17 May 2021

Minister pledges to protect British Jewish community amid anti-Semitic abuse

17 May 2021

Ministers have condemned an increase of anti-Semitic abuse and pledged to protect the British Jewish community amid safety fears.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he was “appalled” by anti-Semitic abuse in recent days, which included a rabbi being attacked outside his synagogue in Essex and abuse heard being shouted by car passengers in areas with large Jewish populations in north London.

Mr Jenrick told MPs the Community Security Trust, a charity providing security and advice to Jewish people in Britain, has reported a 320% increase of anti-Semitic incidents in the last week – with the figure “likely to rise further” due to a delay in reporting.

He later insisted that as a father of three young Jewish girls, he is “absolutely committed” to ensuring the British Jewish communities feel “feel protected, feel safe and feel they can continue to thrive in this country”.

Mr Jenrick also vowed to “name and shame” councils and universities which refuse to sign up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, noting he has written to some organisations which are “still dragging their feet”.

Conservative former minister Robert Halfon raised concerns over the weekend attacks, telling the Commons: “As a proud British-Jewish MP, I never imagined that I would live at a time when myself and the Jewish community would question whether Britain is a safe place for Jews any more.”

Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon, raised the case of a Jewish teacher being “abused by pupils in the classroom”.

He added: “In a comment echoed by (Mr Halfon), one constituent has told me that many people are asking the same question as before the 2019 election, mainly is there a future for Jewish people in this country? Can the secretary of state please advise my constituents if there is?”

Mr Jenrick replied: “Yes, there certainly is and as the father of three young Jewish girls, I am absolutely committed to ensuring that the British Jewish community feel protected, feel safe and feel they can continue to thrive in this country.”

Earlier, Mr Jenrick had said: “No-one could fail to be appalled by the disgraceful scenes of anti-Semitic abuse being directed at members of the Jewish community in the past week.

“In Chigwell, Rabbi Rafi Goodwin was hospitalised after being attacked outside his synagogue.

“In London, activists drove through Golders Green and Finchley, both areas with large Jewish populations, apparently shouting anti-Semitic abuse through a megaphone.

“These are intimidatory, racist and extremely serious crimes.”

MPs heard four arrests had been in connection with the north London incident.

Footage on social media showed a convoy of cars covered with Palestinian flags passing down Finchley Road, in north London, with passengers heard to shout offensive language and threats against Jews.

The incident received cross-party criticism, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemning the acts as “shameful racism” that have “no place” in society.

Palestine solidarity march – London (PA Wire)

It came after thousands of people marched through London on Saturday to the gates of the Israeli embassy, while protests took place in other cities across the UK and Ireland in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes after a week of sustained conflict.

Since Monday night, Palestinian militant group Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, whose military responded by barraging the Gaza Strip with tank fire and air strikes.

Mr Jenrick told the Commons: “A lot of young, British Jews are discovering for the first time that their friends don’t understand anti-Semitism, can’t recognise it and don’t care that they are spreading it.

“They are not responsible for the actions of a Government thousands of miles away but are made to feel as if they are.

“Seeing their friends post social media content that glorifies Hamas, an illegal terrorist organisation – an organisation whose charter calls for every Jew in the world to be killed.”

Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge said “we have to be able to debate and disagree without Jew hate or Islamophobia taking over”.

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