May: You can be British, Jewish... and Zionist

CHIEF Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis chats with Prime Minister Theresa May before the UJIA dinner

By Paul Harris

PRIME Minister Theresa May insists there is no contradiction in being British, Jewish and Zionist.

"We must never let anyone try to suggest that there should be," she warned.

"Indeed, one of the most sickening aspects of the antisemitism that tries, abhorrently, to suggest Israel is a racist endeavour is that those voices seek to separate the Jewish diaspora in our country from their connection with Israel."

And she pledged to "stand by the Jewish community by rooting out the scourge of antisemitism".

Speaking at UJIA's annual dinner in London, she declared: "Antisemitism is just hatred and it is just wrong."

Declaring "Je suis Juif", Mrs May said she recognised that some British Jews were fearful of the future, but a poll suggesting many wanted to leave the country "sickened" her.

She went on: "I do not underestimate the threat posed by those who promote antisemitism or hatred in any form, nor the pernicious hatred of what those people say or what they stand for.

"But I do not believe that those voices speak for the vast, overwhelming majority of people in our country. Together we will defeat the scourge of antisemitism and hatred in all its forms and together we will support Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people."

And, she said, there was no better place to start than supporting the work of UJIA which gave young Jews the confidence to develop their connection to Israel.

In a swipe at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, she said: "You cannot claim to be tackling racism if you are not tackling antisemitism.

"And that mission begins by being clear about what antisemitism is."

That was, she said, why Britain was the first country in the world to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definiotion of antisemitism.

"Criticising the actions of Israel is never - and can never be - an excuse for questioning Israel's right to exist, any more than criticising Britain's actions could be an excuse for questioning our right to exist," added Mrs May.

"And criticising the government of Israel is never, and can never be, an excuse for hatred against the Jewish people, any more than criticising the British government would be an excuse for hatred against the British people."

In another oblique attack on Corbyn, she declared: "Nothing excuses antisemitism. Not comedy, not satire, not even irony."

There were no excuses for hatred towards Jews, she said. "No excuses means no excuses."

Mrs May continued: "We will not stop at calling out those who spread this hatred, whether against the Jewish community or any other racial or religious community in our country.

"We will record it and punish those responsible for it."

She went on: "I am not just proud to support Israel, I am proud of our role in the creation of Israel [via the Balfour Declaration]."

Mrs May said that post-Brexit she would seek "an ambitious free trade deal" between Israel and Britain which was already the Jewish state's second largest trading partner and the top destination for investment in Europe.

"We will always support Israel's right to defend itself," she pledged.

"There can never be any excuses for boycotts, divestment or sanctions. They are unacceptable and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to them."

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