Brown: ‘I will act on Muslim hate’

December 4, 2008

Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed this week to ensure that the views of the Jewish community will be taken into account in the current review of UK entry and exclusion arrangements, in the light of renewed concern about visiting extremist Islamists preaching hatred.

He made the pledge on Monday at the first formal working meeting with communal leaders since he took office.

In what the executive director of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jeremy Newmark, called a “warm and productive meeting”, the 14-strong delegation from the JLC raised a wide range of concerns.

After a discussion on the implications of the Mumbai terror atrocities, in which Mr Brown referred to the Chabad House murders as a reminder of the need to fight antisemitism around the globe, the Prime Minister spoke of his specific concern at the terrorists’ successful attempt to seek out Jews to harm.

The meeting discussed the community’s ongoing security worries and the high cost of providing security for Jewish schools and synagogues.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the negative atmosphere created by the recent UCU academic boycott debates and described such attempted boycotts as “discriminatory”.

He also agreed to look into how the cross-departmental Task Force responsible for implementing the recommendations of the Parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism was addressing antisemitism on campus.

The JLC expressed its hope that a sub-group could be set up to deal with campus antisemitism.

Mr Brown also indicated that the government was ready to go a lot further in maintaining pressure and sanctions on Iran, including through EU-wide action, and that the UK was positive about the EU working more closely with Israel on common issues.

The communal leaders expressed anxiety about the content of the so-called Durban II United Nations anti-racism conference, planned to take place in Geneva next April.

The first Durban conference, in 2001, was hijacked as an extreme forum for anti-Israel rhetoric.

Mr Brown, the JC understands, has set out tests which will underpin the decision as to whether the UK takes part or boycotts the conference.

Most important is whether, in the drafting of the declaration of the conference, antisemitism will be included in the category of what the UN considers “victims of racism”.

If this is not the case, then attacks on Jews would not qualify for inclusion in the UN denunciation of racism.

Henry Grunwald QC, JLC chairman and president of the Board of Deputies, said: “Members of the Jewish community often feel threatened by the support for terrorism and the antisemitic statements made by certain visitors to this country.

“Their message and rhetoric subverts the concept of national cohesion and divides communities — undermining the good work going on between the leadership of all faiths.

“We are heartened that the Prime Minister recognises this and will be monitoring the situation moving forward to ensure that government actions are consistent with this position.”

The JLC delegation had a separate meeting on Monday with Foreign Secretary David Miliband in which they were briefed on his recent trip to Israel and the Middle East.

Last updated: 11:52am, December 9 2008