THE Archbishop of Canterbury has called on internet and social-media companies to take action concerning anti-Semitism and racism. He was speaking at an event hosted by the Foreign Office and the Israeli Embassy to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, on Tuesday. Words, Archbishop Welby said, could be “powerful for good and powerful for evil”.
Referring to the case of Alison Chabloz, who is on trial accused of broadcasting “grossly offensive” anti-Semitic songs on YouTube, the Archbishop asked: “Why do internet companies not act?”
Ms Chabloz has this month denied five counts of improper use of the public communications network, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, after uploading to YouTube three videos of songs that question whether the Holocaust happened.
Archbishop Welby said: “If we do not act [on anti-Semitism], then we are complicit. We are called by God not to accept false witness, but to disrupt conversations and discourse. Whoever it is, we should assume collective responsibility.
“As we remember that anti-Semitism continues to flourish in this country and across Europe, let us not hold back in our disruption.”
The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, also addressed the audience of dignitaries and diplomats, saying: “Our dictionaries do not contain the words to encapsulate the depths of our feelings and emotions” about the Holocaust. The Memorial Day, he said, should be used for three purposes: “To remember, to mourn, to grieve . . . to speak out . . . and to do something constructive for the betterment of our world”.
Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, said: “When the Jewish people say never again, they mean never again.” He questioned why anti-Semitism was still alive, and why Israel faced criticism, asking, “Do some have a problem that Jews are no longer oppressed?”
Eight people at the event were awarded the British Hero of the Holocaust Medal posthumously. These are given for “extraordinary acts of courage and self-sacrifice, in order to help Jewish people and others”. Gena Tugel, a survivor of the Holocaust, received a standing ovation for her speech.
The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said: “As a Government, we are committed to ensuring that society learns the lessons of the Holocaust; so that bigotry and prejudice are given no place to take root.”
The chair of the Council of Christians and Jews, the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “As we who are Christians and Jews know well, words have a power to indict, spread hate, and cause irreparable harm in the lives of individuals and communities. The power of Holocaust Memorial Day is to remind us that, for people of faith, speaking out is a moral imperative to prevent future catastrophes.
“It was the power of Christian and Jewish leaders bravely speaking out in 1942 which enabled CCJ to be founded in the first place: only by meeting, talking, listening, and as a result acting together have we been able to make an impact in our 75 years.”