Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today (29 December 2014) called for a renewed stand against all forms of hatred, as a new government report published by the Department for Communities and Local Government highlights the significant progress made in partnership with the community in tackling antisemitism.
The government has done much to establish Britain as a safer place for Jewish people. Levels of antisemitism in the UK are significantly lower than in other Western European countries.
However, Eric Pickles said that this summer’s sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents reinforced both the need for increased vigilance and also the need to reassure the public that those who commit hate crimes will be punished with the full force of the law.
Eric Pickles said:
Antisemitism and hate crime are completely incompatible with traditional British values and totally unacceptable in our society.
Britain is a country where different people get along, a country the vast majority of us want to belong to. But everyone must have the chance to give their very best no matter what their beliefs or background without fear of discrimination or attack.
So while this government has done much to enhance Britain’s status as a safe, tolerant place for Jewish people, it is not a case of job done. This summer’s antisemitic incidents are a depressing reminder that antisemitism remains a considerable problem. We remain committed to tackling it wherever and whenever it occurs and continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to those who promote prejudice.
This commitment must be replicated wholeheartedly by councils who should use their position of authority to actively reduce tensions, not stir them up.
The Government action on antisemitism report outlines the actions undertaken across a number of areas: improving the collection of antisemitic hate crime data, fighting cyberhate crime, extending Holocaust education and remembrance and addressing antisemitism internationally.
Hate material on the internet has become a disturbing recent development, but one of the most significant successes in tackling this new form of religious bigotry has been through the creation of the anti-cyberhate working group.
The group, established by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, engaged with the internet industry to produce a ‘best practice’ document to fight cyberhate – a document which has now been endorsed by industry leaders like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo and YouTube.
DCLG has also funded the Society of Editors, with input and support from the Press Complaints Commission, now the Independent Press Standards Organisation, to carry out research into current moderation of user-generated content on news sites and has produced good practice guidance to help on-line moderators in the future.
The government has also demonstrated that people and groups that espouse extremist views are not welcome in Britain. Since 2010 the government have excluded a number of people from the United Kingdom including French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala who has been prosecuted in the past for inciting racial hatred through antisemitic jokes and comments.
As further signs of progress the report also highlights that the government:
- is making it easier for justice to be done through the establishment of a Hate Crime strategy and delivery plan through the Director of Public Prosecutions
- is challenging online hate through the establishment of the UK No Hate Speech Movement
- is ensuring that Holocaust Memorial Day is a national day of remembrance by providing £3.1 million of funding to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust - over 2,400 local activities took place across the UK for Holocaust Memorial Day 2014
- is leading the international community in fighting antisemitism and ensuring that the Holocaust is remembered through chairing of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and funding £2.1 million to the Auschwitz Birkenau Foundation’s restoration fund
- is ensuring the education of the next generation through statutory Holocaust teaching in England, funding teachers so that they are equipped to teach it and providing more than £12 million since 2006 to enable 25,000 students and teachers from state-funded schools and sixth form colleges in England to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau
Despite these achievements the government recognises that much work is still to be done to combat antisemitism.
This summer also saw a sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents targeted at Britain’s Jewish community.
The Community Security Trust, an organisation that monitors levels of antisemitism in the UK, recorded 543 antisemitic incidents in July and August this year. This is more than the total recorded during the whole of 2013.
This year we also saw Leicester City Council, playing student union politics and banning Israeli-manufactured products, and Tower Hamlets, engaging in their own municipal foreign policy by flying the Palestinian flag. Both of whom came under strong criticism from Eric Pickles.
Vivian Wineman, President at the Board of Deputies of British Jews said:
The report clearly demonstrates the crucial and strategic role of the cross-government working group on antisemitism and indeed the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, without which such research and policy implementation would not be possible.
The Board continues to have great concern regarding the worrying rise in antisemitism over the summer. Antisemitic incidents on both British streets but also online, particularly through social media, struck at the British Jewish community’s sense of well-being and identity.
The Board is reassured to see the advances being made to address a number of issues and by the government’s positive attitude generally. The DCLG has sought to tackle these issues through funding initiatives such as the ‘Good practice guidance for online moderators’ through the Society of Editors.
We also note that online hate crime is beginning to be taken seriously and we are grateful to the DCLG who have worked with the Ministry of Justice and the police to ensure all forms of hate speech can be reported and investigated.
David Delew from the Community Security Trust said:
This report is an important and welcome indication of the seriousness with which government treats the ongoing problems of antisemitism and antisemitic hate crime that affect many Jewish people in this country. It shows an impressive record of positive work over nearly a decade and demonstrates the value of the cross-government working group in partnership with the Community Security Trust and other Jewish communal bodies.
The sharp rise in the number of antisemitic incidents and hate crimes in July and August is another reminder of the value and importance of this work to tackle antisemitism. In particular, it is important that hate crimes, including those on social media, are vigorously and successfully prosecuted and that the confidence of victims to report antisemitism to the police is strengthened.
Jonathan Sacerdoti, spokesman for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said:
The report shows a serious and responsible reaction to the concerns of the British Jewish community, which is understandably very worried about the huge rise in antisemitism in Britain. We rallied in our thousands over the summer to call for zero tolerance of antisemitism under the law, and we commend the government for its intention to heed this call.
The government has made clear its intention to protect the Jewish community from discrimination, prejudice and attack. That protection is a duty, and it is clear from the report that there is increasing recognition of the urgency of the problem right across the government. We are keen to see a continued increase in arrests and prosecutions and are working to help the government, police and Crown Prosecution Service in fighting this indefensible racism aimed at Jews.
Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the UK and the Commonwealth said:
I welcome the publication of the government’s final report responding to the 2006 All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism. The report includes an impressive account of government action on antisemitism.
Since the publication of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry the government has made significant progress through wide-ranging measures to tackle antisemitism in the UK. Antisemitism unfortunately continues to be of deep concern and will require the continuous and serious engagement of government and society as a whole.
We appreciate the priority given by the government to this issue which is a threat, not only to the Jewish community, but to our society as a whole.
Last year, the Prime Minister also launched a Holocaust Commission to investigate what further measures that should be taken to ensure Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial to the Holocaust. The Commission will report its findings to the public on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2015.
Hate crime can be reported to the police through normal channels, or through the True Vision website. DCLG and the Ministry of Justice have continued to support the police hate crime web-facility, True Vision, to provide information to victims and professionals and to allow on-line reporting of hate crime. The site has around 10,000 visits per month and received 3,641 reports in 2013 to 2014.
DCLG has provided £371,000 to the Anne Frank Trust since 2011. To date the project has reached 22,000 children and we expect by 2015 to have reached 35,000 young people. The Trust works with young people to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination and inspires them to become active and responsible members of their community.
DCLG provides funding to Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to raise awareness of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. They support local organisations to hold their own activities for Holocaust Memorial Day and help learn the lessons of the past to create a safer future. Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 was the most successful campaign to date with over 2,400 local projects running across the UK.
The government is committed to achieving a more integrated society and to create the conditions for everyone to live and work successfully alongside each other. For more information read the DCLG policy Bringing people together in strong, united communities.