MPs condemn antisemitism and fake news in Holocaust Memorial Day debate

Politicians also paid tribute to survivor Zigi Shipper, who died earlier this month


Members of Parliament have condemned rising antisemitism and Shoah misinformation during the annual House of Commons Holocaust Memorial Day debate.

Politicians paid tributes to survivor Zigi Shipper, who died earlier this month, shared stories of relatives murdered by the Nazis, and insisted Britain ought never to forget the Holocaust.

Opening the debate, former Chancellor Sajid Javid said it was an honour to be the first Muslim to lead the annual event and that he “could not think of a more important issue to speak on.”

“Genocide is a dark stain on the conscience on humanity,” he told the House.

“After the Holocaust we vowed never again… it shows the disease of hatred lives on, though these dark stains can never be washed out it is our duty in this house to shine a light on them.”

Mr Javid said he was glad to have invited the “late and great” Mr Shipper to dinner in Downing Street while he was Chancellor.

When leaving, Mr Javid said, the elderly survivor turned to his wife and jokingly asked: “what are you doing with that rogue when you could be with me instead?”

Referencing this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme of “ordinary people,” Mr Javid said it was important to remember crimes against humanity were “committed by and committed to ordinary people.”

The former home secretary condemned “misinformation and conspiracy theories” and the abuse of the Star of David by anti-vaccine activists.

“It angers me that any member of this house would seek to connect the Holocaust with UK public policy,” he added

Mr Javid also addressed rising digital abuse, condemning: “the role of the online world in spreading this hate… every day in the UK 1300 explicitly antisemitic tweets are posted, some to members of this house. 

“No wonder many UK Jews are becoming increasingly frustrated at the words of condemnation alone when it seems too often that the perpetrators of this hate do not receive the punishment [they deserve].”

Stephen Crabb hailed “incredibly moving testimony” given by survivor Manfred Goldberg.

“What came across for me from his speech was his extraordinary spirit, his capacity to hope and to survive and his capacity like many of the survivors we’ve met to look back not with any bitterness not with any bitterness but to look back with grace and forgiveness,” he said.

“Our responsibility,” he continued, “is to ensure [Holocaust remembrance] is not just a one day affair.”

The Conservative Friends of Israel Parliamentary Chairman urged the government to press ahead with legislation to “clamp down” on the “divisive” anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The Prime Minister ought also press ahead with the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre and ensure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, he added.

Charlotte Nichols expressed concern that the Holocaust is “rapidly fading” from living memory.

“The testimony of survivors… is an important part of our collective memory but the survivors cannot be expected to bear this responsibility themselves and to bear this burden alone,” she said.

The Jewish MP also told the House: “The Jewish concept of remembering is not passive but rather active. 

“We tell the exodus story to our children and we reexperience it and understand it through the elaborate rituals of the Pesach seder… To truly remember is to act. This is as true for the story of the exodus as it is for the stories of the genocide we come together to commemorate today.”

Paying tribute to the “thriving” Jewish community in the greater Manchester region, Steve McCabe said: “Despite its grotesque scale the Holocaust failed. The Holocaust failed.”

“Since 1945 Jewish people have survived and thrived in Israel, the region’s only democratic state. 

“So I say let’s continue to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, let’s continue to be active and vigilant in the face of antisemitism and robust in our challenge to those who seek to destroy Israel or challenge its right to exist”

But, he added, the Jewish community in Manchester face “appalling hate crimes both in person and online.”

“It is clear social media and tech giants must go further and do a lot more to ensure this issue is controlled,” he added. “Bigotry is still bigotry even if it is typed.”

Quoting Anne Frank, Mr Javid said: “She wrote ‘in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart’.  

“The world is a complex and often unjust place but if we can embody the spirit behind those words and work towards the common good then the steady ship of progress will never veer far from its cause. 

“So let us stand together and reaffirm our spirit to fight for the common good, to shine a light on evil wherever it is found and never, never forget the victims of persecution.”

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