In Brief

Rising anti-Semitism in Europe 'cannot be ignored'

Michael Gove urges British people to speak out against wave of anti-Jewish sentiment sweeping the continent

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Anti-Semitism is a 'virus' spreading across Europe that Britain cannot afford to ignore, Michael Gove has said in his first speech since taking up his new post as Conservative chief whip.

Violent attacks on Jews are on the rise across the continent, he warned, and Britain must not assume that it is immune to the surge in anti-Jewish sentiment.

"Today, across Europe, there has been a revival of anti-Semitism which the enormity of the Holocaust should have rendered forever unthinkable," said the former Education Secretary in an address to the Holocaust Educational Trust. 

"The virus is spreading across other European nations," Gove said. "We must all remember where this leads, now more than ever. And we must not think that Britain, gentle, tolerant, civilised Britain, is immune."

The Community Security Trust, an organisation which monitors anti-Semitism in the UK, has recorded a five-fold increase in reports of anti-Jewish hate incidents in the past two years.

According to The Guardian, the recent conflict in Gaza has breathed "new life into some very old, and very ugly, demons".

In France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, Jewish communities have reported an escalation of threats, protests and violence against Jews.

"These are the worst times since the Nazi era," Dieter Graumann, president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, told the Guardian. "On the streets, you hear things like 'the Jews should be gassed', 'the Jews should be burned' – we haven't had that in Germany for decades. Anyone saying those slogans isn't criticising Israeli politics, it's just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else. And it's not just a German phenomenon. It's an outbreak of hatred against Jews so intense that it's very clear indeed."

Studies across the EU support Graumann's view. A 2012 survey of 6,000 Jews in eight European countries by the European Union's Agency for Fundamental Rights found that 66 per cent of respondents believed that anti-Semitism in Europe was on the rise and 76 per cent said anti-Semitism had increased in their own country in the past five years.

Gove was particularly damning of a theatre in north London that said it would cancel a Jewish film festival that was part funded by the Israeli embassy, The Times says. He also criticised a supermarket that had removed Kosher products from its shelves as a Gaza protest passed by.

"We need to speak out against this prejudice," he said. "We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past ended with a campaign against Jewish lives. We need to spell out that this sort of prejudice starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. We need to stand united against hate."

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