I refused to cave to the Gaza mob, says elderly rabbi in Bury

Rabbi Saunders tells JC he is ‘proud’ that despite the intimidation, he refused to condemn Israel


Rabbi Arnold Saunders outside Bilal Mosque in Prestwich. Credit: North West Friends of Israel, X/Twitter

A rabbi who was harassed outside a mosque told the JC he was “proud” that despite the intimidation he faced, he “refused to condemn Israel and the IDF”.

In a video posted online, Arnold Saunders, the Conservative candidate for Bury South in Greater Manchester, was called a “snake” and subject to abuse which the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said was “redolent of classic antisemitic tropes like the blood libel”.

Saunders, the former rabbi of Higher Crumpsall and Higher Broughton Synagogue, said he thought the abuse he suffered was “antisemitic” and that “on the advice of CST” he had reported the incident to the police.

However, he said he does not want the individual who abused him to be criminally prosecuted.

The Tory candidate said he had been invited to the Bilal Mosque in Prestwich by officials to meet worshippers during Friday prayers as part of his election campaign.

Although he insisted that “the vast majority of people at the mosque were courteous”, and that “at no point” did he feel physically threatened, he thought the mosque “could have done more” to protect him from the “unpleasant” events that took place.

The aspiring MP for Bury South told the JC that he has received an outpouring of support from across the community, “including from the local Muslim community,” and noted that in the original video the president of the mosque and imam were also subjected to verbal abuse.

Saunders also told he just wanted the matter “to be put to bed.” He added that he didn’t “want to be a hero” but thought he handled the matter in “the right way” and was proud of the fact that, in the face of aggressive demands to condemn the IDF, he refused to do so.

The mosque which hosted Saunders also condemned the incident.

In a statement posted to their Facebook page Bilal Mosque said: “The Rabbi was a guest of the mosque, and he was treated inappropriately and disrespectfully. Any genuine political questions should have been raised respectfully.

"We regret what has happened, we have already apologised to the Rabbi for how he was treated and wish to extend our apologies to others who have seen the clip and are upset by it. This incident is not reflective of the congregation of the mosque or the Muslim community in Bury.”

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