At Knesset, British officials say they lead fight against antisemitism

Diaspora Ministry: UK still produces most antisemitic tweets.

January 4, 2017 19:25
2 minute read.
Israel and Britain

Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee hosts British officials at the Knesset on January 4, 2017. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Israeli MKs and officials commended their British counterparts for their work in the fight against antisemitism, yet they pointed out that the UK is still a leader in online antisemitism.

Several British officials participated in a discussion on the issue hosted at the Knesset by the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.

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Among them was MP John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Combating Antisemitism.

He and his colleagues emphasized the cross-party aspect of the parliamentary work on the issue, with Mann asserting that the political divides in the British parliament may be even greater than those in the Knesset. The significance of this was echoed by UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey, who said that the bi-partisan support for the cause showed “very strong signals.”

Mann said the law-enforcement bodies were vital in fighting the phenomenon, and that this was an area in which the UK could improve, “whether it’s antisemitism though written word or spoken word or acts of violence, that there will be prosecution.”

He said the biggest change in the past 10 years has been the evolution of social media. Mann himself, who is not Jewish, has been the target of online antisemitism.

“There is not been an increase in antisemitism but in the ability of antisemites to spread their poison and to try and impact others,” he said, describing an exponential growth in online antisemitism in the past year. “This, however, is not just a British problem,” he emphasized, addressing commentators in Israel who he accused of misunderstanding the situation in the UK. Great Britain does not have a bigger antisemitism problem that other countries, he said, but rather has better systems for quantifying every incident.

“We are prepared to be honest about our problems...and that’s the difference between us and other countries who pretend they don’t have the same problems,” Mann said, emphasizing that it is a mistake to misunderstand the situation of the countries who “pretend they have no problems.”

MP Nusrat Ghani, who joined the British parliament in 2015, said she had been surprised by the levels of antisemitism on university campuses. “It’s key that no individual ever feels vulnerable in our country,” she said.

On this issue, Quarrey advocated a greater flow of students moving between the UK and Israel. “Numbers are down significantly,” he said, opining that this was the best tool to tackle antisemitism.

He described Britain as a “world leader in many respects in the battle against antisemitism,” pointing to the Community Security Trust which works with the Jewish community in cooperation with the police and the government. He and others in the meeting emphasized an interest in increasing cooperation between the British parliament and the Knesset on the issue.

Yogev Karasenty, director for combating antisemitism in the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, presented a report which found that despite a code of conduct formulated by the EU together with the social media giants to combat illegal hate speech, compliance with that code is “far from satisfactory.” Karasenty said that in the month of October alone, some 100,000 antisemitic tweets in the English language were found, and that Britain still has the highest number in that category.

“We are ready to work with you, to cooperate,” Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee Chairman Avraham Neguise said after having praised the British government for its recent decision to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. He said London’s desire to eradicate antisemitism was clear.

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