Belfast reeling after spate of hate attacks

By Marcus Dysch, August 21, 2014

Belfast's Jewish community is coming to terms with a series of antisemitic incidents that have followed demonstrations over Gaza.

The city's main Orthodox synagogue was attacked and had windows smashed on two consecutive nights at the height of the conflict last month.

Its rabbi, David Singer, said he had received abusive phone calls. The community was maintaining a low key response. Steven Jaffe, of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel (Nifi), said Belfast's Jews were "not thinking about leaving, but they are concerned. The community is largely older, with retired people, and they are shocked by what's happened."

In one of the most widely publicised incidents, officials removed a plaque marking the birthplace of the late Israeli president Chaim Herzog following a series of attacks and graffiti daubings.

The memorial was at the centre of an area where clashes between the Protestant and Catholic communities are frequent. Attacks on the plaque had led police to fear for the safety of residents living in the building where Herzog was born.

Mr Jaffe said: "Nifi has written to the Lord Mayor to ask for the plaque to be displayed safely, at the city hall if necessary, until it can be returned to the original property." The letter has been backed by more than 500 people.

Other incidents have included attacks on Israeli products in shops in west Belfast and a Gaelic footballer's plea on Twitter for people to punch their Jewish colleagues. He later apologised.

Supporters of Israel called for the resignation of Sinn Fein mayor of Newry Dáire Hughes after he wrote to shops urging them to boycott Israeli goods.

An appearance by Respect MP George Galloway at Belfast's Ulster Hall is due to go ahead after an attempt by Israel-supporting Unionist politicians to have him barred failed.

Last updated: 2:13pm, August 21 2014