Ber­cow: I got abuse but this is much worse

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEE HARPIN

The con­fer­ence in ses­sion and Dame Mar­garet Hodge MP and broad­caster Emma Bar­nett

COM­MONS SPEAKER John Ber­cow told the con­fer­ence of his own ex­pe­ri­ences of an­ti­semitism at school and dur­ing his po­lit­i­cal life — but ad­mit­ted they “dwin­dle into in­signif­i­cance” com­pared to the abuse now be­ing di­rected at Jewish fe­male MPs.

In an im­pas­sioned ad­dress, Mr Ber­cow also said his late fa­ther had im­plored him never to hide his Jewish back­ground even if he never went on to prac­tise the re­li­gion.

The Speaker said that he be­lieved his and wife Sally Ber­cow’s three chil­dren “do not have a racist bone in their body”.

Ad­dress­ing the is­sue of an­ti­semitism, Mr Ber­cow said: “I’ve al­ways been very open about my Jewish­ness and I have ex­pe­ri­enced an­ti­semitism in my life. I ex­pe­ri­enced it at sec­ondary school and I ex­pe­ri­enced it in po­lit­i­cal life.”

He said this an­ti­semitism was “very of­ten sub­tle — not ex­plicit ha­tred — around all sort of words used in crit­i­cism, short of the word ‘Jew’.”

But he added: “The code could fairly eas­ily be de­ci­phered with­out too much ef­fort.”

Mr Ber­cow then said: “My ex­pe­ri­ence has noth­ing — it dwin­dles into com­plete in­signif­i­cance and noth­ing­ness in com­par­i­son with what fe­male Jews have ex­pe­ri­enced and do ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Turn­ing ex­plic­itly to the abuse ex­pe­ri­enced by Lu­ciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth, Mr Ber­cow said a “re­pul­sive cock­tail” of

Fa­ther’s words: John Ber­cow an­ti­semitism and misog­yny had been served up to the pair over re­cent years.

He added: “They are very ro­bust char­ac­ters, but they shouldn’t have to be ex­cep­tion­ally ro­bust. It ought to be pos­si­ble just to be av­er­agely ro­bust and just be nor­mal and not to have to con­tend with this vit­riol.”

In fur­ther re­veal­ing in­sight, Mr Ber­cow said his fa­ther had en­cour­aged him to be proud of be­ing Jewish.

He said: “I was taught by my late fa­ther the im­por­tance of ac­knowl­edg­ing who and what you are and never be­ing em­bar­rassed about, or in­clined to apol­o­gise for it.

“I re­mem­ber Dad, who died a very, very long time ago, say­ing to me: ‘Son, I don’t mind at all whether you choose to be a prac­tis­ing Jew in adult­hood, but I hope in this free, open, plu­ral­ist and demo­cratic so­ci­ety you will never seek to hide your ori­gins.’

Speak­ing about his chil­dren, he said: “The idea that one might think of dis­crim­i­nat­ing or vil­i­fy­ing some­body on ac­count of that per­son’s eth­nic ori­gin or re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion, or even fam­ily set-up, is just un­con­scionable and it wouldn’t oc­cur to any of them.”

Mr Ber­cow heaped praise on Labour MP John Mann de­scrib­ing him as “a great ally, an ex­traor­di­nar­ily ro­bust char­ac­ter” in the fight against an­ti­semitism and misog­yny.

Heart­felt: May

(above) (from left)



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