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Modern antisemitism challenges our preconceptions

    When one hears the word “antisemitism” it might conjure up any number of images: swastikas, racist daubing or bigoted cartoons.

    It might not lead one to think about football, prisons or primary school children.

    Some of my preconceptions about antisemitism were challenged last week when, together with a number of colleagues with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and the Antisemitism Policy Trust, I took the opportunity to visit a number of different Jewish organisations and institutions to learn about the impact of Jew-hate and related policy concerns.

    Our day began with the Community Security Trust. This organisation is widely respected, by government, parliament and other civil society organisations, as expert when it comes to understanding and countering anti-Jewish hatred.

    It was deeply concerning to see the trends in antisemitism, and particularly that last year’s recently released figures follow the worrying upward trend.

    Part of the problem is public discourse, especially online. The CST’s efforts to better understand online hate, models, movements and future patterns are extraordinary and I think many parliamentary colleagues could benefit from a visit to their offices.

    The security systems they operate for the Jewish community are vital and I know that the APPG Against Antisemitism will continue to call on government to ensure sustained funding for security to protect the Jewish community.

    From CST we travelled to a school in my constituency, North West London Jewish Day School. It was a place of contrasts. It was a bright, welcoming and happy place and we heard from the staff about the effort the school goes to in ensuring a good education for the children.

    This, however, was set against the imposing security arrangements necessary to keep the young people safe.

    Speaking to the children, I asked about their own experiences of antisemitism, and was given anecdotal examples of antisemitism on the Sunday league pitch and overheard by a pupil when sitting secondary school exams.

    Young people at this age should be thinking about their futures, enjoying their extra-curricular activities and living a relatively care-free life. We simply aren’t doing a good enough job of tackling anti-Jewish hatred if these children are worried about staying safe.

    One of the most frequent concerns raised in relation to antisemitism is life on campus. The Union of Jewish Students pointed to some of the challenges that being Jewish can present, but equally some of the fantastic work that Jewish students are leading.

    For example, their current campaigns around mental health, Holocaust memory, and Mitzvah Day are impressive. We talked about the requirement for the new Office for Students to have a better, more explicit anti-racist requirements for the institutions it is set to regulate, and the challenges posed by the government’s new approach to no platform and free speech.

    The openness of the Jewish community in the face of antisemitism, and its determination not to be defined by prejudice, was clear, especially sitting in another building which has transformed my own constituency, JW3.

    The glass panels at the front of the building and fairly open access embodies defiance in the face of a significant terror threat to the community.

    Our final stop was for lunch at a kosher restaurant where we enjoyed “speed-briefing” (like speed dating but without the romance) from experts at Kick It Out, Hope Not Hate and the Anne Frank Trust.

    Antisemitism is being reported on the terraces, is a feature of online hate, and exists in prisons, where the educational programming is nowhere near as coherent, advanced or considered as it should be.

    In closing the tour, the Antisemitism Policy Trust’s director Danny Stone set out some of the challenges that we, as parliamentarians, can seek to meet.

    The different strands of public life impacted by anti-Jewish hate are numerous. Our job, as parliamentarians is to ensure that our procedures, frameworks and structures for addressing that hate are effective and robust.

    Having seen and heard from experts about the impacts of antisemitism for the Jewish community, my colleagues and I are in a better position to speak about and look for solutions to the problems of anti-Jewish hatred.

    In the coming months, we’ll be working through the APPG Against Antisemitism to do just that.


    Tulip Siddiq is Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn