William Humphrey, MLA for North Belfast raises issues of anti-Jewish racism in Northern Ireland.
Speech from the NI Assembly Race Debate, highlighting anti-Semitism –Tuesday 11th Oct 2016.
The Belfast Jewish community continues to make an important and valued contribution to the life blood of Belfast.
At sunset tonight, Jews across the globe will celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Across Europe, synagogues will have armed guards because of the risk of attack on those places of worship. In the past few years, deadly attacks on kosher shops in Paris, a synagogue in Copenhagen and a Jewish museum in Brussels have occurred.
In the United Kingdom, Jewish schools have guards and bombproof windows. The Community Security Trust, members of which I met some months ago, has produced the following statistics: in 2014, there were 1,179 anti-Semitic attacks in the United Kingdom; last year, there were 924 similar attacks. There have been anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish Members of Parliament Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger.
Anti-Semitic racism is the oldest type of racism that exists. Sadly, it is not just on the European continent, and is not just on the mainland of our United Kingdom.
The synagogue is in my constituency, and Members will be aware of Rabbi David Singer speaking very recently of the evil anti-Semitic phone calls and emails that he, as the pastoral leader of the old and established Belfast Jewish community, has been receiving. The graffiti recently daubed on the synagogue and in Belfast city centre was absolutely sickening and harked back to the 1930s and Nazi Germany.
Sadly, these attacks followed the removal of the Chaim Herzog plaque from a building on Cliftonpark Avenue. The plaque was removed for its protection. There was an attack on a mural in Northumberland Street that praised an Ulsterman who worked with the Israeli defence forces. Also, in August of this year, in an awful and evil attack on the Jewish sector of Belfast City Cemetery, 13 headstones were damaged by a mob carrying bricks, rocks and hammers.
Having spoken to the rabbi on two occasions, having met, along with the Belfast Lord Mayor, the Belfast Jewish Council in the City Hall, and visited the synagogue recently, I have to say that the Jewish community in this city is very fearful of attack.
The debate that took place in the Guildhall, Londonderry last week was mentioned. Without question, parties who voted for that motion have to take responsibility for raising anti-Jewish tensions in Northern Ireland. I have spoken to members of the Jewish community who have told me that that is exactly the case. They are friends of mine, and I know it to be true. In making good the damage at Belfast City Cemetery, I have met the director of parks for Belfast City Council and the local police in north Belfast. I have invited the Chief Constable to visit the synagogue. I have invited the First Minister of Northern Ireland to join me
— Mr Stalford: Will the Member give way?
Mr Humphrey: I will surely.
Mr Stalford: Does the Member agree that the disgusting attack in the City Cemetery was merely the culmination of a campaign directed against the Jewish community in Belfast that goes back a long way? We have not only kids from Israel working on the Dead Sea products stall in Castle Court being attacked but products being torn off supermarket shelves because they come from Israel.
Mr Humphrey: The Member is quite right: people take part in so-called pro-Palestinian rallies, but they turn out to be anti-Israel rallies. I am not here to speak about the whats, wherefores and “whataboutery” of Israel; I am talking about the indigenous Jewish community in this city.
As I mentioned, tonight is Yom Kippur: the Day of Atonement. The evil people who took part in the attack in the City Cemetery, daubed graffiti on the synagogue and sent threatening emails to members of the Jewish community, including the rabbi, need to atone for their evil actions across not just Europe but this United Kingdom. We must stamp out anti-Semitism.
I and my party will continue to stand firm in support of Belfast’s small but growing Jewish community. They have provided so much to this city’s cultural, political and, most importantly, commercial life, and they continue to do so. The Jewish community is valued in this city. I am greatly privileged to represent the Jewish community in North Belfast, where the synagogue is placed, and I regularly visit there. The attack is a sad reflection on the city. This city, nationally and internationally, was damaged reputationally by that vile and evil attack in the City Cemetery.
Such actions have to be condemned across the House. I am glad that they were.
(extracted from Hansard)