As the House of Commons holds a debate on antisemitism called by the Conservative Party, we are calling on the Prime Minister to confront the political parties and governments in Europe that have exploited and fuelled a rising tide of antisemitism.
Last month, Latvia’s National Alliance opposition party called for the commemoration of Latvian soldiers who fought under the swastika banner to be reinstated as a national holiday. The party is formally affiliated to the Tories through their shared membership of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party is the Tories’ major partner in this group (based on seats in the European Parliament). Earlier this year, their leader and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended a controversial new law criminalising anyone who calls out the complicity of Poles in the Nazi genocide by stating that Jews were also perpetrators of the Holocaust. This came barely a month after Theresa May’s visit in which she signed a new defence and security pact with the Polish government and celebrated the “relationship between the United Kingdom and Poland, based on a shared history and a shared tradition”.
And just last week, Boris Johnson congratulated Viktor Orban and his autocratic Fidesz party on their election victory in Hungary, referring to them as his ‘friends’. This in spite of a campaign widely criticised for its relentless anti-Semitic undertones, targeting and accusing Jewish philanthropist George Soros of a conspiratorial plot to take over the country.
This is not about guilt by association. If the Tories are serious about confronting antisemitism wherever it surfaces, they can no longer turn a blind eye to the deeply offensive rhetoric and actions of some of their European political partners, nor the dangerous precedent set by Poland’s recently enacted Holocaust law. We call on Theresa May to unequivocally condemn these parties for harbouring and mobilising antisemitism; to acknowledge and apologise for her failure to confront this in the past; and to withdraw the Tories’ membership of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group until it is genuinely free of all racist elements, including antisemitism.
Dr Justin Schlosberg
Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London
Room 309, 43 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PD