UK risks ‘descending into darkness’ of antisemitism, Michael Gove to say

<span>Michael Gove will also criticise the organisers of pro-Palestine marches for not doing more to prevent symbols of anti-Jewish hate.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
Michael Gove will also criticise the organisers of pro-Palestine marches for not doing more to prevent symbols of anti-Jewish hate.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

Michael Gove is to warn that Britain risks “descending into the darkness” if it fails to tackle growing antisemitism in the wake of the 7 October attacks.

In a major speech, the communities secretary will say the safety of the Jewish community in the UK is the “canary in the mine” for the health of the whole political system.

“When Jewish people are under threat, all our freedoms are threatened,” he will say on Tuesday. “The safety of the Jewish community is the canary in the mine.

“Growing antisemitism is a fever which weakens the whole body politic. There is one thing which – increasingly – unites the organisations and individuals which give cause for extremist concern: antisemitism.

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“It is the common currency of hate. It is at the dark heart of their worldview. Whether Islamist, far right or hard left.”

The Community Security Trust, a charity that provides security advice to the Jewish community, recorded the highest number of antisemitic incidents in 2023, a 147% increase on the previous year. About two-thirds of the total took place after the 7 October attacks.

In his speech, Gove will criticise the organisers of pro-Palestine marches, at which thousands of people regularly march through London and other cities, for not doing more to prevent symbols of anti-Jewish hate.

“Many of those on these marches are thoughtful, gentle, compassionate people – driven by a desire for peace and an end to suffering,” he will say. “But they are side by side with those who are promoting hate.

“The organisers of these marches could do everything in their power to stop that. They don’t.”

The marches have been overwhelmingly peaceful, however, police made seven arrests at the latest protest in London on Saturday, including a demonstrator seen carrying a coffin with offensive language on it. The demonstration came a few days after Nakba Day, which honours the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war.

Gove, who is regarded as one of parliament’s most pro-Israel MPs, will urge peers to back his bill banning British public bodies from boycotting Israel, a move that some Tories have said could exacerbate British community tensions amid the Israel-Hamas war.

He makes the speech before the publication of a report by the government’s independent adviser on political violence, Lord Walney, due to be released on Tuesday, which is expected to recommend a new category for proscribing “extreme protest groups”.

At the launch of his report, he will say: “It is time for the political world to catch up with the real world and view extreme protest movements as an unacceptable threat to our democracy, not an extension of it.”

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Walney, the former Labour MP John Woodcock who sits as a cross-bench peer, said at the weekend that hard-left groups were seeking to “undermine” Britain’s democratic principles by refusing to comply with the law.

His recommendations could mean that protest groups such as Just Stop Oil and Palestine Action, which focuses on arms companies linked to Israel, could be banned in a similar way to terrorist organisations. The sanctions could restrict a group’s ability to fundraise and its right to assembly.

The Home Office has said ministers would consider the recommendations, but it is unclear whether the government would proceed with a ban before the election. It is due to publish its counter-extremism action plan in the coming weeks.