Holocaust Memorial Day - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 1:32 pm ar 2 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Sterling of Plaistow Lord Sterling of Plaistow Ceidwadwyr 1:32, 2 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I very much appreciate being able to speak in the gap. I am of the second generation born in this country, due to the pogroms that took place in Russia in the 1880s. My grandmother managed to get to this country—that was very important—and we have lived in this country ever since. As far as I am concerned, it was an absolute honour that we were allowed to live here in freedom, which we were never allowed before. I happen to be one of those people who have no interest at all in living in Israel. This is my home. I will help Israel as much as I can all my life, but this is my home.

My national service was in Egypt in 1953. I went out via Cyprus and got to Israel for the very first time. It was an extraordinary time to be in Israel. I then got heavily involved, for 35 years, in every single negotiation on how to bring peace in Israel. I have always believed in the two-state approach—but as it was in the earlier days before everything was occupied in different areas.

Something I remember and will never forget is when I went to an exhibition in Israel. Some blind children were being taken round to hear what had happened in the genocide of the Holocaust, and they held out their hands in order to touch the lightshades that were made of human skin. That brought the reality back.

Let us come to what happened on 7 October, which more and more people seem to want to try to forget. I happen to be a human being, I like to think, and I do not want any innocent human beings, woman or child, killed—I will not use the word “unnecessarily”. It just is not right, if it ever can be. Sadly, what is happening is Israel has caused a huge dilemma as to how to proceed. However, we must remember that 7 October was planned. In war—it was an active war where I was, in the Canal Zone, to a degree—atrocities sometimes happen. But cold-bloodedly planning four years ahead exactly how you will do it is something totally different from anything else I have ever come across. If I may say so, social media has played a shocking role in this, and so has the wider media, as we all know.

I will make two further points, if I may. First, In our own Moses Room, you can see Moses holding the tablets, so we have in our own House what this stands for. The only mistake Moses made when he moved off was turning right instead of left; otherwise, we would have got the oil, but we did not. Secondly, on Victoria Gardens, I disagree, as I have for many years, as noble Lords know. We do not need monuments of any kind. I do not mind something small if you want but, in practice, it is about ideas.

Finally, I want to ask the Minister a question. It is all about education. Jesus was a rabbi, and “Rabbi” means “teacher”. Several people have referred in the debate to education. I checked this several years ago, and most state schools, as well as others, do not carry out the law when in fact, they must talk about and teach the Holocaust. I beg the Minister to get the Department for Education and others involved, in order to do what is right and proper. That is our only chance going forward.