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British Cabinet Member Appeals to Jews on Issue of Banning Incitement

Henry Brooke, the British Home Secretary, appealed today for Jewish understanding of his opposition to legislation outlawing public incitement against racial and religious groups.

He told the House of Commons that he had no desire to be the first Home Secretary to introduce into British law a concept that “some of my fellow citizens are to be singled out for special protection because of the race to which they belong.”

“I would ask my friends of the Jewish community and elsewhere to think whether a sort of racial division within society is what they really desire,” he said. He spoke in moving for a second reading in Commons of changes in the Public Order bill which would strengthen penalties for incitement to religious or racial antagonism.

The bill was an outgrowth of a series of rallies sponsored by Britain’s three fascist and neo-Nazi movements which sparked wild rioting in London’s Trafalgar Square and in heavily-Jewish sections of the city last year. The Home Secretary had previously rejected demands for legislation specifically making such incitement a criminal offense.

He said that for some years, “small fascist groups” had been holding public meetings and that they had dwindled to three groups “because they tended to quarrel among themselves.” He contended that “practically no one” had gone to those meetings and that “contempt is much the best treatment for their intolerant, malignant and rejected doctrines.”

He asserted that the hate groups “badly misjudge the British people” and that the existing law was fully effective. However, he said, the results of the rally-sparked rioting had provided that the Public Order Act was “not severe enough in its penalties — hence this bill.”

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