Antisemitism exposed and condemned

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.

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Mr Humphrey:

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)

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First Minister sounds alarm

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Northern Ireland’s First Minister alarmed at a local council resolving to shun Israeli Jewish culture and learning.

 

Mrs Foster said: “I was alarmed to see the motion in relation to Israel that was put forward in that council, particularly at a time when Jews in Belfast — we are told this by the rabbi — are feeling very intimidated and under attack.”.

“The council should reflect on that. We have heard a lot from other parties in the Assembly about equality and non-discrimination and about making sure that everybody feels at home in Northern Ireland. What about the Jewish people?”

“Do they not have a right to feel at home in Northern Ireland as well? They are very welcome and they are a very key part of the community here in Northern Ireland.”

 

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel wishes its supporters in Northern Ireland, Israel and around the world a happy, healthy and peaceful Jewish New Year!

 

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Ways to Peace – a handshake in Israel, bigotry nearer to home.

On the day that the Palestinian President Abbas visited Israel to pay tribute to Israel’s late president, Shimon Peres, and shook hands with the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, Derry City and Strabane District Council incites its people to shun Israeli Jews, their culture and learning.

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Israel is the only state in the region where its safe to be Christian and which has a vigorous free press, independent courts and regular democratic elections.

How ironic that those who identify inclusivity, dialogue and parity of esteem as vital to secure peace in Northern Ireland, believe that the best contribution they can make towards peace in the Middle East is to unleash demonization against Israeli Jews, their culture and their learning.

If this is not an act of blatant discrimination against Jewish people from Israel, let Derry City and Strabane District Council announce its shunning the education and culture of a string of nations it has concerns about, and not pick on the world’s only homeland for the Jewish people for “special treatment”.

To be silent on the call of Hamas to kill every last Jew in hiding, and Iran’s frequently heard desire to wipe Israel off the map,  is to show breath-taking hypocrisy and prejudice.

Local councils would do well to remember that just as some communities and political parties in Northern Ireland feel affinity to the Palestinians, there are others that feel affinity to the Israelis.

The lesson that all parties in Northern Ireland can bring to assist peace in the Middle East will not be enhanced by inciting people to shun the education or culture of others. That diminishes us all. There is no shortcut to ending the Arab-Israel conflict than direct peace talks and negotiations between the sides for a permanent and just peace.

Tribute to Israeli Statesman

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel mourns the passing of Israel’s former Prime Minister and President, Shimon Peres. A man whose career spans the seven decades of Israel’s existence as a democratic state and a homeland for the Jewish people.

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born Szymon Perski, on 2 August 1923 in Wiszniew, Poland to a dispersed and stateless people.

died 28 September 2016, Shimon Peres, international statesman, Nobel Peace laureate, and former Prime Minister and President of the State of Israel.

A Christian teacher in Israel

Emek Jezreel  by Desi Maxwell

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I’ve just returned to Ireland after completing the three week summer programme at The Galilee Centre for Studies in Jewish-Christian relations which is based at The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College.

What a location it is!  Equidistant from Megiddo to the west and Nazareth to the north, the College is ideally located as a base to explore the land, expand your thinking and build relationships.  As a seasoned visitor to Israel, leading study tours for Christians twice a year, I was excited about going as a student this time.  I wanted to be refreshed and to “take in” rather than “give out”.

Often I say to my groups that they must wear tri-focals if they are going to appreciate anything of Israel. I found myself using those very lenses throughout this course planned by Dr.Faydra Shapiro, who directs The Centre.  This summer course provided a splendid opportunity to relate past, present and future as well as land, people and book. The three weeks simply flew by.

On three of the days each week there were two lecture streams. Dr Brad Young set “Jesus in his Jewish matrix” with consummate skill while Dr.Shapiro helped us explore the intricacies and challenges of “Jewish – Christian dialogue”.

As a Christian, I felt that I had a lot to learn even though I’ve devoted much of my life to teaching Christians about the Hebraic context of their faith. However this course was not confined to the classroom.

Mondays saw us out and about all over the Galilee on field trips ably guided by an enthusiastic rabbi by the name of Ross Singer. He carried his knowledge lightly and communicated it with great warmth and humour.

Wednesdays were community days which took us into the world of the Emunah foster home in Afula and then out into the fields to glean vegetables for the less fortunate.

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Community volunteering on a Wednesday

Fridays and Shabbats were our own to either travel or simply catch up on the week.  A Shabbat meal with the Shapiro family and a trip north to visit the Aramaic speaking Christian church in Gush Halav were among some of the ‘extras’.

If you ever consider an in-depth experience of life in Israel then I’d recommend this programme with great enthusiasm. My own ministry, Xplorations (www.xplorations.org) is based in Northern Ireland but if there any questions that you’d like to ask then please feel free to contact me at desimaxwell@virginmedia.com

Belfast Telegraph editorial

It is unthinkable to any decent human being to desecrate the final resting place of an other person, yet that is what a group of young people did in broad daylight in Belfast on Friday.

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However, this was no mindless act of vandalism, but an apparently targeted and premeditated crime. The eight or so youths involved, armed with hammers, climbed a wall that surrounds the Jewish sector of Belfast City Cemetery in west Belfast.

There they proceeded to smash headstones and, even more unforgivably, attempted to gain entry to the graves.

This had all the hallmarks of a hate crime and is an obvious expression of anti-Semitism. Like most similar crimes, any rationale that may have provoked the youths to carry it out has no basis in reality.

Ulster has a long, and it has to be said, proud association with the Jewish community. One of Belfast’s outstanding Lord Mayors, Sir Otto Jaffe, came from that community, as did Chaim Herzog, who went on to become the sixth President of Israel. Gustav Wolff, of what was once one of the greatest shipyards in the world, Harland & Wolff, was Jewish.

These are people who brought great acclaim to the province, or more specifically, Belfast. They helped make it an industrial powerhouse. Those who attacked the graves of their peers, descendants and fellow citizens have brought nothing but shame on the city, branding it the home of bigots.

Why would Jewish graves be singled out in a west Belfast cemetery?

We will not know the definitive answer until the perpetrators are caught and explain themselves, but there has been a concerted anti-Israeli campaign in that part of the city for many years as republicans have sided with Palestine against Israel in the seemingly unending Middle East conflict.

Perhaps these youths have seen that political expression as an excuse for something more hateful, using hammers and blocks to demonstrate their anti-Israeli feelings, since they obviously don’t have the vocabulary to do it otherwise.

We couldn’t expect them to know that Chaim Herzog’s father was known as the “Sinn Fein Rabbi”, because of his support for the republican cause during the Irish War of Independence. But then that would not tie in with Sinn Fein’s narrative on the Middle East of today.

The people of west Belfast must know who carried out this hate crime, and they need to give that information to the PSNI.