[DEBATE] : You boycott, you anti-semite
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Sun Sep 3 06:44:37 BST 2006
Critics of Israel 'fuelling hatred of British Jews'
MPs demand action against rising abuse, harassment and even violence
Ned Temko, chief political correspondent
Sunday September 3, 2006
A group of prominent MPs, alarmed at the rise of anti-semitism in Britain,
will accuse some left-wing activists and Muslim extremists this week of
using criticism of Israel as 'a pretext' for spreading hatred against
The charge is made in a hard-hitting report - by MPs from all three major
political parties - which will be unveiled at a Downing Street meeting with
Tony Blair on Thursday.
The report is published in the wake of an alarming increase in verbal
harassment, abusive emails and letters, and even violent assaults on British
Jews. The number of incidents that took place in July, which came in the
middle of escalating violence in the Middle East, was the third highest on
The 10-month inquiry into anti-semitism in Britain was chaired by the former
Europe Minister Denis MacShane and included the former Tory leader Iain
Duncan Smith and the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne.
Details of the report are being kept confidential until its formal release.
However, a draft of the document - seen by The Observer - reveals that
incidents of verbal abuse, harassment and violence against Jewish community
members and their institutions is reaching worrying levels.
It urges more consistent action by police, prosecutors and the government.
All have failed to tackle antisemitism with the same determination as other
forms of racism, the report suggests.
The report voices particular concern over 'a minority of Islamic extremists
who are inciting hatred towards Jews', and it criticises recent moves by
left-wing academics to boycott links with Israel. Though emphasising the
right of people to criticise or protest against Israeli government actions,
it says 'rage' over Israeli policies has sometimes 'provided a pretext' for
'Calls to boycott contacts with intellectuals and academics working in
Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange,' the
report says, adding that the response of university vice-chancellors to such
campaigns has been patchy.
Pro-boycott activists have angrily rejected allegations of anti-semitism and
accused their critics of using the charge to ward off political criticism of
MacShane, speaking last week on a BBC radio programme devoted to Jewish
community issues, said British Jews were right to 'shudder' at the
'aggressive' comparison of Israeli policies with the Holocaust. He also
spoke of a 'witch's brew' of anti-semitism including the far left and
'ultra-Islamist' extremists who reject Israel's right to exist.
Among the report's dozens of recommendations is a call for the government to
adopt the broad-ranging European Union definition of anti-semitism -
including activities targeting 'the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish
collectivity' with 'symbols and images associated with classical
It also recommends greater security support for the community, which spends
millions of pounds on fencing, CCTV cameras and other measures to safeguard
synagogues, schools and other communal institutions. 'It is not right for
any group of British citizens to dig into their own pocket because they feel
there is not adequate protection for their right to express themselves
religiously or culturally,' MacShane said.
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