventually jailed for his actions. But as soon as he left prison, Twitter allowed him to set up a new account to start sending anti-Semitic messages all over again. And we need to do more to build respect and challenge prejudice among the next generation – tackling anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and wider discrimination, too.

Not long after the Paris shootings, people from across Europe came together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

I spoke at the Holocaust Educational Trust lecture and met impressive young people who were ambassadors for their learning programme, visiting schools to talk about the importance of remembering the past and celebrating diversity in our communities. And I’ve spoken to young people who have been inspired by working with the Anne Frank Trust.

We must do more to support the work of organisations such as these because, ultimately, the best way to challenge violence and prejudice is to build the commitment of our young people to each other and to a better future.

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