Michael Gove condemns 'complacency' over anti-Semitism

Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Michael Gove, the Government Chief Whip, has condemned "complacency" in the face of growing prejudice against Jewish people in Britain. He linked the recent rise in anti-Semitism to the "twisted world" of Islamist extremism and said there was "insufficient indignation".

Mr Gove, former Education Secretary and member of the Prime Minister's Commission on the Holocaust, said that in the aftermath of the Second World War, everyone agreed that anti-Semitism could have "no place" in a civilised society.

Yet the "virus" is now spreading once more: "Today, across Europe, there has been a revival of anti-Semitism which the enormity of the Holocaust should have rendered forever unthinkable."

Just weeks ago, in July this year, the Community Security Trust recorded 302 anti-Semitic incidents, a fivefold increase from July 2013. In 101 of these, there were explicit references to the Holocaust including attempts to equate Israel's actions in self-defence with Nazi crimes. On the streets of London, British citizens have marched with swastikas super-imposed on the Israeli flag.

In France, also in July, more than 100 Jewish citizens had to be rescued from one synagogue and another was firebombed. The leader of an anti-Semitic party - the Front National - is France's most popular politician.

In Germany Molotov cocktails were thrown at one synagogue. In Belgium a cafe displays a sign saying "dogs are allowed but Jews are not" while a doctor refuses to treat Jewish patients. And in May of this year four people visiting the Jewish Museum in Brussels were killed by a jihadist terrorist.

Addressing the Holocaust Educational Trust appeal dinner in London, Mr Gove warned: "We must all remember where this leads. Now more than ever. And we must not think that Britain - gentle, tolerant, civilised Britain - is immune."

He criticised the recent attempt by the Tricycle Theatre to turn away donations which supported the Jewish Film Festival because the money was Israeli, and supermarkets where mount boycotts of Israeli produce, some going so far as to ransack the shelves, scatter goods and render them unsaleable. "In some supermarkets the conflation of anti-Israeli agitation and straightforward anti-Semitism has resulted in Kosher goods being withdrawn."

Mr Gove said: "We need to speak out against this prejudice. We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past ended with a campaign against Jewish lives. We need to spell out that this sort of prejudice starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. We need to stand united against hate. Now more than ever."

The Prime Minister recently set up the Extremism Task Force in an attempt to tackle some of the problems.

Mr Gove continued: "We know that in the twisted world view of Islamist extremists anti-Semitism is a central strand, but we also know that when Islamist extremists embrace violence they have us all in their sights.

"That requires a robust approach from us - at home and abroad.

"Because we know that the jihadist terrorists responsible for horrific violence across the Middle East are targeting not just Jews and Israelis but all of us in the West.

"They hate Israel, and they wish to wipe out the Jewish people's home, not because of what Israel does but because of what Israel is - free, democratic, liberal and Western. We need to remind ourselves that defending Israel's right to exist is defending our common humanity. Now more than ever."

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "Next year will mark 70 years since the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camps of Europe. It may be the last anniversary we mark with a significant number of survivors, the eyewitnesses to the planned annihilation of Europe's Jewry. In these particularly challenging times, it is more vital than ever that we redouble our efforts to educate as many people as possible about the Holocaust and where hatred and prejudice can ultimately lead."