Secretary of State Meets U.K. Chief Rabbi During Visit to London

LONDON -
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at a joint news conference in central London, May 8, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters)

In the course of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s first visit to London in that capacity, he took time out from meeting senior politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to participate in a round-table discussion with a group of senior faith leaders.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, principal leader of the Church of England, the established Church in the U.K., hosted the meeting in his official residence, Lambeth Palace, in South London. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was among those present, together with representatives of other faiths.

The conversation centered on the topic of protecting religious freedom, and Secretary Pompeo observed that “President Trump has made clear that he wants religious freedom to be a central part of what his administration stands for.”

Chief Rabbi Mirvis told the gathering that, “As Jews, today we feel particularly vulnerable. The walls of prejudice are closing in on us from both the far left and the far right.

“Here in the U.K., we have particularly struggled with anti-Jewish racism on the left in recent years, and we are witnessing a disturbing increase in far-right extremism right around the world.

“It is tragic that when we enter into our synagogues and schools we do so via security barriers, but it is a necessary deterrent.”

Later in the day, Secretary Pompeo delivered the Margaret Thatcher Lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies, an independent center-right think tank founded by Mrs. Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph, a British politician, in 1974. The Centre hosts annual lectures in memory of both its founders.

Mr. Pompeo emphasized the special relationship between the U.K. and the U.S., giving several examples, including the fact that British diplomats “are free to enter our headquarters in Washington, D.C. wearing the very same badges that we do. No other country has a privilege that special.”

He also spoke about “the shared values we hold so dear” and against anti-Semitism. Said Mr. Pompeo, “I’m troubled by the anti-Semitism that’s emerging again in our society, and in yours. We must stop this cancer before it metastasizes even further.

“In a free society, a yarmulke should not be a scarlet letter. And hatred of the Jewish State is just as bad. As I said in a speech now several weeks back, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

He concluded by saying that he looked forward “with confidence to the next 200 years of Anglo-American friendship, to an enduring and confident alliance, and to peace and freedom for today’s and future generations.”