British Parliament reports sharp rise in anti-Semitism

Inquiry finds that anti-Jewish sentiment is appearing in people who consider themselves neither racist nor predujice.

November 1, 2006 23:51
2 minute read.
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anti semitism 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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London law firm Mishcon de Reya in partnership with the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism hosted a panel forum on Wednesday to discuss the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, a report released in September which showed a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in the UK. The inquiry was set up in 2005 to investigate the nature and extent of contemporary anti-Semitism. It was established against a background of steadily rising anti-Semitic attacks, which reached a peak of more than 530 incidents on members of the UK's 300,000 strong Jewish community in 2004. On the panel were Parliament members Iain Duncan Smith, Dr Denis MacShane and John Mann, all members of the all-party panel set up in 2005. Heading the panel was Anthony Julius, a senior Mishcon de Reya lawyer. Chairman of the committee and member of Parliament from the Labor party Denis MacShane said the most worrying discovery was that anti-Semitism was entering the "mainstream". "Anti-Jewish sentiment is appearing in the everyday conversations of people who consider themselves neither racist nor prejudiced," he said. He added that the behavior was "driven by ignorance and complacency," and presented a problem to all people, not just members of the Jewish community. Speaking at the forum, MacShane said that Tony Blair pledged his "firm commitment" to follow up on the report as did many ministers such as Home Secretary John Reid and Ruth Kelly, important because of her role in the Department of Communities and Local Government. MacShane also said the committee intended to inform the new academic union, the University and College Union, that the boycott [of Israeli academic institutions] was "wholly unacceptable". Labor MP John Mann said that given the nature of the issue at hand, it was logical to adopt a select committee approach. It was important, he said, that the committee not contain MPs who were already active on the issue and that it be made up of solely non-Jewish members, so it could not be perceived as biased. The appointment of MacShane was important as he had the respect of all parties in parliament and had been a senior minister, Mann said. Smith, a former Conservative Party leader, mentioned aspects of the inquiry that deserved further attention. He noted the complacency of the police in recognizing a distinct rise in anti-Semitic incidents - they claimed there was no such increase. It emerged during discussions with the Metropolitan Police, however, that anti-Semitic acts were measured by most police forces under the collective title of racial attacks. When the police were asked how they were sure there had been no rise, they replied that "they just knew". Another worrying issue, according to Smith, was the inaction on the part of the Moslem community in speaking out about the issue. He recalled that the then-leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Iqbal Sacranie had privately expressed concern about MCB's decision not to take part in Holocaust Remembrance Day, but refused to share his personal opinion on the subject. "He dodged around it all the time," Smith said. "Unless there is leadership in the Muslim community, what happens is that the worse elements of the community tend to dominate the debate." he added.

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