Robert Jenrick has condemned a “deeply disturbing upsurge in antisemitism” in recent years and said the government will name and shame local authorities that have failed to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of the problem.
The communities secretary criticised incidents over the weekend in which a rabbi was beaten up outside his synagogue in Chigwell, Essex, and occupants of a convoy of cars in north London allegedly shouted antisemitic abuse.
Jenrick said the government would take “robust action” to root out antisemitism, pointing out that it had been an early adopter of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. He said he would be writing to other authorities to do the same.
“Nearly three-quarters of local councils have adopted it. I have written to councils and universities, who are still dragging their feet. They will shortly be named and shamed if they fail to act. All bar one member of parliament has signed up to it,” Jenrick told MPs.
He said the government was doing its “utmost to keep the Jewish community safe through the £65m protective security grant to protect Jewish schools, synagogues and community buildings, and working closely with the Community Security Trust (CST) to ensure victims come forward and report attacks”.
Jenrick said the CST, a charity providing security and advice to Jewish people in Britain, had reported a 320% increase in antisemitic incidents in a week. It said there had also been a spate of antisemitic messages directed at university Jewish societies and their members on social media or messaging apps.
Dave Rich, director of policy at the CST, said: “We had several antisemitic incidents reported to us from Jewish school students and staff who have been abused or harassed in the past week. Some of these have involved explicitly antisemitic language or Nazi salutes; other incidents have involved shouting pro-Palestine slogans at them because they are Jewish.”
Rich added: “We’ve also had incidents reported to us of Jewish school students being targeted with similar abuse on their way to or from school. In one case in London, a man stopped a Jewish secondary school student in the street and threatened to punch them unless they said they supported Palestine. He then said: ‘Tell your fucking mum and dad they are murderers and killing babies.’”
On security, the CST said: “We are always assessing our security operations across the Jewish community, including schools, to ensure the appropriate levels are in place. Clearly, the ongoing rise in antisemitic incidents is very much part of our operational planning and will remain so until the situation changes. Today and tomorrow Jewish schools are closed for the Jewish festival of Shavuot, whereas synagogues are open and busier than usual with festival services.”
The attacks over the last few days have been widely condemned by all political parties in parliament. Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, described the incident in north London as “vile antisemitism and sickening, threatening misogyny”. He condemned the minority of people “attempting to whip up hatred between communities”, adding there had also been a surge in Islamophobic attacks.
In response, Jenrick said: “The whole of the House of Commons is united. Whatever your views are on the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, that is no excuse whatsoever for the kind of antisemitic abuse or indeed anti-Muslim hatred that we are seeing on our streets right now.
“Tell Mama, who report on the number of anti-Muslim incidents, have also informed us that there has been a rise in incidents directed against the Muslim community in recent days, and in both respects they are unacceptable and need to be tackled.”