Sunak describes antisemitism as ‘sickness’ in pitch to London’s Jewish community

Rishi Sunak has described antisemitism in the UK amid the Israel-Hamas conflict as a “sickness” he is “determined to confront”, as he made a General Election pitch to a Jewish community in north London.

The Prime Minister visited Machzike Hadath Synagogue in Golders Green on Sunday, where Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman led him in the Prayer of the Welfare of the State.

Speaking to the congregation, Mr Sunak said he would not “bully Israel into making concessions that are not in its interests” and addressed rising antisemitism in the UK following Hamas’ attack on southern Israel on October 7 last year.

In a speech, the Prime Minister said: “I will never equivocate on who was to blame for this utterly abhorrent act of terror. I will be steadfast in standing by Israel at its time of need.

“And I will not try and bully Israel into making concessions that are not in its interests. Israel deserves to live in peace and security.

“And we must never forget that there are still hostages being held by Hamas terrorists. I say loudly, and I know that you will join me, ‘bring them home’.”

Mr Sunak added: “When Jewish children are hiding their school uniforms, Jewish students are facing harassment on campuses, the birth certificates of Jewish babies are being defaced, and Jewish families feel unable to enter the capital city of our country at the weekend, the whole fabric of our nation is under threat.

“This antisemitism is a sickness and I am determined to confront it. Now sadly, we cannot cure it overnight, but I will lead a long-term effort to strengthen your security, defend our liberal democratic values and change our culture so we tackle the root causes of this hatred.”

The Prime Minister referenced the Government’s multi-year funding deal for the Community Security Trust (CST), now worth more than £70 million over the next four years for the charity which promotes Jewish safety.

The CST recorded a year-on-year rise in antisemitism reports of 147% between 2022 and 2023, according to its annual Antisemitic Incidents Report.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak buys baked goods from a bakery in London
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also visited Bread the bakery in Golders Green on the campaign trail in North London (James Manning/PA)

Mr Sunak also pledged to “offer every one of our elected representatives protection” once they are elected.

He also addressed plans to extend VAT to private school fees, proposed by his Labour rivals and the Green Party.

He said: “I also respect the institutions of your community. Taxing education is wrong, full stop.

“But it is particularly wrong to put VAT on the fees of Jewish schools when there is not sufficient alternative provision in the state sector.”