Plaque to Belfast-born Israeli leader removed after attacks
An Ulster History Circle plaque marking the north Belfast birthplace of a former president of Israel has been removed following attacks on the building.
The blue plaque was erected on the property at Cliftonpark Avenue in 1998 to mark it as birthplace in 1918 of Chaim Herzog who went on to serve as President of Israel from 1983-93.
The decision was taken after anti-Israeli graffiti appeared on the building and various items were thrown at the plaque and house.
In recent months there has been a sharp increase in incidents of anti-Semitism across the UK, which have been linked to the current bloodshed in Gaza.
Last month windows were smashed at a synagogue in north Belfast.
DUP Councillor Alderman Brian Kingston said: "The Ulster History Circle and the community group occupying the building agreed last week that due to an upsurge in attacks against the plaque and the building it was necessary to remove the plaque for the foreseeable future.
"Attacks have included the scrawling of anti-Israeli graffiti on the building and items being thrown at the plaque and the house.
"Recently some youths were stopped in the process of trying to remove the plaque with a crowbar.
"Out of concern for staff and for residents living in neighbouring houses, the community group and the Ulster History Circle have decided that it was best to remove the plaque for the foreseeable future, and it was removed at the end of last week.
"This community project operates primarily in the nationalist community and is also involved in a good deal of cross-community work.
"This is a shocking indication of the level of tension and anti-Semitism which currently exists in parts of Belfast."
Mr Kingston added that it was "disgraceful that this item of Belfast history has being repeatedly targeted due to its connection with Israel".
"This should serve as a wake-up call for the public to the dangerous level of intolerance and the anti-Israeli mentality which some are encouraging.
"I will be maintaining a close interest in this matter and I hope that at the earliest opportunity it will be possible to restore this plaque to its rightful place."
The UUP added: "If the blue plaque at Cliftonpark Avenue marking the birthplace of Chaim Herzog has been removed due to vandalism, it is a damning indictment of the intolerance within elements of our society."
A spokesman for the Ulster History Circle said it had been asked by the Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum to remove the blue plaque from its premises.
"The circle understands the plaque has been the subject of unwelcome attention recently, and with regard for the safety of the building and its occupants, it has been removed.
"The Ulster History Circle depends on the consent of property owners, tenants and occupiers for permission to put up its plaques, and respects their wishes if a plaque is requested to be removed."