Jewish community leaders met with Home Secretary Theresa May MP to express communal concerns about antisemitism and extremism. The continuing spread of terrorist threats against the Jewish Community was also a matter of particular focus.
The group was led by Gerald Ronson CBE (Chairman of Community Security Trust) and included Mick Davis (Chairman of JLC), Vivian Wineman (President, Board of Deputies of British Jews), David Delew (Chief Executive of CST), Simon Johnson (Chief Executive of JLC), and Gillian Merron (Chief Executive of BoD).
The Home Secretary was told of the record number of antisemitic incidents that occurred during the summer (314 in July alone); and that the community had never before expressed such a widespread feeling of being under severe pressure, with attendant fears for the future wellbeing of the community.
These pressures and fears combined experiences and perceptions of open antisemitism, but also deep concerns about the worsening nature of anti-Israel rhetoric and protest, especially pro-boycott actions that have included violence, criminal damage and intimidation of members of the public and shop workers. Where possible, actions should be taken against those who break the law. Furthermore, intimidation or harassment by pro-boycott activists should be publicly condemned, and retailers ought to contact police when protests involve criminality.
The problems faced by British Jews contradict British values and should concern not only Jews, but society as a whole. It was noted that senior Government figures, including the Prime Minister David Cameron MP, Chief Whip Michael Gove MP, and the Home Secretary herself have publicly expressed a keen awareness of all the factors impacting upon the Jewish Community this summer. Their strong opposition, combined with that from other senior figures including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband MP, is extremely important to the Jewish Community.
One particular aim of the meeting was to reinforce the message that the community needs to be reassured that the law is properly enforced in regard to all of the issues that arose so forcefully this summer. This had also been one of the core messages in the previous day’s meeting of the Cross-Government Working Group on Antisemitism, which included Parliamentary Under-Secretary Stephen Williams MP and was addressed by CST, BoD, JLC, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. The Working Group is the core of the joint long-term efforts between Government and the Jewish Community to discuss and tackle antisemitism.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
I am absolutely clear that everyone in this country, including members of Britain’s Jewish community, should be able to live their lives free from racial and religious hatred and harassment. No one should live in fear because of their beliefs or who they are. Recent reports from the Community Security Trust, which have indicated a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United Kingdom, are deeply worrying.
Since we published our hate crime action plan in 2012, the government has made significant progress in preventing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving the operational response. We are committed to engaging closely with Jewish communal leaders on this issue.