Council leader blames Israel for rising antisemitism


The leader of a council which flew the Palestinian flag during last summer’s Gaza conflict told objectors that rising antisemitism was Israel’s fault.

Preston council leader Peter Rankin told one complainant: “You need to think why this antisemitism is getting worse. It’s because of the actions of the IDF shelling schools and hospitals and killing and maiming thousands of men, women and children.”

Mr Rankin made the comment despite being told that an anti-Israel protester in Manchester had suggested that the solution to the Gaza issue was for every Jew to “go back to the ovens of Germany and Poland”.

Preston Council was the first local authority to fly a Palestinian flag from its city hall.

The Times used a Freedom of Information Act request to see messages from council members about the issue.

Another person who complained to the Labour-led Preston authority asked: “In this world of antisemitism . . . do you not think you should be promoting peace and goodwill, rather than inflaming one side in an already awful situation?”

After raising the Palestinian flag, Labour leader Mr Rankin, whose wife and children are Jewish, told another authority to expect a “huge backlash from the pro-Israel lobby" if it decided to take the same measure.

Robert Boswell, the councillor who took the decision to raise the flag, was asked what he thought the innocent dead in Israel would feel.

He responded by saying the dead couldn’t feel anything.

Community Security Trust communications director Mark Gardner said: “The council leader’s easy acceptance of the remark about Jews going to the ovens is a stark example of how ostensibly pro-Palestinian positions can collapse into turning a blind eye to antisemitism.”

A parliamentary report on antisemitism published last week highlighted concerns about local authorities taking measures such as flying flags at times of raised tension in local communities.

Mr Rankin told the Times he had subsequently visited a local synagogue, made friends with the Jewish community, and was “certainly not antisemitic”.

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