Jewish community feels under attack, says peer

The Jewish community in the UK feels under "constant attack", a Labour peer warned today.

Lord Mitchell praised the multi-cultural nature of London but pointed to rising incidents of anti-Semitism.

Stickers such as "death to Jews" had been displayed at some of the UK's leading university campuses and had been "slow to be removed", he said.

He told peers in a debate on tolerance in British society that universities had a "duty of care to all students and in many cases they are slow to uphold this duty", citing free speech as the reason for not interfering.

Lord Mitchell said: "It may well come as a shock that the Jewish community in this country feels under constant attack.

"I don't want to overstate the case but many Jewish friends have said to me that they felt more frightened, more threatened, than at any time in their lives.

"Incidents of anti-Semitic attacks are up, some are physical, some are verbal. The trend is rising."

Attacks go up when there are conflicts in the Middle East because Jews are held by some to be supporters of the "more extreme elements in Israel", he said.

All synagogues have constant security patrols and most Jewish social events have trained security personnel "prominently watching and checking", he said.

But he praised London for becoming "truly the city of the world" and pointed to great improvements in race relations since the war.

"I remember my mother telling me how as a 15 year old she couldn't get a job as a shop assistant at C&A in Oxford Street," he said. "They unashamedly told her it was because her surname was Cohen and they had a policy of not employing Jews.

"For her and her generation they had to endure continuous anti-Semitism, most notably during the Mosley marches in the 1930s."

Lord Davies of Oldham, for the Government, said: "There is a minority fascist element in our society that present threats to all minority groups."

He said it was important that universities cherished "freedom of speech" but that they also dealt with the "element of fear" that threatened some of their students.