by Debora Singer
There was a shocked silence in the crowded House of Commons Committee Room when Martin Gallagher spoke of the derogatory language he had experienced as a member of the Gypsy community. To the Jewish members of the audience, such rhetoric was all too familiar.
Believing we are stronger together, the new campaign to #CutItOut aims to take a stand against anti-Gypsyism, anti-Semitism and all other forms of prejudice. It is led by the Travellers Movement and René Cassin, in recognition that hate crime aimed at any minority group affects us all.
The campaign was launched in Parliament during Hate Crime Awareness Week on 16th October 2019 and chaired by Lord Young of Norwood Green. This new drive against hate speech focuses initially on parliamentarians.
Speaking at the event, Martin Gallagher pointed out how racist comments from parliamentarians have a negative trickle-down effect which sets an unacceptable example to the general public. He pointed out that parliamentary privilege should not protect MPs. There is evidence that hate speech results in increases in hate crime.
Addressing the launch, Kate Green MP noted “I’m aware of the problems that hateful rhetoric against minorities can cause…Politicians have a real role to take in challenging hate speech against Gypsies, Roma and Travellers…I’ve often had to call out my colleagues who use prejudicial language against Gypsies and Travellers… There’s no hierarchy of hate. “
Philip Rosenberg, Public Affairs Director for the Jewish Board of Deputies, welcomed the demands of the #CutItOut campaign. He expressed solidarity with our Traveller colleagues and confirmed the Board of Deputies will work with René Cassin to take this work forward.
Among the many comments and questions was one from Jacob Swirsky, movement worker at LJY-Netzer, the Youth Movement of Liberal Judaism, asking the panel what we can do to tackle prejudice by the media. In response Jemma Levene, deputy director at Hope not Hate, gave an example of a low resource but effective way to challenge the media regarding hate speech – by simply writing to the media source every time they use unacceptable language.
Matt Plen, executive director of the Masorti movement pointed out that there is no hierarchy in the experience of hate. The challenge for each group experiencing hate is to reach out to other groups with the same experience rather than retreat. This is in line with the #CutItOut campaign which focuses on eliminating hate speech experienced by all minority groups be it against Gypsies, Roma and Travllers, Jews, Muslims, LGBT people, disabled people, etc.
We are very grateful to the many MPs and Peers who attended the launch and all signed the #CutItOut pledge, committing themselves to promoting respectful language in their work and calling out those who use stereotypes and prejudice.
Closing the campaign launch, René Cassin’s Director, Mia Hasenson-Gross lead a round of applause for all the young people in the room. Representing a range of identities, they are our future leaders and will set the tone for our country.
In response to the event, Rachel Zaltsman, René Cassin Trustee, stated that the #CutItOut campaign launch highlights the importance of building bridges between majority and minority communities; and the powerful impact of standing up for others.
As Kate Green MP said “Hatred of one group is hatred of us all.”