tony blair 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
As Jews around the world celebrate the New Year, and we in Britain continue to mark the 350th anniversary of the re-establishment of our Jewish community, I am struck by the courage and resolution of the Jewish people.
To me, the Jewish community stands for what a community is all about. People respect each other as individuals, but they have a deep and profound sense of themselves as a community.
It is impossible to imagine modern Britain without its Jewish community. But for almost four centuries, Jews were forbidden to worship in Britain, even in private. All that changed with Cromwell's decision in 1656. Since then, arts, sciences, commerce, politics, the world of learning and thought, have all been illuminated by the names of distinguished Jews who have made their mark, added to the store of knowledge and helped to make the United Kingdom a better place.
Earlier this month, I was presented with a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism. The report states that Jews in Britain have become more anxious and vulnerable to abuse and attack than at any other time for a generation or longer. This is simply unacceptable. My government has a zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism, and all manifestations of hatred and xenophobia. No community in Britain should feel that they are at risk. We shall study the report - and its recommendations - closely.
The report found that British Jews often bear the brunt of people's anger over Israeli and American policies. There is of course a wider issue here, about how dissent should be handled in a democratic society - and we must continue to assert that the discussion should be carried out within the confines of peaceful, democratic debate. But it is natural that Jewish people everywhere have a particular place in their hearts for what happens in Israel, to which - for generations - they have prayed to return. And I believe that most people in Israel, and most Jewish people throughout the world, want to live side by side with the Palestinian people, in peace.
When I met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this month, I stressed that the only way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East is to have two states, both democratic, both viable and both recognizing the existence of the other. One point which is striking about this long-standing conflict is that there is a widespread consensus on what the shape of a solution has to look like. This is not an unattainable vision - it is a realistic goal towards which I am ever more determined to contribute. Such an outcome is the only long-term guarantee for Israel's security in the region - something on which I do not expect Israel to compromise.
I am mindful, too, of the enormous importance of the effective implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. This is one way in which - working together - we can all demonstrate what can be achieved in the region, to bolster the men of peace and counter all those who have an agenda based on violence and the denial of others' right to exist.
As the latest report on anti-Semitism illustrates, the Jewish people have too often in history been victims of hatred. But they have also rightly inspired respect and admiration. We must not forget that the Jewish community - the oldest minority faith community in Britain - serves as an example of how identity through faith can be combined with the deep loyalty to the British nation.
As one of the children from the Naima Primary School wrote in the booklet presented to me at the thanksgiving service at Bevis Marks Synagogue in June, "Am I Jewish or English? This keeps me in confusion / I'm both, you see, that's my final conclusion / Judaism is my religion; I make it so, clearly / I adore England, I love it so dearly."
We shall continue to value our Jewish community and ensure that its members feel safe and security in Britain and know that they are an integral part of British society. We shall persist in the fight against anti-Semitism and racism, and our police will continue to work together with communities to ensure their safety and security.
The Jewish New Year is always an opportunity for renewal and new beginnings. My particular hope this year is that we can re-energize the peace process in the Middle East. But I would also like to say thank you to the Jewish community in Britain, which for the last three-and-a-half centuries has contributed enormously to Britain. I salute all they do for their community and country, their courage and endurance, their contribution and commitment to Britain, and Israel.