Israeli government's behaviour 'drives people to be hostile to British Jews' - Welsh Labour AM

Jenny Rathbone also said she did not know how much of the threat to synagogues was 'for real and how much of it is in their own heads'


A Labour Welsh assembly member questioned the need for increased security at Cardiff's biggest synagogue and suggested it reflected "siege mentalities" within the Jewish community, the JC can reveal.

Speaking at an event where she was asked about Cardiff United Synagogue in the wake of rising hate crime, Jenny Rathbone said: “How much of it is for real and how much of it is in their own heads is really hard for an outsider to judge – but I think siege mentalities are also part of this.”

Ms Rathbone, who has been an outspoken supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and represents Cardiff Central constituency, also said that rising antisemitism in Britain was the result of “the failure to come to a peace settlement around Palestine and Israel”.

Ms Rathbone suggested the behaviour of Israel “drives peoples to be hostile to the Jewish community in this country”.

She added: “I think the Jewish community has a responsibility to try and promote peace in the Middle East.”

She then suggested Israel was "behaving like a conqueror” in the Occupied Territories.

Listen to the recording of the event

It is not clear when the event took place, although, in a recording obtained by the JC, a member of the audience refers to the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in November 2017 being imminent.

Ahead of the Welsh Assembly elections of 2016, Ms Rathbone described the remarks made by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Hitler and Zionism as “absolutely appalling”.

She is now backing Mark Drakeford, who is running to be Welsh Labour leader and First Minister.

Mr Drakeford has raised concern that Labour’s adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism could stifle criticism of Israel, saying "freedom to express such opposition must be defended".

Speaking to the JC on Tuesday, Ms Rathbone said: "I am not in any way suggesting it is down to Jewish people in this country to be blamed for what goes on thousands of miles away – just as I wouldn’t for any other group of people.”

She suggested her remarks calling for Jews in the UK to protest about the actions of the Israel government had been “taken out of context.”

Commenting on her remarks about “siege mentalities” within the Jewish community, she said: “It is a sad reflection of risks, real or perceived.

"It is not for me to say what is a real or perceived risk, but I’m not part of the police force.”

Ms Rathbone stressed her good relations with her local Jewish community and the two synagogues in Cardiff, and confirmed she would attending a forthcoming Chanukah service.

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