No 10 and security minister say UK is not ‘permissive’ about antisemitism | UK security and counter-terrorism

Downing Street and the security minister have rejected claims from the government’s counter-extremism adviser that the UK is a “permissive environment” for antisemitism because of a failure to integrate migrants.

In a sign of splits over the government’s approach to community relations, the prime minister’s spokesperson and Tom Tugendhat said threats to any community were taken “extremely seriously”.

It comes after Robin Simcox, the Home Office’s commissioner for countering extremism, said there had been “normalisation” of anti-Israel extremism and antisemitism and the creation of a “permissive environment”.

Simcox, a former Margaret Thatcher fellow at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, blamed the “normalisation” on a “failed policy mix of mass migration and multiculturalism”.

Asked about Simcox’s comments, the prime minister’s spokesperson said: “We don’t agree with that [the adviser’s comments]. Sadly, we have seen an uptick in in antisemitism in recent days following this terrorist attack and that is abhorrent and despicable way to act. However, I think the UK has always been clear that we will do everything possible to stamp out antisemitism.”

Tugendhat said: “No, I don’t agree with [the comments] … You just have to look at the response over the last 10 days – the way the prime minister, the home secretary and I and many others have been reaching out to the Jewish community, making sure policing is appropriate … to give reassurance.

“The way in which we’ve been engaging as well with the Muslim community, some of whom are feeling also vulnerable at this time, feeling stigmatised.”

The minister also disputed the suggestion that multiculturalism had failed, describing the UK as having “phenomenal success in bringing people together”.

“Many people speak different languages at home, identify with different cultures and are able to mix.”

It follows a clash between Rishi Sunak and the home secretary, Suella Braverman, over whether multiculturalism has failed in the UK.

Writing in the Times, Simcox said the scale of hatred directed at British Jews since the attack was a sign that Britain was “very sick indeed”.

“The failure of multiculturalism leads to extremism,” he wrote.

Simcox’s words echoed those of Braverman, who told a US audience last month that multiculturalism was a “misguided dogma” that had allowed people to “live parallel lives”.

Days later, Sunak told the BBC: “I think this is something that is incredible about our country, is that it is a fantastic multi-ethnic democracy. ”

Antisemitic incidents increased sixfold in the week after the attacks on 7 October compared with the same period last year, according to the Community Security Trust, a charity that provides security advice for British Jews.

In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute, Simcox said the often-heard chant from pro-Palestinian demonstrators ghat says “From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free” should now be seen as “genocidal in nature”.

“If you are chanting ‘from the river to the sea’ in the context of the largest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust, you have forfeited your right to the benefit of the doubt about what your intent is,” he said.

He called for the government to enact its 2019 manifesto commitment to ban public bodies from imposing boycotts on foreign countries, thus preventing organised boycotts of Israeli products.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps should be banned in the UK for plotting acts of violence across the world, Simcox said. This demand was rejected by the government in July after fears that it could result in the expulsion of the UK’s ambassador to Tehran.

“It is legal at present for the IRGC to be, for example, hosted in UK institutions. That was highly unsatisfactory before. It is surely unsustainable now,” he said.

Islamism is “the key threat” facing the UK, Simcox said, adding that the extreme right was “fractured, divided, incoherent and chaotic”.

Identifying a new threat, Simcox claimed that environmental groups could resort to violent tactics. “I am concerned that certain environmental groups’ approach will become increasingly militant and that acts of violence will be the logical end,” he said.

Responding to the speech, the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate criticised Simcox’s decision to blame multiculturalism for a rise in antisemitism, and his apparent attempt to rank different forms of extremism.

“Given rising community tensions, this is a shocking line that does nothing but sow division when we need to bring communities together,” the chief executive, Nick Lowles, said.

“Anti-extremism policy should not prioritise one form of extremism over another. Sadly, Robin Simcox’s speech today is driven by his own ideological viewpoint. He omits the danger of rising anti-Muslim hate and plays down the very real threat of the far right.”


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