Today Brighton and Hove City Council votes on adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. There will be no debate from the floor. Had members been given the opportunity to speak, this is what I would have said:
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank wrote: “What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it from happening again.”
The mission of the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance is to prevent that genocide from happening again; it should be our mission too.
No form of racism is acceptable, can be acceptable. An anti-racist cannot pick and choose what kind of racism they speak out against, or who they hold to account.
Too often in recent times have we heard those tropes, thought consigned to history, voiced again. From Moscow to Washington to Budapest and here. Tropes like “the Jewish lobby control the media, the Jewish financiers run global capitalism, our politicians are in the pay of Israel” and more. And once more the Jewish people are held as scapegoats and a distraction by those who seek to impose their will and influence at home and internationally.
As Leader of this council Madam Mayor I spoke out against racism towards Muslims, towards asylum seekers, towards our BAME communities. A year ago I spoke out against the insidious, racist and anti-Semitic act of Holocaust denial when it took place in this city. I knew, because of the context of where and when those remarks were made, what the likely consequences would be. I’d do it again, without hesitation. I would have no choice.
History teaches us that if we allow the racism, the pernicious evil of antisemitism to pass unchallenged, the Jewish community stands at risk. But they are not alone. All of us are infected by this poison. Our democracy, our humanity and our fundamental values are in danger if we do not stand by them, if we do not speak up.
Now, more than at any time since Anne Frank wrote those words, here and around the world, anti-Semitism is a clear and present danger to the Jewish community and to us all, which is why we must unite today behind this definition, as dozens of other councils have, and send the clearest possible message that we, as the elected representatives of Brighton and Hove, of our city’s Jewish community, stand behind the values and principles we hold to across party divides, principles fundamental to the rights we share.
May the memories of all who were murdered in the Holocaust be a blessing, may their voices speak to us now, saying;
Remember us. Stand together. Say as one, never again. Never again.