Labour politician accused of 'ignorance and lack of empathy' over shul security comments

Jenny Rathbone suggested the Jewish community had a 'siege mentality'


A Labour politician who suggested the Jewish community had a “siege mentality” over security at synagogues has been accused of showing "remarkable ignorance and lack of empathy".

Jenny Rathbone, who represents Cardiff Central on the Welsh Assembly, is facing mounting criticism after the JC revealed her comments on synagogue security and her suggestion that the actions of the Israeli government where behind growing hostility towards Jews in the UK.

She was speaking during an event where she was asked at bolstered security at Cardiff United Synagogue amid growing antisemitism.

She 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."

A recording of the comments, which are believed to have been made in or around November 2017, was leaked to the JC on Tuesday.

Listen to the recording of the event

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: "The security infrastructure of our community has been built over a number years to ensure our safety. It is not down to a perceived risk, but a very real one.

"We have seen deadly attacks on Jews in recent years in Toulouse, Paris, Copenhagen, Brussels, and most recently in Pittsburgh. Antisemitism is not the fault of the Jewish community and it is perverse to paint it as such.”

A Community Security Trust spokesperson said: “Jenny Rathbone’s dismissal of the need for security at synagogues suggests a remarkable ignorance and lack of empathy.

"The recent history of terrorist murders of Jews in France, Belgium and Denmark, and now in Pittsburgh, shows that the threat to Jewish communities is real and the security that is in place is a proportionate response that facilitates Jewish communal life in this country.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl sad it was "inexcusable" to suggest "these necessary security measures are somehow part of the Jewish community’s collective paranoia".

She said: "In light of the Pittsburgh massacre, and the ongoing terrorist threat to Jews around the world, she should immediately disown these remarks.

“The Labour Party should be ashamed that yet another example has emerged of its elected representatives blaming Jews for the tragedies that befall them. But we are long past being surprised.”

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Minister for Faith Mohammad Asghar said: “These comments are flippant and ignorant of antisemitism in the UK, and give complete disregard to the threat that the Jewish community has faced.

“Instead of brushing hate crime under the carpet, we should all be working actively to fight it – especially those of us in public positions.

“It seems that the disturbing tide of antisemitism has come to Wales and is no longer just Jeremy Corbyn’s problem – but Carwyn Jones and his successor’s too.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Rathbone 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."

Meanwhile, the JC has learned Ms Rathbone claimed recently that the Israeli government was behind a “relentless campaign” against Mr Corbyn.

Ms Rathbone also used a Twitter post to question why the media were “not investigating this level of foreign interference in UK politics.”

She tweeted on August 28, 2018: "Israeli Govt continues its relentless campaign against Jeremy Corbyn.

“Why are our media not investigating this level of foreign interference in UK politics?”

Unsubstantiated claims of an alleged Israeli sponsored campaign to destabilise Mr Corbyn have been a regular feature of far-left attempts to blame Israel for Labour’s on-going antisemitism crisis.

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