Anti-Semitism debate

A general debate on anti-semitism was held in the Commons yesterday (17th April), to which Catherine had hoped to contribute but was not able to do so as a result of the large number of other colleagues who want to speak in the time available. This is the speech Catherine would have made:

‘In January, along with other hon. Members, I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment again.

Reaffirming my commitment to remembering those who were murdered during the Holocaust – and to working to ensure that ‘learning the lessons of history’ is more than just an often over-used slogan.

I also met with Newcastle College staff and students ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, to share with them the vital work of the Holocaust Educational Trust – and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum – in commemorating and personalising the people who died there.

Because my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2016, along with 200 school students from the North East, drove home to me one of the most important lessons to be learnt from one of the very darkest periods in human history: that seeking to differentiate and then dehumanise others is how the process of genocide starts.  

That every one of those murdered by the Nazis, and in subsequent genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan and Serbia was a human being with family, friends, a personality and a past, as well as hopes and dreams for the future – who has since become a number.

And in the words of HET’s Chief Executive, Karen Pollock:

‘The Holocaust did not start in the gas chambers but with hate-filled words.’

Historians have sought for decades to explain how the atrocities committed by the Nazis could ever have happened.

History students ask themselves – what would I have done in those circumstances, had I been there at the time?

Would I have stood up for those being targeted and discriminated against, to try and stop it from taking place?

Would I have spoken out, given the risks that would have clearly entailed?

We all like to think that we would have been brave enough to do so; that we wouldn’t have stood by and let what happened unfold.  

My conclusion, if there is one lesson to be learnt from history, is surely that remaining silent in the face of prejudice and hatred as it unfolds, emboldens those who perpetrate it, and allows the poison to spread.

We can choose to keep quiet – or we can each make a difference – even if to just one person’s life – by refusing to accept it and by supporting those affected.

Which is why I find insinuations about my motivations for raising concerns about anti-semitism, and any failure to tackle it, both deeply insulting and troubling.

As a Labour MP, I have the right to state that my party is nothing if it cannot stand up against discrimination and racism in all of its ugly forms – without my integrity being called into question.

Because signing a Book of Commitment, tabling Early Day Motions, speaking at events and indeed visiting Auschwitz only has worth if I am then prepared to put my words into action, and to never just walk on by.’