Rishi Sunak 'slams' despicable rise in anti-Semitism in UK ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day

25 January 2024, 08:06 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 08:43

Rishi Sunak has condemned a rise in anti-Semitism
Rishi Sunak has condemned a rise in anti-Semitism. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Rishi Sunak has condemned a "despicable" rise in anti-Semitism in the UK in a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day.

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He said it was "sickening" that Jewish people have been subjected to more racism again, amid Israel's war with Hamas.

Anti-Semitism has risen sharply in the UK since the October 7 attacks on southern Israel that left 1,200 dead and 240 in captivity, as well as the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza that has killed around 25,000.

Recent incidents include a mob of thugs attacking three Jewish people in central London's Leicester Square on Saturday, after they were heard speaking Hebrew.

Mr Sunak said in a video: "I want to address very directly the despicable resurgence of antisemitism. Because it is not enough to come together today and faithfully remember the Holocaust.

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"We must also act on what that memory teaches us.

"It is sickening that Jewish people are once again facing the most abhorrent antisemitism in this country, in this century.

As prime minister, my message is clear: We're not going to cower away and accept it, not on my watch.

"We will do whatever it takes to keep our Jewish community safe, but more than that, we will be far bolder and more assertive in defending our liberal values and our way of life, we'll end the passive tolerance of words and actions that will go against everything we stand for, and we'll tackle the root cause of this hatred with the most ambitious national effort to educate future generations."

The Prime Minister was speaking at a Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) ceremony on Wednesday, where survivors of genocide called for empathy and understanding between different groups.

A march against anti-Semitism in London
A march against anti-Semitism in London. Picture: Alamy

The central London event commemorated 79 years since the Holocaust, and 30 years since the Rwandan genocide.

Laura Marks, the head of the HMD Trust, saying she was "appalled" by Hamas' attacks on Israel on October 7, adding that the "subsequent war in Gaza has caused immense civilian suffering".

She added: "The very fabric of our world feels fragile," she said.

Ms Marks said it was her "sincere hope" that HMD "can breach divisions and bring people together no matter what race, religion or ethnicity".

Vera Schaufeld, a Holocaust survivor, and Antoinette Mutabazi, who lived through the Rwandan genocide, said that it was more important than ever to speak out against intolerance.

Holocaust Memorial Day event
Holocaust Memorial Day event. Picture: Getty

Ms Schaufeld, 93, said: "Especially as the present situation is giving rise to more antisemitism and I feel this is something that we thought didn't exist, and it suddenly seems to be more prevalent, especially among young people and students, and I find that really, really awful.

"And I think there's anti-Muslim feeling as well and I think it just has to stop existing and we have to be a civilised people who can live together and respect each other from whatever communities."

Ms Mutabazi, 41, said: "It's more important as ever to be able to commemorate the Holocaust, because it brings people together and we all need to be able to value individuals for who they are, not discriminate."