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Speech to Redbridge Council about Antisemitism

We will shortly mark Holocaust Memorial Day in this Borough - and across the country: coming together to commemorate the victims of one of the greatest crimes in human history.

The Holocaust was:

Unique, because of the systematic and barbaric way in which a hateful ideology sought to slaughter an entire race.

Frightening, because it reminds us that ordinary human beings are capable of extraordinary acts of evil, made possible only because a great many more people chose to be bystanders and looked the other way.

And worryingly relevant, because even today there are those who seek to deny the Holocaust, or to revise the history of the Holocaust, or to propagate the same antisemitic tropes used by Hitler about Jewish money, Jewish influence and Jewish blood lust, which has resulted in rising antisemitism in the UK and across Europe.

Antisemitism is also used to delegitimise the world's only Jewish state with a view to destroying it. Criticising Israel is not antisemitic. I have criticised the Israeli government many times for illegal settlement expansion, the treatment of Palestinian child detainees in Israeli military courts and Israeli human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. But when people resort to antisemitic tropes about power, money and blood libel to attack Israel, or when some support the self-determination of every people except the Jewish people - that is antisemitic.

Each of us here tonight has both the agency and the responsibility to tackle antisemitism wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.

And so it is with some humility that I support this motion, given the abysmal way in which my own party has tackled - or indeed failed to tackle - antisemitism within our own ranks.

Conservatives might also have some humility about the appalling Islamophobic campaign in London against Sadiq Khan, but I say to my own party: we cannot hold a mirror up to them unless we are prepared to hold a mirror up to ourselves.

It has led to a crisis of confidence in the Labour Party by people who have been our lifelong supporters. Our party has a long and proud history of fighting antisemitism. Some of our greatest figures like Ian Mikardo and Manny Shinwell or rising stars like Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth have been Jewish.

We say we have zero-tolerance to antisemitism, yet hundreds of reported cases remain unaddressed. People like Ken Livingstone have been allowed to abuse the history of the Holocaust to cause gratuitous offence and remain in the Labour Party. Those of us who call out antisemitism are accused of 'weaponising antisemitism' by an MP subsequently rewarded with shadow ministerial office - sacked only because of his comments about our tax policy.

Bystanders are complicit by their silence, which is why I will continue to speak up.

So I am proud that my Labour colleagues here tonight are choosing to speak up, too. To make it clear to Redbridge residents that here in Redbridge the Labour Party will never be bystanders to antisemitism.

And though we may be divided across the party political divide in this chamber, on tackling antisemitism we speak as one: united, determined and resolved to eradicate this pernicious form of hatred from our society.

Picture by: Laura Lean/PA Archive/PA Images

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