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MP of the day - John Hayes for standing up to anti-Semitism

John_hayes_3The estimable John Hayes (Shadow Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education) spoke yesterday to a lobby group from the Union of Jewish Students, who were in Parliament to express their concern about anti-Semitism.

Mr Hayes has made his (outstanding) speech available to ConservativeHome, and I have decided to publish it in full.

"University campuses are where the future is made.

The space where ideas take ground, flourish and are subjected to the rigour of academic scrutiny

Many of the people who will go on to shape society form their views and identities at University

Indeed, higher education is where the very nature of that society is questioned: where changes for the better are devised and refined.

Universities are the crucible of learning, fed by the power of ideas.

But not all ideas are good ideas, however seductive they seem.

It is the poisonous inheritance of moral relativism that we have lost our appreciation of absolutes.

So, often, we fail to recognise and speak out against ideas that are absolutely wicked.

We must face the fact that, as the Social Affairs Unit recently revealed, University campuses are "increasingly - if inadvertently - playing host to extremist groups"

These groups spring from across the political spectrum.

Disparate zealots from Hizb-ut-Tahrir to the BNP are united by common hatreds,

In particular a virulently expressed anti-Semitism - hardened by reaction to events in Gaza - disgusts me

Let me be unequivocal about this. There can be no compromise with these forms of wickedness and absolutely no excuses.

It is sickening to see, once again, the rise of this most insidious of hatreds.

It is a cancer that has infected society throughout time, and one that must be excised.

The spiteful bile that extremists spew has absolutely no place on University campuses.

For no form of baseless hatred, whether it be in the form of Islamism or Nazism, has ever had worth.

As the great pianist Daniel Barenboim said - "anti-Semitism has no historical, political and certainly no philosophical origin. It is simply a disease"

We know that this disease is steadily growing again.

And, frankly, the bourgeoisie liberal apologists for those who attack the very existence of the state of Israel give this extremism succour.

From the 27th December alone, there have been 220 anti-Semitic attacks across the UK.

And many of you here may be feeling increasingly intimidated and threatened, by dint of your faith, in the sanctity of your universities.

I have heard worrying accounts about students feeling unable to wear their kippah and express their identities in public for fear of attack.

I am appalled by these accounts, and the reports of incidences of racist language on pro-Palestine marches.

Please do not conceal your identity, or your religion, for then we have let the extremists win.

Stand tall, stand proud.

It is my pledge, that while we must not stifle academic debate

Neither should we let this form of despicable evil fester unchecked.

We simply cannot afford to have our Univerisities, the very spaces in which ideas mix so freely corrupted by ideologies rooted in hatred.

Instead we must strive to vanquish any and all forms of bigotry

With the knowledge that what we do now will be inscribed on the future

If we let seeds of hatred germinate, so will they grow, until we reap a bitter harvest of division and destruction,

Of new intimidation, and then isolation

And of the erosion of the social cohesion, the social justice we surely crave.

These seeds of hatred will only grow where we do not act

So I urge the Union of Jewish Students to continue acting in the dignified, measured manner which today's lobby has been conducted.

And I call on the Government to recognise the urgency of this threat and to counter it with speed and vigour.

As a first step, ministers should follow the recommendation of the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-Semitism by setting up a working group on anti-Semitism in HE.

I would be failing in my duty if I were to be equivocal about this bigotry. We cannot; we must not allow it to grow unchecked.

There must be a unity of purpose amongst political parties.

I will stand with the Union of Jewish Students, the NUS, and parliamentarians of all colours in the stuggle against anti-Semitism."

The phenomena that Mr Hayes describes are all too real. Recent horrors include an arson attack on a north London synagogue, obscene graffiti, and hateful messages being sent to community leaders. Israel has been likened to Nazi Germany.

There have been protests about what is going on in Gaza on university campuses throughout the UK. One of the unwelcome aspects of these has been the readiness of some students to blame everything on Israel and - as Mr Hayes highlighted - deny the country's right to exist.

Protestors might like to reflect on the fact that Israel is six decades old, and thus several generations have been born Israeli. Why is their country any less entitled to international recognition than the many nations that have been founded after Israel (or indeed those founded before)?

Israel withdrew from Gaza, and has been subjected to a barrage of rocket attacks. Whatever the merits of Israel's response, their action is not capricious or unprovoked.

Above all, we should remember that it is unspeakable to attack an individual on the grounds of their nationality or faith. Few of us would molest or verbally assault someone because they were German, South African or Zimbabwean, even if we disapproved of things that have been done by their governments. Israeli and Jewish people should be no exception.

Mr Hayes is to be highly praised for his steadfast support for basic human decency.

Tom Greeves


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