CST’s Mark Gardner gives evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee Antisemitism Inquiry
15 July 2016
Yesterday, the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into the rise of antisemitism held its third evidence session on antisemitism. Mark Gardner, CST Director of Communications gave evidence, alongside Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council. Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and John Mann MP, Chair of the all-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism were also called upon to give evidence to the Committee. In previous weeks, the other witnesses were Ken Livingstone, leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn MP, Board of Deputies President Johnathan Arkush and Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis began the session and stated that the rise in antisemitism was “worrying, a deep cause for concern”. The Chief Rabbi also stated that social media companies need to do more to combat antisemitism on their platforms, and voiced dismay at the rise of hate crimes being reported following the British EU referendum vote.
Keith Vaz MP commented on antisemitic incidents recorded by CST, with 924 recorded in 2015, noting the drop of 22% from 2014. Mark Gardner discussed antisemitic posts on social media which target Jewish users such as Luciana Berger MP and Ruth Smeeth MP, and number into the thousands. Mark noted CST’s partnership with Twitter to try to ensure this abuse in curbed, and this means that the report onus is unfairly placed upon CST, or on our counterparts at Tell Mama if there is an anti-Muslim incident reported.
Mark was further questioned by Keith Vaz MP about the £13.4 million in Government funding granted to the Jewish community and administered by CST. The MPs lamented the need for the Jewish community to have security and Mark concurred, stressing that this should not become normalised, but that the continuation of security funding should be a recommendation of the Committee.
Tim Loughton MP asked what message it sends to the Jewish community when they see security guards outside their schools. Mark responded that it shows the “reality of Jewish life across Europe today. About the reality of the targeting practise that is carried out by Jihadist terrorist organisations”. Mark noted the appalling impact upon the Jewish community in Argentina that followed the Hizbollah truck attack against the Jewish Community Centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 which killed 84 people.
In response to questioning by the Committee about the motivation for antisemitic incidents in Britain and Europe, Mark explained the European Union’s 2013 survey (which he had helped design) found that in Western Europe, those with far-left and extreme Muslim views “jockey for position” as the most common perpetrators of antisemitic incidents, whereas in Central and Eastern Europe most perpetrators display a right-wing motivation. Mark stressed that antisemitism as a political force has, thankfully, never taken hold in the UK, in contrast to on the continent where the EU initially denied that there was a problem, whereas current conditions now make that undeniable and cause EU politicians to fear that it signals a fundamental failure of the post-World War Two project.
Mark responded to questioning by Stuart McDonald MP about the definition of antisemitism in the context of fears of the Jewish community about the leadership of the Labour Party, by saying that the McPherson definition needs to be adopted. This is the idea that a hate crime is “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person” and therefore all reports of antisemitism need to be taken seriously and investigated properly. The ‘Livingstone Formulation’ was raised by Mark; namely the false and damaging accusation that Jews cry antisemitism in order to defend the State of Israel. This should not be acceptable as when someone does this, they are saying that all Jews, including British Jew, owe their loyalty primarily to Israel and are part of a conspiracy. This is antisemitism.
John Mann MP was last to give evidence to the Committee. He recalled the antisemitic abuse he has received as both an MP and as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism. He contrasted the abuse he receives when dealing with antisemitism matters to other abuse he receives, and stated that there is a “particular insidiousness when it comes to antisemitism”.
CST thanks the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into antisemitism for calling upon CST to give evidence and looks forward to its final report.
You can read the full transcript of the evidence session here.