Last weekend I joined the march on the streets of Paris surrounded by placards saying: ‘je suis Juif’.
In the aftermath of one of the darkest moments in Europe in recent times, people of all ages and backgrounds came together to show solidarity with those who had suffered. In the face of those who tried to suppress our values, the voice of free speech responded ever louder.
The idea that the Jewish people once again feel unsafe in Europe is a truly sickening thought that strikes at the heart of everything we stand for. While the situation here in the UK is significantly better than in many other countries, we too have seen a completely unacceptable rise in antisemitism.
My message to the readers of the Jewish Chronicle is clear. We are going to take that spirit from the march in Paris and we are going to fight antisemitism with everything we have got. My policy is simple: zero-tolerance.
No exceptions and no excuses. So let me be clear: no disagreements on politics or policy will ever be allowed to justify racism, prejudice or extremism in our society. Over generations we have built something incredible in our country: a multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy – and we are not going to let antisemitism destroy it.
First, we are going to do everything possible to protect people. We have already protected police budgets for counter-terrorism and provided an additional £130 million for our agencies over the next two years following the increase to the UK threat level in August.
In addition, we have invested millions in protecting Jewish schools. And I was pleased to hear from the Jewish Leadership Council this week that the Community Security Trust has an excellent relationship with the police and that further work to protect vulnerable buildings is already underway.
But I want everyone in our Jewish community to know that if they want help or advice on security they should find an open door with the police.
Second, we need to deal with the causes of this security threat, not just its consequences. That means going after the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism that perverts the Islamic faith in an attempt to justify the most sickening barbarism and brutality.
As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it.
So to defeat this ideology we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism. That is why our Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill includes for the first time an obligation on all public bodies to play their part in tackling extremism that can lead to violence and terrorism.
It is why we have banned extremist preachers, increased the resources available for programmes that prevent radicalisation and why we are getting extremist material taken down from the internet.
Some may argue that this is not compatible with free speech. But I say we would not sit back and allow right-wing extremists or Nazis to recruit support in these ways. So we will not allow Islamist extremists this opportunity either.
Finally, I want us to do more to educate people in our country about fighting prejudice and hatred. That is one of the reasons why I set up the Holocaust Commission which will be reporting on Holocaust Memorial Day later this month.
I think it is vital that all our young people understand not just what happened in the Holocaust but also how it happened – and how the steps to prejudice and hatred led ordinary people to do the most extraordinarily awful things.
The Commission will ensure the memory and testimony of Holocaust survivors is faithfully preserved for ever – and that the lessons of the Holocaust can be learnt by young people in this country for generations to come.
Defeating the poisonous ideology of extremism will take patience and determination.
But I promise you this: together we will beat antisemitism and we will make sure this remains a country that the Jewish people in Britain are proud to call home.
Source: 14.01.2015, jc.com