Yesterday I made a public statement regarding anti-Semitism at the Labour Conference in Brighton and Hove.
As a city, we have clear policies on equalities, discrimination and racism. It is my job as Leader of the City Council to speak out against racism, bigotry and prejudice in all its forms. I’ve done so when the far-right came here to march. I’ve done so when refugees faced abuse, when the Muslim community faced hostility in the wake of events elsewhere.
Whatever my views on conflicts elsewhere in the world, my firm belief is that those conflicts should not be played out by groups or individuals against communities in our city. We are a City of Sanctuary, where people from all backgrounds should live alongside each other, live and work together, without the wars and conflicts in countries they may have connections with coming into daily life here.
Our right to free speech is bounded by the rights of others not to have their daily life subject to intimidation and fear. People are of course free to criticize and protest against the actions of the Israeli Government. Jewish people here are no more responsible for those actions simply for being Jewish than Syrian people are responsible for Assad or Americans are for Trump. Women in headscarves shouldn’t face abuse because of IS. Men in yarmulkes shouldn’t face abuse because of Netanyahu.
Legitimate debate on the Israel/Palestine issue should not be stifled, but neither should that issue it be a justification for the demonisation of an entire group of people based on their ethnicity or religion. My statement was not about that conflict.
Nor was it about the Labour leadership. Jeremy Corbyn and the front bench have been clear on their condemnation of anti-Semitism: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/26/new-antisemitism-row-for-labour-over-fringe-speakers-holocaust-remarks-miko-peled?
Conference approved a rule change with the support of 96% of delegates to make anti-Semitic behaviour even more explicitly against the Party rules than it was previously. I’m calling for those rules to be enforced, so that we can welcome Conference back to Brighton and Hove again.
Anti-Semitism is racism. The Labour Party is an anti-racist Party. Brighton and Hove is a city where all should feel safe and secure. These are things which should not be in question.