Liberty warns about 'casual antisemitism'

Britain's most prominent human rights campaigner has sounded a warning about the growth of a "casual antisemitism", which makes an automatic link between UK Jews and the state of Israel.

In an interview with the JC, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said that she was made uncomfortable by the tendency to assume people's political position on the basis of race.

Her strongly-worded intervention will give extra currency to an issue that Jewish organisations have been raising for several years. "I have witnessed the prevalence of a casual antisemitism that troubles me and it is probably greater today than it even was at times in my youth," she said. "I do think that sometimes it is because people are eliding, or think it is acceptable to elide, the criticism of Israeli government policy with people's race. And I have heard it done and it turns my stomach."

Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust said: "CST applauds the political and moral clarity in these remarks and hopes that they are widely publicised. It is a very welcome sign of understanding and empathy, not least because it comes from a human rights environment that many Jews have observed with mounting dismay and fear in recent years."

Ms Chakrabarti stood by her decision not to resign from the council of the LSE over the now notorious gift from Colonel Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam.

Last updated: 3:30pm, March 17 2011