Watch Sharon Hodgson MP speak in the debate here >
Sharon Hodgson MP spoke in the chamber on the 9th of January 2924, in the Westminster Hall debate on the increase in antisemitic offences. Condemning the recent wave of antisemitism across the country, she drew on her own personal experiences in Israel to outline what needs to change in the UK to tackle anti-Jewish racism and protect Britain’s Jewish community.
Nicola Richards MP (West Bromwich East) (Con)
Motion: "That this House has considered the matter of increases in anti-Semitic offences."
[Valerie Vaz MP in the Chair]
Read Sharon Hodgson's contribution in Hansard here >
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Vaz. I thank the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards) for securing this very important debate.
It has been the most horrific time since the attack in Israel. I was in the country with a delegation from Labour Friends of Israel almost three weeks to the day before the attack occurred, and I visited the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Luckily for the young lady who showed us around, she was with her husband and family further up, near Tel Aviv, at the time of the attack, so they survived. Sadly, her parents did not, and she is having to deal with that grief. Having seen the close proximity to Gaza, I just cannot imagine the fear that they must have all felt for the hours and hours that the attack went on, and the horror and atrocities that occurred. I am someone who witnessed the footage that the Israeli embassy shared with some of us, and there are things in it that I will never, ever forget.
As the hon. Member for West Bromwich East has outlined for us today, the wave of antisemitism we have seen across the country since 7 October is shocking and appalling. We have heard “Burn the Jews!” shouted at protest marches. Jewish children have been advised not to wear their school blazers. Swastikas have been graffitied in public places, and Jewish schools vandalised with red paint. Jews have been harassed, intimidated and assaulted in the street and as they leave their places of worship. The roll call of incidents is both long and shameful. It is shameful that in Britain, in 2024, our fellow citizens are subject to such racism and hatred. Sadly, however, it is not surprising.
As the Community Security Trust suggests, whenever Israel is at war there is an increase in antisemitism incidents, and an acute rise is usually reported specifically in and related to educational establishments, as the hon. Lady spoke about with regard to universities. None the less, the Community Security Trust suggests that, even compared with periods of previous conflicts involving Israel, the current statistics are unprecedented. This is grimly ironic, given that the state of Israel was established to provide the Jewish people with a safe haven, after centuries of persecution which culminated in the Nazis’ attempt to annihilate Jewish history and the Jewish people of Europe. The persecution continues to this day.
Let us be clear: these antisemitic attacks are nothing less than the latest iteration of the oldest hatred. In the charges levelled against Zionists—that they control the media and the Government, that they are disloyal, greedy and bloodthirsty, and that they are ideologically akin to, and collaborated with, the Nazis—we see the repetition of classic antisemitic tropes and smears. Our country, which rightly prides itself on its tolerance and its rejection of extremism, cannot allow antisemitism to go unchecked and unchallenged. We need swift, tough and comprehensive action to tackle anti-Jewish racism.
First, as the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), has rightly argued, we need an increase in policing and stronger action to tackle and monitor antisemitism, and we must ensure that the police have the powers they need to tackle to hateful extremism. Secondly, it is appalling that Jewish venues and institutions need extra levels of security and protection, but as long as that remains the case, it is imperative that the Community Security Trust receives the funding it needs to do its vital job. Thirdly, what is said online rarely stays online. The hateful conspiracy theories and lies about Jews and Israel that are peddled on social media by antisemites directly contribute to racism on our streets. Social media companies must enforce their own rules against hate speech, and where crimes are committed, they must co-operate with the police to ensure that the guilty are punished.
Fourthly, in relation to universities, the National Union of Students and student unions must do more to fight antisemitism and to ensure the safety of Jewish students. At the same time, surveys indicate shocking levels of ignorance about the holocaust, and strong public support for greater holocaust education. The work of organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust is of paramount importance; they are on the frontline of the battle for hearts and minds.
Finally, Iran is a leading purveyor of holocaust denial, antisemitism and extremism. Its terrorist proxy armies slaughter Jews, while its ideological arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, attempts to incite and perpetuate violence and spread disinformation globally, including throughout Britain. As Labour has argued, we must proscribe the IRGC and begin to turn off this pipeline of hatred.
In two weeks’ time, we will mark Holocaust Memorial Day. This year’s theme is the fragility of freedom, and that is especially relevant in the light of the antisemitism that we have seen on our streets over the past three months. Without security, there can be no freedom. Freedom from fear and violence is the prerequisite of any civilised country. We cannot allow Britain’s Jewish community to be denied that freedom.
Read the whole debate here >