MPs pledge to tackle campus extremism and online hate

By Jessica Elgot, January 21, 2011
Louise Ellman MP

Louise Ellman MP

MPs have pledged to crack down on antisemitic preachers on campus and internet hate sites during a major parliamentary debate on antisemitism.

John Mann, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, said: “Our approach has always been to make it clear that when we deal with antisemitism, we deal with racism. Some people would be prepared- not necessarily happily- to be called antisemites. They would certainly love to be called anti-Zionists, which they would regard as an accolade. When they are described as racists, however, they do not like that term, even though it is accurate.”

He strongly criticised the London School of Economics for allowing Abdel Bari Atwan to speak on campus. “In a democratic society, we cannot have the kind of incidents that we saw in December. It was not only the comments of Atwan that were unacceptable, because the consequential behaviour that resulted from them was equally unacceptable. That is not tolerance, and it is not free speech.”

Harlow MP Robert Halfon said that he believed “there must be a financial penalty for university campuses that do not put their house in order.”

But the idea of fining universities was rejected by the minister at the debate, Lib Dem Andrew Stunell, Under-Secretary of state for Communities, who said: “I do not think I want to get there yet.”

Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman raised concerns that antisemitic internet sites often went unchallenged if they came from Islamist sources, rather than far right sites. Mr Mann said he believed the European Union should take the lead in cracking down on antisemitism online. “Is it beyond the EU to have some common standards relating to the internet that would greatly enhance what has happened in this country? That should be within our reach.”

MPs including Denis MacShane and Lee Scott called for new election rules to stop groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Committee wh ich targeted pro-Israel and Jewish MPs during the election campaign.

Mr Mann noted that he had been asked by the Football Association 18 months ago to chair a working group into antisemitism in football, but had received no response from the association to his report.

Mr Stunell said he would raise the issue at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. “A problem exists in relation to specific incidents, events and clubs, and it should be paid proper attention.”

Last updated: 11:49am, January 21 2011