Government’s anti-terror programme failing to ‘understand and tackle antisemitism’

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Government’s anti-terror programme failing to ‘understand and tackle antisemitism’

William Shawcross's long-awaiting report into the Prevent programme includes references to cases that the author says show 'the prevalence of extreme antisemitism'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Police on duty
Police on duty

The Government’s anti-terror programme is not doing enough to “understand and tackle antisemitism”, a new report has concluded.

The findings of former Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross’s long-awaited report into the Prevent programme included claims by the author he was “disturbed by the prevalence of antisemitism”.

In so-called Channel cases he observed – which referred to people in the programme who are considered most at risk of becoming radicalised and turning to terrorism – Shawcross wrote of “the prevalence of extreme antisemitism.”

William Shawcross

The author, who has previously been criticised over his views on Islam,  said in the report that “Prevent has a double standard when dealing with the extreme right wing and Islamism”.

In response Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she welcomed the Shawcross review  and added:”Prevent will now ensure it focuses on the key threat of Islamist terrorism.

“As part of this more proportionate approach, we will also remain vigilant on emerging threats, including on the extreme right.”

Braverman added:“Antisemitism, like other forms of hatred aimed at communities, is a destructive and pernicious trend which the government… is working to reduce.

“We will devote more analytical resource to improving our understanding of ideologies that spread antisemitic narratives and take direct action to address this.”

The Home Secretary also promised to “increase our pool of intervention providers that specialise in tackling antisemitism explaining that their role is to deconstruct and dismantle extremist narratives and ideologies”.

She added the government accepted all 34 of the report’s recommendations, adding she was “committed to quickly delivering wholesale change to ensure we are taking every possible step to protect our country from the threat posed by terrorism.”

Shawcross said that in some of the cases he found examples where a person expressed a desire to “kill, assault or harm Jewish people.”

Other Channel cases involved threats to “burn or desecrate a synagogue.”

He said:”This issue spanned across the full range of Channel cases we observed regardless of the nature of the ideology, be it Islamist or Extreme Right-Wing, and across a broad range of age groups.

“This was unsurprising given that hatred of Jews is an issue which in fact unites both Islamists and Extreme Right-Wing, as well as the Extreme Left, in a kind of modern-day Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.”

He also raised “particular concern” about civil society organisations (CSOs) funded by the programme which have promoted extremist narratives, including statements that appear sympathetic to the Taliban

The report stated:” In May 2021, the CSO shared a video on its YouTube channel featuring music with lyrics promoting what I regard to be an antisemitic conspiracy theory about the ‘Zionist lobby’.

“In February 2022, the CSO hosted a podcast discussion with an individual who had a record of promoting antisemitic narratives.”

The report also noted:”“Prevent takes an expansive approach to the extreme right wing, capturing a variety of influences that, at times, has been so broad it has included mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream, rightwing-leaning commentary that have no meaningful connection to terrorism or radicalisation.

“However, with Islamism, Prevent tends to take a much narrower approach centred around proscribed organisations, ignoring the contribution of non-violent Islamist narratives and networks to terrorism.

“Prevent must ensure a consistent and evidence-based approach to setting its threshold and criteria, and ensure it does not overlook key non-violent radicalising influences.”

In its recommendations the report called for the government to “explore the prevalence of antisemitism in Channel cases and whether this is reflected in a breakdown of Channel referrals more widely.”

It added:” Feed these findings into work to disrupt radicalisers and counter extremist narratives.

“This includes confronting UK extremists supportive of terrorist movements which target Jewish communities (such as Hamas and Hezballah) and addressing the anti-Jewish component of Islamist and Extreme Right-Wing ideology and groups.”

The report had first been ordered in 2019 by the then home secretary Priti Patel.

Last year, Patel hinted at changes amid concerns about how the deradicalisation programme was working.

It emerged that the perpetrators of several terror attacks including Ali Harbi Ali, who murdered the MP Sir David Amess in 2021 had been  previously referred to Prevent.

In the Commons, after the Home Secretary had given her statement on the report on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn called for her to meet with the Muslim Council of Britain to discuss claim Shawcross had “demonised” the Muslim community with his findings.

Braverman responded by raising Corbyn’s record as Labour leader, and the party’s referral to the EHRC over antisemitism.

Nick Lowles, the chief executive of the anti-racism organisation Hope not Hate said the Shawcross review sidelined the dangerous and growing threat of far-right extremism in the UK.

“Counter-terrorism policy should not prioritise one form of extremism over another, ” he said.




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