The husband of US vice president Kamala Harris said there was a “crisis of antisemitism” in Britain, the US and around the world, as he met members of the UK’s Jewish community in London.
Douglas Emhoff, who holds the title Second Gentleman of the US, attended a roundtable discussion on antisemitism at Wychwood House on Wednesday morning.
Mr Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president, said antisemitism and other forms of hate were “like a venom coursing through our world right now”.
He added: “After the horrific terrorist murder of innocent people in Israel and subsequent events, we have seen a crisis of antisemitism. It’s a crisis here, in the United States and around the world.”
Mr Emhoff, who previously worked as a lawyer, said he had made it his mission to “push back on this epidemic of hate”, adding that it was already “bad here in the UK” and around the world before the Hamas attacks on Israel.
He added: “The message I have for everyone is, don’t be afraid. Do not be afraid. You still have to have that joy and that love of being Jewish.”
Matthew Palmer, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy, said the meeting would help the UK and US push back against “the old enemy of the scourge of antisemitism and antisemitic thought”.
Mr Palmer said the world was “witnessing a shocking and vile surge of antisemitism from London to New York, St Louis to Sydney” and it was the “kind of reflexive antisemitism that somehow always seems to accompany conflict in the Middle East”.
“Antisemitism in any form, walks hand in hand and tragically with violence against Jews,” he said.
He added that the meeting would discuss the steps that “our governments can take to protect communities from antisemitism and root it out for future generations”.
The meeting was attended by representatives of Jewish organisations in the UK, including Keith Black, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, and Michael Wegier, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Dave Rich, head of policy at the Community Security Trust (CST), said that antisemitic incidents reported to the CST from across the UK were about 700% higher than normal since 7 October – with more incidents in the past three weeks than in the first six months of this year.
He said that support for the Jewish community from the Government, opposition and police had been strong and was “valued”, but that much of civil society including the anti-racist movement, human rights groups and trade unions had “been relatively silent”.
Emily Sinclair, campaigns officer at the Union of Jewish Students, said: “In the past three weeks, there have been a year’s worth of antisemitic incidents on campus.”
She added: “For many Jewish students, the atmosphere on campus is making it impossible for us to carry on with normal life.”
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