UK’s Robert Jenrick: Gov’t to take strong action against BDS

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Protesters hold placards and flags during a demonstration, organised by the British Board of Jewish Deputies for those who oppose antisemitism, in Parliament Square in London (photo credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)

Next week, Jenrick will travel to Jerusalem together with Prince Charles to attend the Holocaust ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The new British government led by Boris Johnson is insisting that local councils and universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, and if they refuse, it will consider holding back funding, a top cabinet minister told The Jerusalem Post. Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, said this week that the adoption of the IHRA definition is important in order to get local councils to stop from engaging in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, and would give universities the ability to take disciplinary action against students and professors when engaging in antisemitism.

The IHRA definition was written in 2016 and has since been adopted by the UK government. It states, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

“We want to send the strongest possible signal, as a government, to the people of Israel and to the Jewish community all over the world, of our complete commitment to fighting antisemitism and ensuring that we never forget the Holocaust,” Jenrick told the Post.

Next week, Jenrick will travel to Jerusalem together with Prince Charles to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.Jenrick is said to be a rising star in the Conservative Party and is close to Johnson, who asked him to represent the government at the Jerusalem event. His wife, Michal Berkner, was born in Israel and the couple has three young children.

Jenrick said that while it was a relief that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn lost the recent election there is still a lot the UK needs to do to curb the rise in antisemitism.“Antisemitism is the world’s oldest form of hatred,” he said. “Sadly, I’m sure it’s existed throughout my lifetime in the UK. But it’s clearly risen in prominence, and I think some political leaders we’ve had in recent years like Jeremy Corbyn, have, whether purposefully or inadvertently, given license to antisemites to speak up in a way that I think they just didn’t have the confidence to do [so] previously.”According to Jenrick, the government is working to pass a new anti-BDS law that will make the anti-Israel movement illegal in the UK. Prominent Israelis, he said, should have every right to speak on campuses, and local councils will need to stay away from matters of foreign policy if they want to keep receiving government funding.“It will be explicitly against the law for public bodies like councils to dabble in foreign policy or to pursue BDS policies against the state of Israel,” he said.

 Jenrick said that his children attend a Jewish Sunday school in London and that he has been deeply troubled by sights of parents wearing stab-proof vests when providing security on a rotating basis.“The UK is one of the world’s most successfully integrated countries and there’s no community that’s better integrated in the UK than the Jewish population,” he said. “To me, as somebody who isn’t Jewish, it has been very shocking to see some of the attacks that they’ve experienced in recent years and the genuine sincere concern that some parts of the Jewish community have felt in recent years.”This need for security, he said, is “alien to the way of life in this country.”“I think the lived experiences of the Jewish community in this country in recent years is a real cause for concern, and we have to address that. I don’t want to live in a country where people are having to wear stab-proof vests,” he said.

During his visit to Jerusalem, Jenrick will also hold talks with staff at Yad Vashem, which is helping his office with the establishment of a new national Holocaust memorial and learning center beside the Palace of Westminster.“It will be a memorial with a particularly British flavor,” he said. “It will tell the story of the successes like the Kindertransport but also the failures of Britain during that period. The missed opportunities to do more, to take more refugees during that period. It will be an entirely unvarnished memorial about both the Holocaust and the British experience and contribution.”

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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