Behind the headlines of the anti-Semitism report

The headlines from Sunday’s report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on anti-Semitism were eye catching and focused on Corbyn, Labour, Chakrabarti, NUS and the Lib Dems.

They are all key issues, but it has taken us three inquiries, several political figures suspended and thousands of column inches to get to this point.

Finally, the publishing of the Home Affairs Select Committee report into anti-Semitism gives us a road map to fight this discrimination in the future. The community will benefit from this independent, cross party group of MPs acknowledging that anti-Semitism is a unique problem which requires unique solutions.

Behind the headlines, one of the crucial recommendations on an issue which affects many of us personally is the rise of abuse on social media. Finally politicians are taking it seriously.

It is incredibly sad that it has taken until the publication of this report for Jeremy Corbyn to ‘write to both Twitter and Facebook to request urgent meetings to discuss tackling online abuse.’

The abuse is not a new thing. This is a longstanding issue where those who hold Jewish or pro-Israel views have been victims of vile, racist hate across social media platforms for years.

The media has also been very alive to this issue, giving it wide coverage, particularly earlier this year when thousands of abusive, racist tweets were aimed at Jewish MP’s Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger.

But still, nothing has changed.

The Committee made detailed recommendations especially for Twitter on how to be more proactive in cutting hate on the platform. Twitters response was to complain about not having spoken to the Committee. I am afraid they have no leg to stand upon.

If I were them, I would take these recommendations very seriously indeed.

It seems all too easy for perpetrators to hide behind screens, choosing in a cowardly fashion, to remain anonymous to abuse others. If someone walked down the street shouting anti-Semitic abuse at Jewish people, we expect the authorities to act.

However, if someone hurls abuse using social media, little is done – if anything, it opens the doors for others to join in, using hashtags for familiarity and remaining anonymous to protect themselves.

Moving forward, the report has drawn attention to the anti-Semitism experienced across social media platforms, and will hopefully pave the way for Twitter and Facebook to make changes to their policies.

The fact that this is a cross party report, adopted unanimously by the entire committee, shows the level of political will, from many across the spectrum, to move this debate on and properly tackle the issue.

We cannot tolerate a society where ‘one in every twenty people is openly anti-Semitic. Not only that, a survey of British Jewish people by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, published in 2014, found that a fifth of respondents had experienced at least one incident of anti-Semitic harassment during the previous 12 months.

This constant talk of anti-Semitism is not desirable for anyone. If the recommendations of this report are taken on, we have a chance of ensuring that we can continue to say that the UK is a great place in which to be Jewish, and where everyone can use social media platforms without being on the receiving end of vile, racist abuse.

About the Author
Simon Johnson is Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council.
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