What do Diane Abbott's Jewish constituents think of her remarks?

North Hackney and Stoke Newington contains the largest Charedi community in Europe


Diane Abbott’s strictly-Orthodox constituents have spoken of their outrage over her comments that Jews and Travellers did not face racism, calling them “inexcusable” and “unbelievable”.

One Stamford Hill resident of mixed Roma and Jewish heritage said her letter to the Observer was “nonsense”, while others asked how she would describe the attitude of those behind the Holocaust.  

Ephraim, who has lived in the area for 27 years, told the JC: “I went to a secular school in the 1980s, there they called me ‘curls’ because of my simanim. One boy used to ask my permission before taking money out from the bank. Was this racism or not, even though I had the same skin colour as them? It definitely felt like racism at the time.”  

Charity worker Bernard Greer, 55, called Abbott’s comments “myopic, thoughtless, and inexcusable. 

“I suggest she surround herself with different circles if that’s what she really thinks. I grieve for her short-sightedness. Labour did the right thing by suspending her.” 

 Manfred, 62, said: “I think we are probably all thinking too hard on why she made the comments she did, perhaps she’s just stupid?  

“I’m actually partly of Roma heritage too, so I feel I should be doubly offended. What she implied – that Jews cannot be the recipients of racism - was nonsense.” 

 Approximately 113 antisemitic incidents were recorded last year in Hackney, an average of over two antisemitic attacks a week. The majority of them took place in Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Abbott’s constituency. 

In 2021, a Muslim man launched brutal attacks on two men and a 14-year-old boy in Stamford Hill. A few months later, in early 2022, another man was arrested after he was filmed violently assaulting two Orthodox shoopkeepers in the same area.

As part of a “zero tolerance” approach to antisemitism, Starmer swiftly removed the whip from Abbott hours after her letter came to light on Sunday. 

Leah, 65, who was one of several people in Stamford Hill unaware of Abbott’s latest controversy, said: “Wait until my dear parents hear that their friends in Austria, as well as six million of their brothers and sisters, were systematically murdered because of ‘prejudice’.” 

A woman pushing two children in a buggy, and who wanted to be identified as Noa, said: “I think our beloved MP has a long history of saying stupid things and later apologising. Call me when she learns her lesson. I won’t hold my breath.  

“I can’t believe her comments. After all that has gone on with the Labour Party and antisemitism in recent years… Did she really think her comments appropriate, and that previously millions of people were complaining to Labour because of institutional prejudice only?” 

One elderly Charedi man, after overhearing these comments, said: “Ah you’re here collecting peoples’ opinions on something stupid that Abbott said? That’s a full-time job, no? See you again same time next week?” 

Former civil servant Benny Harris, 70, said: “I thank the Right Honourable Lady for her words of wisdom, I never knew that the hatred Jews have been on the receiving end for [millennia] was just prejudice.” 

Hate crime statistics published by the Home Office towards the end of last year showed that despite making up a tiny fraction of the UK population, Jews make up nearly a quarter of all hate crimes, with Charedi and strictly-Orthodox Jewish people disproportionally targeted. 

Simone Gerter, 48, said: “I think Miss Abbott is right to be ashamed for her comments. Her constituents would hope that someone doing public relations and watching her words carefully for years would have more foresight. 

“Prejudice? Jews can only feel prejudice? I have a prejudice against black pudding and Taylor Swift.” 

Mr Tali: “Comparing the racial hatred that Jews feel regularly to people with red hair? Give me a f***** break, lady.” 

Having served in the Labour-safe seat for 36 years, the now-independent MP Abbott also had her fair share of defenders on the streets of Hackney North. 

Haim Getrid, 61, said that while he supported Starmer’s decision to remove the whip from Abbott, removing her from the party was a step too far and would only “sow division” within the constituency.  

“Dianne Abbott’s words were not antisemitic, and we should not cry wolf when there is nothing of the sort there. Were her words careless? Sure. But for 30 years she has been looking out for her constituents and we would be stupid to throw her aside over one letter, however poorly phrased,” said Getrid.  

A local teaching assistant who wished to be known as Lam, said: “It is unfair and dishonest to label someone an antisemite who has otherwise dedicated their life to public service. We as a community do not believe she is antisemitic.” 

Cyril Vagner: “She only backtracked and apologised within the hour because of the media backlash. Because the media now is so ready to label people antisemitic. She is assuredly not antisemitic for her comments…” 

Samuel: “It is the fault of the media that is causing all of this friction. Stoking the fires. Diane Abbott is not an antisemite and she has done so much for this community. Potholes, building regulations and whatever, she is there for us. Diane Abbott is very welcome in this community. 

“There is greater antisemitism within the media itself than in Abbott. You discount any Jewish community that doesn’t agree with you.” 

Haim Brim said: “After 30 years in public service, why should we label someone as an antisemite when they are not? I guarantee you that nine out of ten people you talk to here will not call Diane Abbott an antisemite because of this one comment.” 

Ralph Tournier, 71, said: “I think her words were taken out of context. I don’t think we should judge people so quickly for comments especially when they apologise for them.” 

Abbott quickly apologised for the letter and “completely disassociated” herself from her own words on Sunday. 

As Britain’s first black woman MP, Abbott was elected to office following the 1987 general election. She was removed from the Shadow Cabinet by Keir Starmer in 2019 and, having had the whip suspended following her letter to the Observer, could now be facing the end of her political career. 

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