Priti Patel says she 'understands' Covid-19 restrictions are 'difficult and challenging' for community over High Holy Days

Home Secretary praises response of 'Jewish community' to new government measures in online discussion with Board of Deputies


Home Secretary Priti Patel has said she does "completely understand" that measures put in place by the Government to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 will be "difficult and challenging" for the entire community over Rosh Hashanah and the rest of the High Holy Days.

Ms Patel said she accepted that "personal freedoms and liberties" were being restricted - but she added it was "important" to recognise "we can still celebrate festivals, holidays - and also community well-being and practices by just being very conscientious."

The Tory minister added: “I know within the Jewish community you have been doing that in terms of protecting households and using online worship - I've seen that in my own Hindu community."

Ms Patel also praised the "good guidance" that she said had been offered by synagogues over coronavirus prevention measures which were "more positive in what we can do rather than can't do.... absolutely still encouraging coming together which I think matters a great deal,  not just for the Jewish community,  but for all."

The home secretary said she was "saddened and sorry" to say that we are "seeing Covid increase in terms of spread of the disease and with infection rates as well."

She also defended restrictions of gatherings of more than six people saying it was "right we have a plan as a government to control this virus."

"I guess at this time, the Jewish New Year, that will be difficult and challenging obviously, I completely understand that," she said.

During the online interview with Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and chief executive Gillian Merron on Tuesday evening, Ms Patel was also asked about the government's attempts to tackle online hate and the forthcoming Online Harms Bill.

She said she found online hate a "repulsive area" explaining she recognised "offended taking place" which went beyond the instances of online trolling and harassment that she said we have unfortunately become accustomed to.

Ms Patel said we were now witnessing instances online of "targeted malicious hate" including cases involving antisemitism.

She also criticised those social media firms who she said "pay lip service" to the problem but were actually "not doing enough."

As a victim of online attacks herself, Ms Patel added; "I've seen that - anyone on the receiving end understands that."

But pointedly the home secretary avoided confirming that the government supported the Board, and other groups call for the social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism to try to tackle online hate.

Elsewhere in the discussion Ms Patel said she had inherited the "appalling legacy" of racism directed at the Windrush Generation of Black immigrants into this country.

Asked about the right of child refugees to enter the UK she said she recognised the UK's "proud tradition" in this respect. She defended the continued spending of foreign aid around the world having travelled to refugee camps herself as International Development Secretary  and recognising it was "right we do."

But Ms Patel said she was unapologetic about taking on the people smugglers - and she also criticised those who arrive on our shores as asylum seekers - but who have travelled through other EU states to get her.

Asked about the language used by the government when discussing immigration, Ms Patel said: “People write to me every day about illegal immigrants with language that is deeply hostile and emotive. 

"If we as a government have the right type of policies.... we can bring the British public with us to engage in a much more positive way."

Ms Patel also hit out at the lawyers who "when it comes to removing violent offenders and people who have done great harm" spend their time "trying to frustrate the deportation of many individuals."


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