OPINION: The poisonous effect of antisemitism goes well beyond the Jewish community

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OPINION: The poisonous effect of antisemitism goes well beyond the Jewish community

Incidents may have fallen from a record high but it remains incumbent on everyone to speak out against hate , argues Andrew Stephenson

Antisemitism signs during a protest in 2019. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Antisemitism signs during a protest in 2019. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

At first glance, the headlines of the latest CST report the other week showing a fall in antisemitism figures seem encouraging. The report found a 43% decrease in the number of antisemitic incidents in the last 6 months.

However, upon a closer look, the figures show that sadly antisemitism is still prevalent in modern society.

CST’s report found that there were 786 anti-Jewish hate incidents recorded nationwide in the first half of this year. The decline in numbers is reflective of the above average incidents recorded last summer around the time of rising tensions between Israel and Palestine. However, whilst this is a reduction from last year, this is still the joint-fifth-highest total ever reported to CST between January and June in any year.

Sadly, the number of antisemitic incidents is still far too high. The saddest part of this is the monitoring of antisemitic incidents has become standardised, as is it normal to have a certain number of incidents during any given period.

Last month, I had the honour of visiting the CST headquarters, where I witnessed the incredible work that they do in safeguarding and protecting the interests – not just of the Jewish community – but all communities. It was a wake-up call that we all need to step up and take responsibility in addressing discrimination of any kind within society.

It was evident from my visit that we are bound by shared values with the Jewish community. We both attach importance to hard work, education, enterprise, family and faith.  We also share an unshakeable bond.

However, it was disheartening to hear of the continued anti-Jewish manipulation of current affairs particularly in relation to the war in Ukraine and Covid-19. They included conspiracy theories accusing Jewish people of causing and bankrolling the war, and of Jews being behind every aspect of the conflict and pandemic. The incidents echoed harrowing reminders of the past of how antisemitic ideas were sown into the public realm.

Antisemitism is a scourge that deeply affects our Jewish community but the poisonous effect goes far beyond it, too. It strikes right to the heart of our British values, raising serious questions about who we are as a country and a society at a time of immense uncertainty.

But progress can be made. Within the Conservative Party, an organisation that I proudly chair, I have been immensely humbled by the diversity of our recent leadership contest. It showed that there are no barriers to excel within the party. Regardless of your background, our Party is home to everyone to be a part of.

This follows on from the recent implementation of the recommendations of the Singh investigation, where as an organisation, we have renewed efforts to better identify and address discrimination. Whilst the investigation found no evidence of institutional racism, the Party is determined to address discrimination of any kind. There is absolutely no room for prejudice, whether that be antisemitic, anti-Muslim or any other kind of hatred and we will continue to combat discrimination and intolerance of any kind.

Amongst the recommendations implemented, this included reviewing and updating our social media rules, updating our Code of Conduct and Confidentiality and Transparency policies, standardising our complaints policies and procedures, introducing a new complaints database and extending our outreach work with diverse communities.

We remain totally committed to tackling antisemitism alongside other religious hatreds and doing whatever is needed to remain a united country of all faiths and no faith. That is the message that must go out powerfully to all politicians and to all people throughout this country.

I will stand up for my Jewish friends, who love this country, who have given so much to this country and who ask for nothing more than to feel protected.  All of us should speak out for the oppressed, whoever they are and wherever they are. As for antisemitism, as CST’s report shows clearly, our aim should not just be to reduce incident figures, but to eradicate discrimination of any kind and ensure that it is never normalised in anyway.

  • Andrew Stephenson is chair of the Conservative Party
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