Secretary of State Sajid Javid and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and both spoke passionately about their support for the Jewish community during a packed day of Jewish advocacy in Parliament, organised by the Board of Deputies as part of the World Jewish Congress Executive.
At a reception at Speaker’s House, Speaker John Bercow, warned of the “pernicious and insidious” threat still lurking against Jews.
He said “we should not be paranoid but equally we should not be complacent. There is a threat to Jewish people and to Jewish security in this country and indeed in Europe and around the world.
Speaking with clear emotion he said: “the importance of Jewish history, of Jewish culture, Jewish identity and indeed of Jewish security both physical and political can scarcely be overstated.”
“The work you do is of an importance that cannot be exaggerated. I want you to know you have friends in Parliament here, and you certainly have a friend in this Speaker.”
The WJC delegation later heard from Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who delivered an impassioned speech saying that the government would always stand up for the Jewish community, and pledged ongoing support for Israel.
“Someone said we should apologise for the Declaration, to say it was an error of judgment. Of course that’s not going to happen,” he said. “To apologise for the Balfour Declaration would be to apologise for the existence of Israel and to question its right to exist.”
Mr Javid added: “Here in Britain we will not merely mark the centenary, we will celebrate it with pride.”
In a blistering attack on those who promote a boycott of Israel, Mr Javid said: “I’ll be 100 per cent clear. I do not support calls for a boycott, my party does not support calls for a boycott. For all its bluster, the BDS campaign is most notable I think, for its lack of success.
“Trade is booming, tourism is soaring. The media campaign is full of sound and fury, but to the majority of Britain today it signifies nothing.
“As long as I’m in government, as long as I’m in politics, I will do everything in my power to fight back against those who seek to undermine Israel.”
Balfour, Bias and Boycotts, was organised by the Board of Deputies, WJC and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev also addressed the group saying “for some people the Balfour Declaration is not something to celebrate. The Palestinian Prime Minister called for Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration, and the Palestinian Foreign Secretary put out a statement where he said he wants to take Britain to the international court if it doesn’t apologise.
“The British government has not accepted that opinion, and that is why they have invited my Prime Minister to come here to mark the centenary. Theresa May has said Britain is proud of the role it played in helping Israel to be recreated as a state.”
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s former Shadow Home Secretary who now chairs the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee, outlined what she said was the “hugely important” joint work being done by Jewish and Muslim groups to challenge hate crime. She praised the Board of Deputies and Tell Mama for their active work in tackling antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred together. She repeated previous calls for social media companies to do more to challenge and remove racist abuse on their platforms.
Wes Streeting, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews – to which the Board of Deputies provides the Secretariat – said the efforts of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement were “counter-productive” to the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and said he did not believe that was its intention. Instead, he said, the BDS campaign was part of the demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel.
Ambassador Ronald Lauder, President of the WJC, said the global Jewish community “treasured” Mr Javid as a staunch friend of the Jewish people. Mr Lauder said the Board had put on a “sensational, spectacular” event. This was the first time in 20 years that the WJC Executive had met in London, demonstrating the growing importance of the UK Jewish community, and the Board of Deputies in particular, on the international Jewish scene.
Jonathan Arkush, Board of Deputies President, told the group of around 100 delegates from countries including Russia, France, Israel and the United States that while we could not be complacent and there were challenges to confront, British Jews had a good life in the UK, with many friends across society and across all political parties.
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