Michael Gove has spoken about the “depressing scenes” of antisemitism at last week’s Labour Party conference.
In his speech to the 500 attendees at the Conservative Friends of Israel reception at the Conservative Party conference on Monday night, he asked: “Why is it that on every occasion when Jeremy Corbyn has had the chance to choose between the death-squad and the democrats, that he has declined to stand with the democrat? Why is it that he calls Hamas and Hezbollah his friends?”
Mr Gove, MP for Surrey Heath, said Labour Party figures such as Joan Ryan and Ian Austin needed praise for doing a “fantastic job in standing up for Jewish people’s right to self-determination.”
He told the delegates, which included government ministers and more than 50 MPs, that they needed to “salute and celebrate, and extend our hand in friendship towards them”.
The Environment Secretary went on: “There has never been a moment in the nation [Israel]’s history where the CFI has been a more important organisation”.
He praised Israel for its “amazing” achievements since the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago.
Mr Gove said: “The desert has bloomed. Israel has become an economic and a technological powerhouse. It has also been one of our principle allies and a stalwart friend in the fight against extremism.
“All of us who believe that the human spirit given a chance to grow can achieve amazing things can look at Israel and see that it is truly a miraculous nation and a light unto the world”.
He also issued a warning about the rise in antisemitism: “If we have learned anything we have learnt one thing, which is that when there is prejudice and hatred directed towards the Jewish people darker times will follow.”
Also at the event was Stephen Crabb MP, CFI’s new parliamentary chairman.
Mr Crabb praised his predecessor Sir Eric Pickles for his dedication to fighting antisemitism and promoting holocaust education: “What Eric has done over many years in Parliament is a massive credit to him. He’s done a fantastic job. Eric, it is a huge privilege and honour to fill your large shoes in this new role.”
Sir Eric also talked about his “genuine sadness at the rise in antisemitism” in the Labour Party. He said: “Normally I would be delighted to see the Labour Party in disarray. Normally I would be delighted to see the Labour Party behaving in a disreputable manner. But I have to tell you in all seriousness, I am genuinely saddened by the rise in antisemitism.
“And I pledge to do everything in our power to work with people of goodwill, with moderate Labour MPs, to work to stamp out antisemitism in one of the major political parties of this country”.
Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, thanked the attendees for showing support to Israel.
“It is a pleasure to be back at Conservative Party Conference in the company of so many Conservative friends of Israel.
“Seeing you all here tonight gives me confidence that the Israel-UK partnership will continue to grow because I see you all here committed to the friendship between our two democracies”.