29 Mar 2007 10:15 AM
Government outlines action to stamp out Antisemitism

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (062) issued by The Government News Network on 29 March 2007

Race and Faith Minister Phil Woolas today pledged to step up action to eradicate antisemitism in a report strongly condemning the increase in incidents in the UK. Today's response forms part of a comprehensive cross-government strategy to tackle faith and race hate crime.

The response to the all-party enquiry into antisemitism outlines new work to:

* improve recording and reporting of antisemitic incidents;
* review and strengthen the prosecution process;
* accelerate work to confront extremist groups who spread hate;
* promote community cohesion through education about different faiths;
* prevent any manifestation of racial or religious intolerance on university campuses.

Ministers recognise and share the Jewish community's concerns about a rise in antisemitism in the UK and across Europe, and are using this report to underline the importance of society coming together to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism. Measures outlined in the response are on top of legislation introduced since 1997 to protect people from discrimination on the basis of faith at work and in their day to day lives.

Phil Woolas said:

"We will not tolerate racially motivated crime of any kind. We share the concerns of Jewish communities, and fully support the police and prosecuting authorities in taking a tough line to stamp out antisemitism wherever it occurs.

"We have one of the strongest legal frameworks in the world to protect people from discrimination or persecution on the grounds of their faith or race, and this was strengthened by the introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act last year.

"The Government shares the Jewish community's concerns over recent manifestations of antisemitism. Apart from what may be criminal acts, I am concerned about the tone of the general discourse. Open and public debate is one thing, but rhetoric and an undercurrent of hate and racism is quite another. This is not acceptable.

"I believe local communities are at the heart of the battle to eliminate all forms of hate crime, and my department is driving this agenda forward by supporting local projects that tackle prejudice and discrimination. A local approach will help reach directly into communities and will bring people from different faiths and cultures together to understand their differences and celebrate their shared experiences.

"There is no room for complacency and we are committed to accelerating action to eliminate antisemitism alongside any other form of racism."

Commenting on the Government's response, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, John Mann said: "I am encouraged that the Government are taking the scourge of antisemitism seriously and I look forward to working with them to confront it head on. We must not allow this alarming rise in incidents and hostility to go unchecked."

The report published today outlines the following action points the Government is taking forward:

Improving the recording and reporting of antisemitic incidents

* The Home Office is now working with the police to identify, nationally, better and more consistent ways of collecting and managing data on hate crimes including antisemitic incidents and crimes. This should be in place by 2008-09.

* Local Crime and Disorder Partnerships are encouraged to make it easier for victims and witnesses to report hate crime. Home Office are piloting a 24-hour helpline to encourage people to report in the Yorkshire and Humberside region.

Increasing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system

* The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is looking at the reasons for antisemitic incidents not resulting in prosecution, and will examine incitement to racial hatred prosecutions. The CPS is currently working with criminal justice system partners on how best to take these recommendations forward.

Confronting the threat from extremist groups

* Communities and Local Government is working with local partners, providing them with support in tackling extremist messages of all kinds. This includes working with local government leadership on their communication strategies, myth busting, conflict resolution, and building relationships between communities that support the values of tolerance and multiculturalism.

Task force to tackle and prevent hate crime

* A cross-Government team is now working on tackling and preventing hate crime, including antisemitism, jointly chaired by the Home Office, and Communities and Local Government. The key objectives are to drive work to increase reporting, increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and other agencies in tackling hate crime, increase confidence in the ability of the Criminal Justice System, develop better use of intelligence and improve the data on the nature and extent of hate crimes. This team will also consider prevention and community activity.

Promoting community cohesion

* Communities and Local Government has two major funding streams that deal with hate crime and promoting good community relations. The £18m Connecting Community Plus grant scheme offers grants over a three year period to projects tackling racism and inequality. The £5m Faith Capacity Building Fund supports faith and interfaith organisations to strengthen their capacity to play a fuller part in civil society. It also supports inter faith activities, which bring together people from different faith groups to talk, network and learn from one another.

* Ruth Kelly has asked the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, an independent advisory group reporting in June 2007, to consider practical and local solutions to building shared values in communities, and to developing resilience to tensions within communities.

* The Government aims to ensure the establishment of interfaith forums in all English upper tier authorities. We are targeting support to local interfaith activity with the aim of tackling faith hate crime and creating trust and understanding between different faith groups.

* The Government is working with the Board of Deputies and Muslim groups to consider how best to improve Jewish-Muslim dialogue at national, regional and local levels. Communities and Local Government has supported a Rabbi/Imam event and the first national conference for Muslim and Jewish women.

Addressing inequalities

* A new single equalities body, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, will become operational in Autumn 2007. It will provide a powerful, authoritative, single voice on equality and human rights and play a legal role enforcing equalities legislation. The body will work to ensure that organisations and individuals have access to clear and understandable information in order to foster debate, tackle issues early and encourage a change of culture within institutions.

Education and school twinning

* Government has pledged £1.5 million to the Holocaust Educational Trust (established in 1988) to educate young people from every ethnic background about the Holocaust. The funding facilitates visits to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp for more than 6,000 students. The Government supports the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, with an annual grant of £500,000.

* New guidance for schools to promote community cohesion as a duty under the 2006 Education Act will recommend twinning as a way of promoting cross-cultural understanding. This will come into effect in September 2007.

Preventing racist incidents on university campuses

* A recent publication from the Department for Education and Skills, Guidance for Higher Education providers to help Tackle Violent Extremism in the name of Islam on Campus, provides universities and colleges with a practical tool to assist students and staff to increase community cohesion and tackle violent extremism on campuses.

Notes to Editors

1. The full Government response to the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into antisemitism can be read online at http://www.communities.gov.uk

2. The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into antisemitism was established in November 2005 to investigate the nature and extent of contemporary antisemitism and make recommendations about addressing this problem. A full copy of the report together with the hearing transcripts and a sample of written evidence received by the panel is available on request or online at: http://www.thepcaa.org.uk

3. The inquiry was conducted by a panel of 14 MPs, representing four different parties, and chaired by Rt Hon Dr Denis MacShane MP.

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