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20 Jan 2011 : Column 366WH—continued

I also pay tribute to the fact that the debate, quite rightly, has been consensual. I am grateful to hon. Members for their contributions, which have shown a
20 Jan 2011 : Column 367WH
depth of knowledge, a passion and a deep interest in the subject. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) for his chairmanship of the all-party group against anti-Semitism. In particular-I pull out some of the points made during the debate-the hon. Gentleman drew attention to the international recognition of the work that the UK has done on this area and to the fact that we remain the leader in combating anti-Semitism. He also drew attention to the growing threat of internet hate. I have some personal experience of that, although not to the same degree as others. After my question to the Prime Minister about funding the restoration project at Auschwitz-Birkenau, I was denounced on an Aryan blog as a Jewish stooge, or a stooge of the Jewish community. I took it as something of a compliment that it had got under some people's skin. The big problem, of course, is that much internet hate is anonymous, which makes it particularly difficult to control and to combat. The hon. Gentleman also reiterated many of the ground-breaking initiatives that arose from his report.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) eloquently told us about the three levels of anti-Semitism, from dinner party anti-Semitism to the more aggressive desecration of graves and other physical attacks-what he called skinhead anti-Semitism. He also gave a passionate exposition of the threat of extreme Islamism, saying that it is not the same as Islam.

The right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr MacShane), who is not in his place, made a good and telling point about the inaction of university vice-chancellors, who seem willing to tackle the BNP but are not equally vigorous in attacking anti-Semitism.

The right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) gave a good description of the work of Thin End of the Wedge, an organisation in his constituency. He also made some good points about the educational deficit on other religions, particularly Judaism, in areas controlled by Hamas and Hezbollah.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) has a weakness for Tottenham Hotspur, but it is not the only football club with a Jewish following. In my constituency, the Finchley and Wingate football club began as a Jewish football club, and, of course, it plays on Sundays. My hon. Friend made the good point that tolerance for anti-Semitic remarks encourages and fuels extremist behaviour. We have to tackle both, rather than just tackling the more extreme end.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr Offord) made a good point, saying that anti-Semitism is rarely far from the surface. We know that anti-Semitism takes place in London, but we tend to live in a rather tolerant bubble. One has to travel only slightly further out from London to see anti-Semitism rather more in the raw. My hon. Friend rightly pointed out that anti-Semitic slurs are as likely to create a hostile environment as physical attacks.

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) made the strong point that Parliament stands as one on the subject. It is important that we parliamentarians do so not only at this time of year but throughout the year in everything that we do.

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My colleague and friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Mr Scott), who is not in his place, made one of the strongest contributions this afternoon. He has personal experience of being hated, not because of who he is, not because of what he does and not because of what he believes, but solely because of his religion. He spoke passionately. Those of us who are not Jewish simply cannot understand the feelings generated by such attacks. My hon. Friend bravely explained the impact on him when he went home. I pay tribute to the work that he does for all the communities in his constituency, and it is telling that the mosque stood alongside him after that physical and verbal attack.

I thank the Minister for the commitments that he made today. Those who serve on the all-party group will have noted them and will keep a watching brief. In particular, he assured us that he will be nudging the PPC about the internet working group, and that the cross-departmental working group has the internet and universities at the top of its agenda. He will also be considering the rules of electoral behaviour, and he will take steps to ensure that the Football Association responds to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw.

I am pleased to note that the Minister has confirmed that the Government's contribution to the Auschwitz-Birkenau restoration project will be "substantial". That word will be carefully noted and underlined. [Interruption.] I am sure that the Treasury will see these comments, but it will not damage the Minister's promotion prospects.

Lastly, I give credit to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck), the Opposition spokesman, for her support and for saying that cross-party consensus is very powerful on such key issues.

I reiterate one point. We talk about anti-Semitism, but it can sometimes be a nebulous concept. Those of us who are not Jewish sometimes fail to understand what it feels like. The community has to cope with convoluted attempts to undermine culture food by banning Shechita, and with the anti-Israel boycotts of food, academics and politicians. Those are bad enough individually, but combined they generate a negative atmosphere and a feeling of being not only under attack but under siege-of being demonised, de-legitimised and isolated. That is what anti-Semitism is about, and that of course is what we have to combat.

Finally, I pay tribute to the work of the Community Security Trust. Under the leadership of my good friends Gerald Ronson and Richard Benson, the CST does outstanding work. As the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) said, in conjunction with the Jewish leadership council it is embarking on an initiative to share that best practice of community protection with other faiths that are equally at threat.

It has been a thoughtful and passionate debate, Ms Clark, and I thank you for your chairmanship. I also thank my colleagues for their contributions.

Question put and agreed to.

5.27 pm

Sitting adjourned.

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