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Harlow MP Robert Halfon slams anti-semitism with passionate speech in House of Commons

News / Wed 18th Apr 2018 at 07:11am

Halfon Holocaust

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon took part in an emotional debate on anti-semitism in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Mr Halfon joined colleagues from across the parties in what was a remarkable night for parliamentary democracy.

Here is Robert Halfon’s speech in full.

“Last year, I was in Harlow town centre at a street stall to speak to constituents and local business owners. Completely unexpectedly, a man – who I know to be from the Left – came at me screaming: “Go back to Israel”.

It happened so quickly and I was unable to take a photo. But I know that antisemitic acts like this are becoming increasingly commonplace. Demonstrations outside Parliament and the Labour headquarters would not have been well-attended if antisemtism wasn’t seen by most as a dangerous and growing problem. That is why I am glad this very timely debate is going ahead.

“I say “seen by most” because there appears to be, in some sections of the Left, an accepted belief that all Jews are either Israeli settlers, very rich or part of the Capitalist establishment. These claims are often also linked to more sinister conspiracy theories. It used to be acceptable to use the fig leaf of Israel and so-called Zionism as a cloak for antisemitism. Now they don’t even bother to to dress it up; antisemitism is out in its naked viciousness for everyone to see.
Under previous Labour administrations, this would have been stamped out straight away. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did so much to support the Jewish people.

I’d also like to make very clear that I appreciate the enormous work of the Hon Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and the APPG Against Antisemitism and other Honourable Labour MPs, some of whom are here today; Mike Gapes, Louise Gelman, Wes Streeting,Louise Berger and Ruth Smeeth, to name but a few.

It appears, however, that the current Labour leadership is, at best, turning a blind eye to the problem, at worst, condoning antisemitism.

I say this with a heavy heart because membership of dubious Facebook groups, defence of anti-semitic murals, phoney reports produced by now-Baroness Chakrabarty seem to indicate a policy of the three unwise monkeys; see no antisemitism, hear no antisemitism, and do not speak out against antisemitism.

That’s problem one.

The second problem is social media.

In truth, parts of the internet have become a sewer for antisemitism.

It seems like many are more worried about Facebook collecting our data for advertisements than about the social network acting as a septic tank in which a disgusting and non-stop stream of anti-Semitic sewage collects.

What is even worse is that the victim is responsible for contacting Facebook or Twitter and following a complex procedure to get the content cleared up. The duty is on the victim and it should be the other way around.

Why is it that books and newspapers are – quite rightly – punished for the publication of any kind of antisemitic content but, social media platforms act with impunity?

I did not want to stand up today and simply outline the problems, of which most of us are very aware. It’s vital we discuss the best way to deal with this slurry of anti-Semitic language and propaganda.

The problem must be dealt from two directions, by those at the top and through better education at the grassroots.

It is absolutely imperative that all community leaders do everything possible to condemn antisemitism in every form it takes without hesitation or equivocation.
Leadership must set an example and do all they can to stamp out antisemitism – the world’s oldest hatred – once and for all.

We can also do so much more through education. Take, for example, the Holocaust Educational Trust; an incredible organisation with the sole aim of educating the UK about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance. In fact, a few years ago, I joined the Trust on one of their many organised visits to Auschwitz alongside a handful of students from Harlow College in my constituency. We can and should do more to promote such work, like the Teacher Training Programmes.

Children should be taught the full history of antisemitism and contemporary issues, starting with slavery in Egypt and culminating with the Holocaust. This needs to happen more widely than during Key Stage 3 history. In order to instill in young people an absolute rejection of any form of antisemitism, it could also be linked to wider debates about tolerance and prejudice in PSHE lessons.

Finally, we need to ensure that University campuses are a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds. The Office for Students could play a role here, as the APPG Against Antisemitism recommends. If the OFS was made aware of instances of antisemitism, future regulation could be better informed and Universities and their Student

Unions could work together so that, in the future, no student is ever made to feel uncomfortable on campus due to his or her religion.

This debate is an absolutely vital opportunity to bring to the fore the widespread and escalating problem of antisemitism. It is also an opportunity to be constructive. Let’s use this debate to go forward to make sure that leadership of all political parties condemns, without equivocation, all forms of antisemitism. We need to establish a legal framework to hold platforms accountable for antisemitic content published on social media, just as newspapers and books would be. Finally, we must ensure that we have an education system – at schools, colleges and universities – which teaches racial harmony and the positive history of the Jewish people to discourage all forms of antisemitism.

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3 Comments for Harlow MP Robert Halfon slams anti-semitism with passionate speech in House of Commons:

JerryFromQueens
2018-04-18 11:26:49

Why do people always assume it's just the left that have problems with antisemitism? I've known plenty of people with right wing views that are intolerant of Judaism. Jeremy Corbyn addressed the huge rally to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in 2016. We're there any Tories there? Indeed, the Labour leader's own mother was involved in the original protest. The refusal of Theresa May to accept the recommendations of Lord Dubs which would have gone a long way to treat child migrants better shows that party have their own problems with discrimination.

Brett Hawksbee
2018-04-18 12:14:17

Momentum Harlow have been unequivocal in their calling out of racism of any kind. (I will end this comment with their statement, in full, but ...) In direct response to Robert Halfon's speech during yesterday's debate, called by the Conservatives although attended by a number of Labour and other MPs; antisemitism IS a problem, here and abroad. It is a problem not just in national politics, but in wider societies. Robert Halfon comments on this in his speech, speaking about areas other than the Labour Party, including in education and on social media platforms. I was personally horrified and very angry, on reporting someone on Facebook for an explicit holocaust denial post, to be advised that it '... did not breach our [facebook's] community standards ... ' going on to suggest I could 'hide' or 'block' comments from the particular person. I am totally supportive of any initiative to do more to challenge social media companies demonstrating such lax 'community standards'. However to demonstrate that this issue is cross party and cross cultural, it is vital that the problem is fully and properly identified wherever it exists, and challenged. Robert Halfon failed to do this. It at very least opens one up to the challenge of acting in bad faith, to fail to condemn antisemitism in the Conservative Party, or wherever else it can currently be found. Much has been said about the issue being weaponised against the left of the Labour Party. Whilst this interpretation has been promoted even by the Jewish left wing, it isn't particularly helpful; if we accept that a problem exists, then it exists whether or not the issue is being used as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn. But what we have also to do, actively and in good faith, is to educate and inform antisemites wherever they are hiding. To do this we must acknowledge that antisemitic views are to some extent more prevalent on both extremes of the window of discourse. In fact the 2017 Jewish Policy Review concluded that the greater problem exists on the right. This being the case it is disingenuous to exclude his own party from criticism in his comments. Brett Hawksbee A Statement on anti-Semitism from Momentum Harlow Momentum Harlow join Harlow Labour Party, and all right-minded people in completely condemning anti-Semitism, and racism in any form. We are appalled to hear that anti-Semitic abuse was screamed at Harlow’s current MP, Robert Halfon in the Town Centre. There are no circumstances in which anti-Semitism is tolerated by Momentum Harlow or the Labour Party. We offer him our sympathy for what was clearly abhorrent and distressing personal abuse. We offer Mr Halfon our full co-operation in any efforts he might make to track down the perpetrator. We have our political differences and could imagine any number of reasons to challenge Mr Halfon’s policies and those of the government of which he is a part. But we do not as an organisation condone personal attacks and offer our support and solidarity with our current MP. We agree entirely with his statement that we must together stand up against the evils of anti-Semitism in all its forms. In fighting racism and prejudice, Robert Halfon, the Labour Party, and Momentum Harlow are all comrades. https://cst.org.uk/public/data/file/7/4/JPR.2017.Antisemitism%20in%20contemporary%20Great%20Britain.pdf

theman
2018-04-19 16:46:49

Thousands of years of evolution and we still cannot get on with each other? I travel a lot and most people get on just fine(even in Israel). It seems that politicians and especially would be politicians seem to be driving the wedge of division among us. The posts above can be taken as an indication of this. On a different but similar subject. Why does no political group show interest in the millions of people who died building the western world we know. You can look up "servitude" to learn more.

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