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Co-Chair Cllr Heather Fletcher speaks at the Stand Up to Racism online conference

4 October 2020

Antisemitism is known as the oldest hatred.

There were blood libels falsely accusing Jews of killing Hugh in Lincoln, and William in Norwich, in the 12th century. There was virulent antisemitism in York which resulted in the city’s Jews being massacred at Clifford’s Tower in 1190.

Antisemitism was prevalent in Europe.  e.g. The Venice Ghetto was founded over 500 years ago where the Jews of Venice were cramped into a small area under severe restrictions. And of course, the most known manifestation of antisemitism resulted in the Nazi Holocaust in which over 6 million Jews were systematically murdered.

There has been a worldwide increase in antisemitism in the past four years.

I believe that when Trump started calling Mexicans “criminals and rapists” this emboldened people and gave them a license to say whatever they wanted to say about any minority. Likewise, this behaviour also empowered racist people when it came to light that Johnson had called Africans “piccaninnies”.

Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated in Greater Manchester.

My first TV interview as a councillor was regarding damage caused to the Jewish cemetery in Urmston in June 2018. It was vandalised three times. An antisemitic motive was behind this abhorrent behaviour. My grandmother Auntie Janie’s was one of the graves vandalised. In February 2019 there was further vandalisation in three chapels at Whitefield Jewish cemetery which caused more distress to the Jewish community. These perpetrators have no respect for the living or the dead.

I have the very latest figures for antisemitism in the UK in 2020.

According to the Community Security Trust (“CST”) (who protect the Jewish community) antisemitic incidents had in fact decreased by 13% from January to June 2020 compared to the same period January to June in 2019.

However, we had a strict lockdown in the spring which curtailed people’s behaviour. But notwithstanding this slight overall decrease, there was still an extremely high figure of 789 incidents recorded by the CST. This figure represented the third highest ever on record for the first six months of any year.

The pandemic has influenced the sort of antisemitic incidents recorded. There has been more online antisemitic behaviour with some people blaming the Jews for inventing this “Virus hoax” and others blaming Jews for spreading the virus. Figures from the CST confirm that online antisemitic activity has clearly increased substantially in 2020.

We are now in the middle of the Jewish High Holy Days.

The Combat Antisemitism organisation in USA reported there was antisemitic activity in USA, UK, and Scandinavia on the holy day of Yom Kippur. A swastika was painted on a car owned by a Jewish person in Bristol. There has been a large increase in antisemitism in the USA and in this country which used to be one of the safest places for Jewish people to live.

You may recall was a terror incident at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh two years ago. The perpetrator, who murdered 11 people, was a white supremacist with alt-right views similar to Trump’s.

Sadly, there was also a recent rise in antisemitism in my party, the Labour party, particularly in online abuse to Jewish MP’s. I have faith in our new leader Keir Starmer to eradicate this scourge and make the Labour party a safer place for Jews. Our natural home has always been the Labour Party

In conclusion there has been a definite increase in antisemitic activity in the past four years.

It is leaders who set the tone and create atmospheres and both Trump and Johnson have set bad examples by showing their inherently racist feelings, their disdain for minorities and legitimising bigoted behaviour.

How do we combat this?

  1. by using social media to spread positive messages of people showing unity in their diversity and living together happily, and
  2. when we can get back to real life events we should hold more solidarity rallies to show that the tolerant majority far outnumbers the bigoted hate filled minority.

Finally, today is 84th Anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street when Jews of the East End of London and their non-Jewish supporters and friends stood up against Oswald Mosley and his fascists to stop them marching through their area. We owe it to the brave people at Cable Street to continue this important fight against antisemitism, the oldest hatred.



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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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