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TUESDAY  29  JULY  2014   [ The House of Lords will be in recess from Wed 30 July-Mon 13 October ]

1. Anti-Semitism: Europe and the UK – Question asked by Lord Leigh of Hurley:

– Lord Leigh: We are all aware of the conflict in Gaza and the terrible loss of life as a result, but does the Minister agree that “it is unacceptable that many opt to use this conflict, instigated by Israel’s need to protect its citizens from lethal rockets, as a pretext for anti-Semitic prejudice, sometimes through the veneer of anti-Zionism by placards and rants in our own high streets, including the recent Mirror article which compared Gaza to a concentration camp?”

– Lord Ahmad: “As a Government we are, of course, deeply concerned about the continuing violence in Gaza and Israel, and we have called repeatedly on both sides to de-escalate and work towards a lasting peace. The Israeli people have a right to live without constant fear for their security, but, equally, Gazans also have a right to live with dignity and peace, and we are deeply concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

– Baroness Ramsay: “Would the Minister join me in welcoming a very helpful statement from the Muslim Council of Britain two weeks ago, the concluding words of which were: “We must not let conflicts abroad cause relations to break here in the UK. Jewish and Muslim communities have enjoyed good relations in the UK, and it is vital that is maintained”?” [extract]

– Lord Ahmad: “The Government are working on the ground with people of all faiths and communities. We have invested £8.2 million in the Church Urban Fund’s Near Neighbours scheme; we have invested £1.8 million on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust; and, more recently, noble Lords will know that we have also launched the Remembering Srebrenica campaign, which recalls the Srebrenica genocide that took place on European soil not so long ago.” [extract]

– Lord Wright: Does the Minister accept that “much anti-Semitism is a reaction to the appalling Israeli treatment of its Arab neighbours in Gaza, Jerusalem and on the West Bank? [shouts of “No!” from the benches] Is not the best action that the Government can take to avert such activity to show not only that they deplore such actions as the constant growth of Israeli settlements and the disproportionate reaction of the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza but that they are prepared, with our European allies, to take effective steps to stop them?”

– Lord Ahmad: “When it comes to conflict in the Middle East, the UK has three clear objectives: first, to secure a ceasefire; secondly, to alleviate humanitarian suffering; and thirdly, and most important, to keep alive the prospects for peace negotiations—I am sure that all noble Lords adhere to that. They are the only hope of breaking the cycle of violence and devastation once and for all. I can assure the noble Lord that the UK is working closely with the US and European allies in encouraging both sides back to dialogue, supporting the Palestinian Authority and keeping pressure on Hamas and other extremists—and also, most importantly, alleviating the humanitarian consequences of this tragic conflict.”

– Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: “At demonstrations in London, anti-Semitic and pro-Hezbollah banners and placards have been freely displayed, with slogans such as, “Hitler was right”. What steps are Her Majesty’s Government taking to ban the use of pro-terror and racist placards at such demonstrations?”

– Lord Ahmad: “Comparisons between the conflict taking place and reviving memories of the tragedy and disgust we all had for the terrible events of the Holocaust have no place in the protests. I am sure that I speak for all Muslims—indeed, for all Palestinians and for all people with sensible thoughts about resolving this conflict.”  [extract]

– Lord Winston: “Can we hear the Minister’s reaction to the idea that anti-Semitism in Europe is a reaction to what is happening in Israel and Palestine—much as we regret that?”  [extract]

– Lord Ahmad: “As to what is happening in Israel and Gaza, we all deplore the loss of civilian life, the tragedy and the humanitarian crisis taking place on the ground. Let me be absolutely clear and perhaps put it into context as a Muslim. The Islamic faith is clear: in such situations you shall protect churches, cloisters, synagogues and all innocent life. That is the kind of message that needs to resonate, not just in this House but throughout the country.”

– Baroness Deech: “Unfortunately, politicians have been in the forefront of making this link between Gaza, anti-Semitism, Hitler and all the rest of it. Will the noble Lord remind the House that the politicians should take the lead in calming down feelings, and that the police should be encouraged to prosecute where appropriate?” [extract]

– Lord Ahmad: “I am sure that we all recognise that we live in a multi-religious society, and it is entirely appropriate that the House takes this opportunity to wish the Muslim community a very happy Eid Mubarak.”


Hansard video: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=15797&wfs=true&player=smooth

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