'Anti-Semitism in UK cannot be brushed aside'

Local UK government minister Phil Woolas praises UK Jews' contributions to British society and warns of mounting racism.

"We share the concerns of Jewish communities, and fully support the police and prosecuting authorities in taking a tough line to stamp out anti-Semitism wherever it occurs," said Phil Woolas, minister for Local Government and Community Cohesion, in an official response by the British government on Wednesday to a parliamentary inquiry into the recent escalation of anti-Semitism in the UK. Woolas spoke at a reception in the British Parliament, representing the government in response to an all-party inquiry which published its report late last year, and made 35 recommendations to challenge the growing threat of anti-Semitism in the country. "I speak for everyone in saying how much the government and Parliament value the vast and varied contribution the Jewish community in our country makes; socially, economically and culturally it enriches British society as a whole," Woolas said, and promised to step up action to eradicate anti-Semitism, recognizing and strongly condemning the increase of incidents in the UK. Areas outlined by the response include the improvement of recording and reporting of anti-Semitism incidents; reviewing and strengthening the prosecution process; accelerating work to confront extremist groups; promoting community cohesion through education about different faiths; and preventing any manifestation of racial or religious intolerance on university campuses. Jewish community representatives met in London with officials of the Department of Communities and Local Government to discuss the government's response, and to explore ways to implement the recommendations. Following the meeting, the community representatives said they looked forward to establishing a framework of working together in close partnership with government and other agencies "to help ensure that the vital work to tackle anti-Semitism remains as focused, constructive and effective as possible." "With this robust response, neither anti-Jewish discourse nor more overt forms of anti-Semitism can be brushed aside. This is the start of a process and we look forward to working closely with the government and others to take forward the report's recommendations," said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This positive view of the government's response was also voiced at the reception itself, by John Mann, chairman of the all-party panel. "I am encouraged that the government is taking the scourge of anti-Semitism seriously and I look forward to working with them to confront it head on," Mann said. "We must not allow this alarming rise in incidents and hostility to go unchecked."