The following letter from Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism, was sent to the newly-elected Chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, and sent in copy to the MPs on the Committee who contributed to the Committee’s report on the rise of antisemitism in Britain.
Dear Ms Cooper,
I would like to congratulate you on your election as the new Chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.
As you know, the Committee published on Sunday its report on the rise of antisemitism in Britain, including recommendations that we have long called for. We hope that the report will prove to be a turning point in the fight against antisemitism in our country.
We have a limited window of opportunity to turn the tide against antisemitism in Britain. As I noted in my evidence to the Committee, Jews are leaving mainland Europe in their thousands, and antisemitic crime in Britain continues to rise to record levels. Should we succeed, Britain will remain a beacon of tolerance and justice, but should we fail, we British Jews will find ourselves on the same dark trajectory as Jews across mainland Europe.
For too long, Campaign Against Antisemitism has often been a solitary voice calling for the Government and political parties to adopt the international definition of antisemitism, for police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to properly record, investigate and prosecute antisemitic crime, for the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats to fight antisemitism rather than normalising it, for the student movement to end the isolation and abandonment of Jewish students, and for social networks to shoulder their responsibility to cut off the torrent of hatred online.
The Committee listened, and by endorsing the measures we have called for, the Committee has forcefully challenged those responsible for allowing the normalisation of antisemitism. It was brave of the Committee to adopt the positions it has taken, and to pull no punches in doing so.
The Committee’s recommendations must be executed swiftly and in full. We hope that the first recommendation to be implemented will be the widespread adoption of the international definition of antisemitism by the Government, its agencies, and political parties, for as we have seen over the years, efforts to tackle antisemitism without defining it are doomed to failure.
There are only two respects in which we disagree with the report.
Firstly, the Committee found the performance of the justice system to be “for the most part, excellent”. Last year was the worst ever year on record for antisemitic hate crime, with a 26% rise in crime and a 51% leap in violent antisemitic crime, yet whilst the Crown Prosecution Service prosecuted a record 15,442 cases of hate crime, we are only aware of 12 prosecutions for antisemitic hate crime. We can assure the Committee from bitter experience in dealing with the Crown Prosecution Service that its shameful refusal to tackle antisemitism is only set to continue. Unless the failure of the Crown Prosecution Service is urgently addressed, the Committee’s other recommendations will ultimately prove to be ineffective on their own. For example, no action taken by social networks alone will be successful if the worst offenders face no criminal sanction for their persistent efforts to incite hatred against Jews.
Secondly, the report found the Cross-Government Working Group on Antisemitism to be “an effective forum for relationship-building, sharing of information and collaborative work aimed at addressing antisemitism in all communities” yet in reality the Working Group is exclusive, not inclusive. The organisations already represented on the Working Group determine the Working Group’s membership, and they use their position to ensure that less established voices are locked out. It is for that reason that Campaign Against Antisemitism has been forced to establish its own strong relationships with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Home Office, police forces and other Government bodies, rather than joining discussions within the Working Group. The consequence of allowing this situation to endure is that rather than the Government and its agencies having one discussion on antisemitism with all of the voices within the Jewish community, there are multiple disconnected conversations. That is best exemplified by the near total exclusion of the Ultra-Orthodox Charedi Jewish community from Government discussions, even though the Charedi community is the most visible Jewish community and therefore the most easily targeted.
Of course, the effectiveness of the Committee’s report will be judged by its implementation, but we are enormously grateful to the Committee for having taken this important first step, and there is no forum better suited to ensuring that the report’s recommendations are faithfully executed than the Committee itself.
We look forward to meeting with you and your colleagues on the Committee in order to discuss how we can work with you to the benefit of the entire Jewish community, and to our society as a whole.
Chairman, Campaign Against Antisemitism